As we celebrate African Wedding Week here at Bridal Musings, we had to press pause to capture these stunning wedding dress styles from across Africa. Not only is this week a celebration of stunning African destinations, but it’s also a celebration of a diverse continent of people, traditions and yes, fashion.
Remember when we shared this jaw-dropping Black Panther-inspired wedding editorial? Organized by Mwai Yeboah, destination wedding planner & designer, it showcased a number of bridal looks from her vision, set among the cliffs of the Gorge of Victoria Falls, Zambia. This inspiration leads the way as we zoom in a little further to focus on the unique jewelry, adorned fabrics, and stunning bridal fashion – all created by regional artisans of Africa.
True of any bride after Bridal Musing’s own heart, an outfit change for African brides is not only a luxurious way to wear multiple gowns, but for some, common practice within traditional ceremonies. Some brides may choose to wear traditional clothing, while many choose to nod to tradition while wearing more contemporary bridal fashion. Our list only skims the surface of integrating regional elements like jewelry and accessories within bridal style. But, we believe that however a bride chooses to celebrate their day and fuse their culture, they are the forces that drive us, they are the love that unites.
So while we’re highlighting African bridal fashion, we share this style list as a means to spark inspiration, to celebrate diversity, to honor the highly skilled artisans, and to bring this editorial of African love-inspired photos to you.
“Africa is all things at once: diverse and unified, quiet and strong, graceful and fierce, earthy and luxurious, many and one.” – Mwai Yeboah, planner & designer of Love From Mwai and founder of Exalt Africa.
The Nigerian Bride
The traditional Nigerian wedding dress is a straight or figure-hugging dress with one very prominent feature: bold long sleeves. Detailed in lace and beading, the “aso oke” it’s a gown made in vibrant and rich materials, accompanied by an ornate matching headwrap. The full bridal look usually consists of about five pieces: the blouse, skirt, shawl, scarf, and a veil.
In church weddings, the Nigerian bride will often wear a white wedding dress. While traditional ceremonial clothing will vary within each tribe, a common element to Nigerian wedding fashion are the bold and colorful coral beads. Worn as necklaces, earrings, or head adornments, the beads symbolize power, wealth and beauty.
The Kenyan Bride
A bride in Kenya may wear a gown with earthy tones decorated in beading, a dress fused with ankara print fabric, or a blend of traditional and modern white wedding dress elements.
However, a key cultural accessory is a Maasai necklace. It’s commonly worn to celebrate a special relationship or life event, accompanied by other matching beaded jewelry like cuff bracelets. The stunning necklace from this shoot was made by the people of the Maasai Village, which honors the artisan craft of the tribe, and provides a rainbow of beaded color!
The South African Zulu Bride
For Zulu brides, traditional wedding wear is all about the “isidwaba,” a shorter skirt often decorated in beading. Once made of animal hide, modern brides wear this pleated skirt made of colorful fabrics, and often decorated in animal prints.
A long, layered beaded necklace is a staple piece for this look, taking the term “statement necklace” to a place that we’ve only dreamt of. Created by a talented South African artisan, the necklace and accessories display an array of colorful beading. For Zulu brides, the colors carry significant literal or symbolic meaning for their family lineage and their social status.
The Ngoni Bride
The Ngoni tribe resides in the south-central region of Africa, but have an ancient history of migration as they’ve conquered and integrated into other regions of Africa. This shoot chose to celebrate the beauty and strength of the Ngoni warrior bride. She is feminine and fierce, carrying beauty alongside battle, and incorporating earthy elements from her journeys.
The Ghanaian Bride
The secret to Ghanaian bridal fashion: gold. Gowns are typically made from traditional kente cloth, a handwoven fabric made with strips of silk and cotton that create bold patterns. Brides are usually spotted wearing yellow and gold tones, and often sporting a headdress made of fabric or beading.
This look celebrates the warmth and joy that the Ghanian people radiate, as she is seen wearing a headwrap made of handwoven kente cloth and plenty of yellow. She glows!
The Zambian Bride
This entire look was handmade, created by Zambian artists, with much of the inspiration taken from Queen Ramonda from Black Panther. As explained by Mwai, “Africa’s fashion is very unique and diverse so it is easily adaptable to different cultures or occasions. We get inspiration from so many places and make it our own using the different fabrics that are available in a particular country.” This look reminds us that Africa is all things at once: strong, graceful, fierce, diverse, and unified.
The Moroccan Bride
The bride wears an elaborate white caftan or “takchita” for her entrance to the wedding. It’s embellished with luxurious fabrics and with gold embroidered designs. While there are numerous regional versions of this caftan, it can consist of several pieces, including a base caftan, a golden belt, an open jacket, and a headpiece.
It is common for the Moroccan bride to have multiple outfit changes throughout the night, as each look represents and celebrates the bride and groom’s region of origin. The bride’s hands and feet are also decorated with henna designs a few days before the wedding, as believed to bring them good luck.
The Ethiopian Bride
The Ethiopian bride commonly wears a “habesha kemis,” or ankle-length gown made of handwoven cotton fabric, often with golden sections woven into the fabric, and plenty of color. Regardless of whether the bride wears a traditional wedding dress or a modern white wedding gown, the “kaba” jacket is the main element to the marriage ceremony. For both the bride and groom this jacket is essential. It’s adorned in gold or silver embroidery and can be a cropped length or flow onto the floor in a similar style to a wedding dress train.
Find African fashion ideas, destination guides, stunning inspiration & more all week long as we celebrate African Wedding Week.