This Zambian Wedding Tradition Puts The Focus On The Food

Wedding traditions around the world can be considered a magical time full of celebration — with a wonderful display of culture and the merging of two families. Across the globe, wedding ceremonies and events all have special nuances that align with customary practices — depending upon a couple's religion, country of origin, environment, and even taste buds. In the United States, it's common for the bride to toss the bouquet. Over in Europe, German couples saw a log in half to signify teamwork once the couple has tied the knot (via Brides). In a world full of fantastic traditions, one of the most unique and culinary-forward wedding events happens in the African country of Zambia. If the couple is the star of the show, the food is definitely the orchestra.

As opposed to a plated multi-course meal or a lined buffet provided by a catering service, families across Zambia present wedding food a little differently. Serving as a key staple in the wedding agenda, the food takes several days of preparation and signifies more than simply a meal to be enjoyed (via Eater). The culinary wedding tradition is referred to as Ichilanga Mulilo and is a special way the bride and the bride's family honor the groom through cooking.

Connecting two families through food

A food-based event, Ichilanga Mulilo is hosted a few days to a week prior to the bride and groom's wedding ceremony. Directly translating to the "showing of fire," during Ichilanga Mulilo the groom and his family are introduced to the bride's family recipes, via Wedding Details. It's also the first time a groom is traditionally allowed to eat at the bride-to-be's house. However, before any eating begins, the groom's family will kick off the event by dropping money on the floor before the bride's family serves their dishes. 

While the event was created as a transparent view into the type of dishes a groom could expect to see from his bride throughout the duration of their marriage, it doubles as a bonding moment for families to gather and spend time together as the two sides become one before the big day. During Ichilanga Mulilo, the bride and her family will not only cook the dishes but explain the significance the dish plays in their household. 

According to Eater, some of the dishes served include ifisashi (sautéed kale cooked in a peanut sauce), chikanda (a dish made from tubers/root vegetables), kapenta ( a fried fish dish and served alongside tomato and onion sauce), and munkoyo (a fermented stew made from pounded roots and cornmeal). There is singing and dancing throughout the traditional ceremony and once the groom's side of the family has enjoyed the food, the ceremony is complete.