In case you will ever be invited to experience a Zambian Kitchen Party and don’t know what to expect. Don’t worry, we will share our full experience with you. But advice number one: GO! It was absolutely great to see what it was all about. Especially if you are from a country with not so many wedding traditions.
Once in Zambia you will be surrounded by the most friendliest people you can imagine. Which is besides the stunning wildlife and remote areas, definitely a reason alone to visit Zambia. Better said; Zambia is known to be the most peaceful country in Africa. Maybe that is why it probably didn’t take long being invited to a Zambian Kitchen Party/Bridal Shower. Of course we accepted the invitation with full excitement. But what should we wear, what is it really about and what kind of traditions are there?
The history behind a Zambian Kitchen Party?
Oke, so lets start with the beginning: what is a Kitchen Party all about? Here, a Kitchen Party is a Zambian bridal shower. We actually thought it was an original Zambian tradition, but its origins are apparently found in the Western culture. From 1924 till 1964 Zambia was a colony of Great Britain. After Zambia became independent they absorbed the Kitchen Party as a new wedding ritual in the Zambian culture. Before the indepence, bridal showers were not performed by the Zambians. Originally the Kitchen Party was called a ‘Kitchen Tea Party. The party helped the bride-to-be with gathering her new kitchen items. Only female guests are invited to the party and as no alcohol was served, the ladies enjoyed their tea. Prior to the ceremony, a committee is making sure to gather all the needed kitchen supplies and every guest donates some money for it.
You can watch our full Zambian Kitchen Party experience with the video below:
Rituals during the Kitchen Party
Besides the tradition of giving kitchen supplies as a gift, the concept of the original Kitchen Tea Party changed to a real Zambian version. The bride-to-be has to stay in a secluded room for a while and will join the party later. During her stay in the secluded room, she will be accompanied by older (only married) women. The women will teach her about how to have a happy marriage, sexual aspects and how to behave as a wife. After the bride-to-be is fully prepared by the marriage lessons of the other women, she will join the party. She will enter the room covered by a chitenge (a patterned cloth) and guided by the commitee of the party (mostly family members or close friends) to a special place for her.
Once the bride-to-be is seated, the only part of the event where men are allowed, can start. The Groom will enter the room, guided by other men. This is basically to show everyone who the groom is, and it is also a way of showing: this is my man and from now on he is taken. Some parts of the tradition are a bit commercialised nowadays. For example, the bride-to-be has to stay covered, while the men are entering the room. The presenter of the Kitchen Party will make sure that the men are giving money to the bride. Once that is done, the bride-to-be can finally show her face. And then sometimes the Groom will be suprised to find out, it was not his bride, but another woman. The men has to leave the room again, and the real bride will quickly enter. After this, the men need to re-do the introduction (including the money ritual), but now for the real bride-to-be. Haha women are smart, aren’t they? After her face is revealed, she needs to look at the ground during practicing some of the traditions. This is basically a sign of respect for her husband-to-be.
Preparations for the guests
So how do you prepare yourself for attending the party in style? Oke, we have a confession to make: almost all of our travel clothes are black and a bit worn out :$ Stress, what should we wear? Luckily we know Kabaso, the fashion designer behind the brand Nkanda Yatu. He quickly did some measurements and we went to a local fabric store for our own chitenge. He is truely amazing, we could show him any type of dress that we would like to wear. After we bought the fabrics and choose a dress, he started designing and already suprised us with the amazing dresses the next day! So preparation number 1: make sure you have a colorful dress to wear. Always check if there is a color or dress code. The bride-to-be sometimes will choose a certain color theme for the party.
Preparation 2 is to make sure you have enough cash with you. As you can see in our video, the tradition is to give some cash to the women who are dancing to the beat of the percussions.
Preparation 3: get ready for some dancinggggg!!! If the music alone will not be enough to start dancing, the women at the party will make sure you will.
What did we liked the most?
For us, it was a very special event since we never experienced it before. Honestly, we liked every part of it, but especially the meaning behind the tradition: to make a women ready for marriage. This meaning indirectly emphasizes the fact that marriage is something that you need to work for, in order to succeed. We feel that especially in the Western culture, this is something we tend to forget. Especially if you look at the divorce rate. It just gave the subject marriage a more special feeling. Besides this, we loved the happy vibe: everyone is enjoying the music, the food and the great dancers. We are more than happy that we experienced such a lovely celebration and we hope to delve into lots of other beautiful Zambian traditions.