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SA's Best Traditional Wedding Dresses

What's your favourite?

BY Mercy Kipchilat

Feb 27, 2023, 08:10 AM

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Known as the "Rainbow Nation," South Africa is a tremendously diverse country with many different cultures, ethnicities, and vast rich traditions. As a result, there are so many traditional wedding dresses from all cultures and there is not a specific attire that stands for all the country’s cultures.

Despite the huge diversity, however, one thing that unites the country is the pride that each culture has in its traditions. Additionally, in all cultures, wedding ceremonies are very important events and brides are always the star of these events, with their beautiful dresses and colourful jewellery.

Here are some of our picks of traditional wedding dresses from several cultures across the country that you will love. One thing to note is that all cultures have adopted some modernization in their traditional wedding dresses while maintaining a few aspects of their cultural identity. 

Zulu Traditional Wedding Dresses.

Photo by Zulu Brides
A traditional Zulu wedding dress includes an isidwaba (leather skirt), an isicwaya, (a skin used to cover the bride’s breast), and an inkehli or isicholo, (a traditional hat worn by married Zulu women).

Additionally, a traditional Zulu bride also wears an imvakazi (beaded veil), and beads across their chest. 

Xhosa Traditional Wedding Dresses.

Photo by Xhosa Brides
Among the Xhosas, the bride’s traditional wedding dress typically consists of an ankle-length idaki (a dress given to her by the groom’s family).

The dress is paired with a tartan blanket that is worn around the shoulder, uxakatha (towel or thick scarf tied around her waist), and Iduku or iqhiya headwrap.

To complete the look, the makoti is adorned with beautiful beaded necklaces, bracelets, and anklets.

Tswana Traditional Wedding Dresses.

Photo by Tebatso Pearl
The Tswanas’ colour of choice for their traditional wedding dresses is blue. Tswana brides often wear vibrant dresses with shades of blue often made from leteisi fabric. 

A colourful sash around the waist, beaded jewellery, and a headpiece made of beads or the same fabric as the same as dress is often also worn.

To complete the outfit, Tswana brides wear mogagolwane (a blue checkered blanket) over their shoulders.

Venda Traditional Wedding Dresses.

Photo by Venda Brides
The traditional wedding dress for Venda brides is a colourful, flowing garment that is made from a brightly patterned fabric called wenda

The dress is often made from a single piece of wenda that wraps around the body and is sewn at the top with two straps of the same cloth to tie over one shoulder.

To complete the look, Venda brides are usually adorned with colourful beaded jewellery. 

Tsonga Traditional Wedding Dresses.

Photo by Tsonga Brides
The traditional wedding dress worn by Tsonga brides is a colourful and vibrant skirt known as a xibelani. 

The xibelani is usually made of brightly coloured shweshwe fabrics and is often decorated with intricate beading and embroidery. It is made of multiple layers of fabric that are pleated and gathered to create a full, flowing effect. 

Tsonga brides may also wear a beaded top, which is made of a sheer or lace fabric and features intricate beading and embellishments, in addition to the xibelani. The top is frequently paired with a colourful shawl or scarf draped over the shoulders.

Pedi Traditional Wedding Dresses.

Photo by Sepedi Weddings
Typically, the SePedi traditional wedding dress features a vibrant striped cloth with bright shades of pink, red, turquoise, yellow, blue, and white.

The striped fabric is incorporated into the bride’s dress which is often paired with a doek to complete the look.

Did we leave out your traditional wedding outfit? Let us know what it is. Remember that these are just a few traditional wedding dresses out of the many cultures in the country.