Planning a Maasai wedding

It’s the latest craze: today’s couples are looking to get married in quirky, if not downright strange, venues. Some shiver in Swedish ice hotels, others quiver in shark tanks. Two patient couples are already booked on the Virgin Galactic space flight. In Kenya, you can get married in a cave; or ringside to the great migration of the wildebeest. Hardy couples get hitched having hiked up Mount Kenya, or dive into matrimony beneath the waves. Topping the popular charts, however, is a Maasai wedding in the wilderness – the cherry on the top of the global wedding cake. It’s a magical option and, as with all Maasai ceremonies, the wedding will be a riot of sound, colour and joy.

Maasai themed wedding in the Mara
© Angama Mara

In its simplest form, the Maasai wedding is much like any other, except that the bride and groom might wear some items of Maasai dress – such as a colourful red shuka or cloak. Many couples also choose to wear some items of traditional Maasai beaded-jewellery – such as necklaces or, in the case of the bride, a traditional headdress. 

But there are many other ways of giving your ceremony a more distinctive Maasai flair. Here are a few suggestions.

Maasai wedding group
© Angama Mara

A guard of honour

If you’d like to arrive at the site chosen for the ceremony with a Maasai guard of honour, this is easily arranged. Typically, a group of morans (warriors) will arrive in traditional dress and escort the groom to meet his bride. They’ll sing as they walk and, after the ceremony, they’ll often give a display of jumping and dance. The groom is invited to join in.

In many unions, the groom is also presented with a ceremonial beaded stick, or sometimes two sticks – a white one to symbolize wealth, a black one to symbolize peace.

A choir of maidens

It makes a glorious addition to your special day – a group of 15-20 traditionally clad girls who arrive to sing a traditional wedding song, dancing as they do so. Later the girls will dance with the warriors, which creates a superb photo opportunity.

Maasai wedding maidens
© Angama Mara

A Maasai bower

A popular option offered by many safari lodges is the construction of a beautifully beaded bower for the ceremony. An arched replica of a traditional necklace, it will be intricately patterned in beads and hung with tiny sparkling talismans. 

Be married by a Maasai elder

Many couples elect to be married by a Maasai elder (though their union will be formalized by a registrar before or after this ceremony). The presiding elder will shake a cow-tail switch over the couple and wish them a long and safe life. These are the words that are spoken by the elder:

Entaseriana – Be safe forever

Entobikoi – Have a long life

Entubul emputa enkop – Multiply and fill the earth

Meishuro Nkera Inyi – May your children succeed in life

Metapaasha Intae Ilmeita – May all bad things move away from your family

Entorik Enkop – May you lead the world

To which the bride, groom and wedding party answered in unison:  NAAI – Oh God. Finally, the bride will be given a Maasai name, such as Nalotuesha, which means ‘she who comes with the rain’.

With the ceremony over, the reception can take place either indoors or outdoors under the shade of acacia or a starlit African sky.

Maasai wedding formal ceremony
The formal ceremony © Angama Mara

Maasai weddings – Need to know

In order to get married in Kenya you must have the following:
• Copies of birth certificates and passports which will need to be sent in advance and originals for when you are in Kenya;
• A certificate of no impediment to marriage;
• An affidavit declaring single status authorised by a notary (your local vicar or pastor for instance) or solicitor declaring eligibility for marriage;
• If divorced, you will need to present a Decree Absolute that has been stamped by the courts;
• If you have changed your name by Deed Poll, or you were adopted, proof of this needs to be presented having been authenticated by a notary or solicitor;
• A letter stating names, addresses and occupation of the couple and both sets of parents;
• And if either of you are under 21 years of age you will need written consent from your parents or guardians in the form of an affidavit authorised by a notary or a solicitor;
• You should also provide 3 colour passport photos.

Wedding at Mahali Mzuri
An outdoor setting at Mahali Mzuri, Olare Motorogi Conservancy © Mahali Mzuri / Virgin Limited Edition

Most lodges can arrange the ceremony for you (provided they hold a special license to host such events). You should give them at least a month’s notice of your wishes so that they can liaise both with the Maasai community and with the Registrar of Marriages. Fees will be payable – but the hotel or lodge can advise you on this. 

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