A Kitchen Party is a common pre-marital ceremony performed mainly in Zambia. This is not to say it is a Zambian marriage tradition. It is borrowed from the Western culture in what is commonly referred to as ‘bridal shower’.
The introduction of kitchen parties to the Zambian scene started in the late sixties after Zambia gained its independence from the United Kingdom (Great Britain) prior to that date, Kitchen parties/bridal showers were never performed in Zambia.
Initially, it was known as “A Kitchen Tea Party” and no alcohol was served at the party. The reason for this celebration was to assist the bride in starting her new kitchen. It was only attended by her close female friends and her close female relatives. The females would gather together and as they enjoyed the tea, they would shower the future bride with all sorts of kitchen presents. Being close to the bride, the women knew exactly what to get her.
The Zambian concept is slightly different from a western bridal shower in that the bride to be is kept in a secluded place at the party venue. she will usually be in a room with mostly elderly women brought in to teach her the sexual aspects of marriage including other things to do with her home. No unmarried women are allowed in this room while the bride is being taught.
When most of her guest arrive and her lessons are done, she will be lead out to the waiting guests covered in a local cloth known as a “chitenge”. She is led to a special place prepared for her. Guests are then asked to come forward one by one to present their presents. They are usually asked to explain the purpose of the gift to the bride. During this time the bride has her head faced down and she usually has an elderly female relative besides her who helps in assisting her. When all that is done she can finally mingle with her invited guests.
However, the whole concept of the kitchen party/bridal shower has now been exploited in recent times. It has become commercialised with the help of event planners who now offer it as a service and the introduction of certain procedures like the arrival of the “Groom” with flowers at the scene and unnecessary alcohol consumption has changed the meaning of the ceremony.
The groom‘s appearance at the kitchen party/bridal shower is to identify him and to prevent him from eloping or getting engaged to several other women too. The groom must give out cash to female family members of the bride before he can reach the bride to present her with flowers. This is a new concept and is often exploited to get as much money off the groom.
Even though some people stick to the original meaning of making up the bride’s kitchen party, others have been known to make their presents too extravagant and it has become a stage to show off between the two families involved. It has now become so extreme that the bride finds herself with unnecessary items for the kitchen or double of some of the items prompting her to give some away.
Due to the drift from the whole tea party theme, its now being called a bridal shower, a more suitable name for what it has become. In the earlier days of the kitchen tea parties, everything was done simply. A residential venue would be organised. A few people close to the bride would attend and little or no alcohol would be served. No male member would be allowed to attend or even allowed to be near the premises.
Nowadays, an exquisite venue or popular and expensive lodges would be sought. People now prepare themselves in the most expensive attire arriving in flashy vehicles. Others go a mile further by borrowing attire or vehicles just to keep up appearances.
The alcohol consumption which was non-existent in early kitchen tea parties has now become more of a binge drinking orgy and a lot of undesirable behaviour goes on. Nevertheless, some still manage to uphold their strong traditional values, and this is achievable if one selects a credible wedding committee.
Despite its drawbacks, most are well done and if one gets an invitation to attend one, accept it as its always a chance to get to see Zambian kitchen parties and most, always end up having a wonderful time.
Photo Credit: Love My Dress
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