South African traditional weddings are usually one of the most interesting cultural events one can attend. The beautiful traditional displays, decorations, music, and food are not the only things that make the events unique. The different South African traditional wedding dresses on display at these events always adds to the grandeur. The traditional wedding dresses – including the ones worn by the groom or bride and those worn by invited guests go a long way to depict the exact culture and tribe of the couple.
However, irrespective of tribe and culture, all South African traditional wedding dresses are beautiful, fashionable, and elegant. The most amazing thing about these traditional wedding dresses is that there is something to fit every bride and groom in all the tribes, so, the couples don’t have to worry about being too big or too small for their ‘big day.’
Zulu South African Traditional Wedding Dresses
The Zulu people in South Africa who refer to themselves as ‘the people of the heavens’ are one of the most popular and populated tribes in the country, with a population ranging from 10-12 million people. Zulu people are found majorly in KwaZulu-Natal province in South Africa and they have a rich cultural heritage. In a typical Zulu wedding, the bride and groom are not the only ones to rock Zulu traditional wedding attires. There is also a Zulu traditional wedding dress for parents and the bridal train.
1. Isidwaba, Isicwaya, and other Zulu Bridal Accessories
It is the culture in Zulu that for a typical traditional wedding, the Zulu bride changes what she wears up to three times, with all three dresses showcasing the rich Zulu cultural heritage. The bride wears an animal skin accessory known as Isicwaya to cover her breast and the upper part of her trunk, a leather skirt known as Isidwaba, and a hat known as Inkehli. Married women in Zulu wear hats to show that they have been taken.
The legs and arms of the bride are decorated with red and white ocher and she wears a veil made of beads and twisted fig leaves. Both the bride and her bridesmaids wear beaded necklaces and bracelets. In order to create a rhythm when she moves, a Zulu bride usually has a bag of pebbles tied to her ankles. Goat hair is usually hung around the neck of the bride, and she carries a small knife known as Assegai which serves as a symbol of her virginity.
All of these may be looking like its too much on the body of a bride, but when you use a typical Zulu bride in her full regalia – dressed in her Isidwaba, Isicwaya, and other Zulu bridal accessories – you won’t be able to take your eyes off her, because, even though it may be cultural, nothing compares to the beauty these accessories projects on a Zulu bride.
2. Modern Zulu Traditional Wedding Dress
While a typical Zulu bride will use animal skin for their Isicwaya and Isidwaba, brides who prefer to go with modern Zulu traditional wedding dresses do not need to use animal skin, rather, they use other materials to create their Isidwaba and Isicwaya. However, the modern Zulu traditional wedding attire does not leave out the signature red Zulu hat.
Although it may be modern, it still signifies and brings out the Zulu culture in every way. All typical Zulu attires and accessories are rightfully represented.
3. Folded Pleated Design For Bridesmaids
This particular South African wedding dress is for bridesmaids. To bring out the beauty of the bride, the bridesmaids also have to look stunning. With a strapless top, and folded pleaded design skirts, the bridesmaids can achieve that beautiful Zulu look.
The waistline of their skirts is usually designed with Zulu prints and patterns to showcase the very rich cultural heritage of the Zulu tribe. They wear beautiful shoulder beads that cover the upper region of their body.
4. Zulu Mermaid Gowns
The mermaid gowns worn by Zulu brides at their traditional wedding is a blend of modern fashion and the Zulu culture, and it still looks unique on any Zulu bride. The gown is usually fitted from the top to the knee to show off every curve the bride has in a very decent manner. At the knee, the gown flares out to give off that mermaid look and allow the lady to walk comfortably.
Now, to bring in that signature Zulu traditional look, the bride would wear an Isicholo – the red Zulu hat. In addition to that, she would also wear beads on her hands, neck, and shoulder to showcase the rich Zulu cultural heritage. Modern Zulu brides that decide to rock the mermaid gown on their day usually always look stunning.
Pedi/Sepedi Traditional Wedding Dresses
Pedi/Sepedi is a South African tribe and a majority of the community can be found in the northern provinces in South Africa, while a few thousands can be found in Botswana. Although they are not as populated as the Zulu people, they also have a rich cultural heritage. Pedi traditional wedding dresses are usually the light of the event, alongside the wonderful music, elegant decorations, and traditional foods that all represent what the Pedi tribe stands for.
There are a variety of Pedi-inspired wedding dresses that a bride can choose from, of course, what you decide to go with should be what suits your body best.
5. Pedi Inspired Ball Gown
A Pedi or Sepedi bride who is trying to find a dress that would turn heads on her wedding day can never go wrong with a Pedi-inspired ball gown made by the right fashion designer or dressmaker. As the name implies, it’s a ball gown made up of Pedi-inspired colors which are blue, pink, orange, and yellow.
Depending on your skin tone, you should choose a color that blends well with your skin to be the major color, while the other colors can be used as a touch in such a way that it unveils the Pedi traditional pattern.
The reason a Pedi bride can’t go wrong with a ball gown and the right dressmaker is that if the gown is made properly, it suits any body size and stature. The gown can be armless or off-shoulder. Usually, Sepedi brides wear their beautiful dresses and accessories, alongside hair ties to match – the hairpiece is usually tied in a traditional way.
6. Pedi Inspired Full-Length Flare Gown
A plus-size Pedi bride can also go for a full-length flare gown. Such gowns are usually fitted at the top to hold the bust of the bride firmly, and then the flare in the dress begins just below the bust. This dress is not just perfect for plus-size brides, but also for slim brides who do not have very obvious curves.
The fitted upper part of the gown is usually styled using Pedi-inspired patterns, just like the ball gown, the Pedi-inspired full-length dress can be armless, off-shoulder, or any sleeve style the bride prefers. The major colors of the gown can either be blue, white, black, yellow, or pink. What matters is that the gown has patterns and colors that represent the Pedi/Sepedi culture at first glance.
7. Pedi Inspired Full-Length Mermaid Gowns
The Pedi mermaid-inspired gown is just like the Zulu-inspired mermaid gown; fitted from the top to the knee and flares just above the knee to below the ankles. What makes the Pedi-inspired mermaid gown different is the beautiful Pedi colors on the gown and the pattern they are arranged.
Most modern Sepedi/Pedi brides prefer to go with a white gown, patterned with Pedi colors, with flared end designed with any of the unique Pedi cultural colors. Although both a slim and a plus-size Sepedi bride can rock the full-length Pedi styled mermaid gown, the gown would be the go-to choice for a slim and curvy Sepedi bride because it fits them better than a plus-size Sepedi bride.
Tswana Traditional Wedding Dresses
Tswana people are not only found in South Africa, they are also found in Botswana. However, in South Africa, they are found in Northwest, Gauteng, and some part of the Northern Cape provinces of South Africa. Just like other South African tribes, the Tswana people also have a rich culture. What makes Tswana dress patterns a bit more unique than others is not just their colors but also the Tswana prints.
Using the Tswana prints, brides can now sew any dress style they want, here are some styles a Tswana bride can choose from.
8. Maxi Gowns or Skirts With Tartan Blankets
On Tswana wedding day, the brides and bridesmaids will look very cultural and beautiful on maxi gowns made with Tswana prints which are usually blue or green. The Tswana bride is usually also covered with blankets, either made of the same Tswana prints or plain white material. The bride and her bridesmaids also cover their hair with the same Tswana fabric used for their maxi gowns or skirts.
9. Peplum Blouse and Mermaid Skirt Made Of Tswana Prints
Peplum blouses and mermaid skirts made with Tswana prints are usually beautiful, and although they can be worn by both slim and plus-size people, they suit plus-size brides the most. The peplum blouse usually fits at the bust, and just beneath the bust, the blouse flares. The part that demarcates the fitted upper part of the blouse and the flare is usually styled with beautiful patterns and beads. The length of the blouse usually goes down to a few inches below the bride’s waist.
The mermaid skirt is fitted from the waist to a few inches above the knee and then it also flares. The skirt shows off the beautiful curves of the Tswana bride in a very decent way. Plus-size brides do not have to worry about their tummy foldings when wearing peplum blouses and mermaid skirts which have been made from Tswana prints.
10. Mermaid Gowns Made With Tswana Prints
The Tswana prints make the South African traditional wedding dresses of the Tswana people really outstanding. Although the dress style may be the same as that of other tribes, the prints give it that uniqueness associated with the Tswana tribe.
The mermaid gown worn by Tswana brides is just the same as that of the other South African tribes and can be styled in any way that suits the preference of the Tswana bride. What makes it unique to Tswana brides is the Tswana prints used in making them. So, if you are a Tswana bride, and you want to give your traditional wedding dress that touch of modern class and fashion, without removing the beauty of Tswana culture, then going for a mermaid gown with Tswana prints will be one of the best choices you will make.
11. Tswana Prints Flare Gowns
Tswana-inspired flare gowns are just like other flare gowns we have discussed so far, however, what makes it unique is the use of blue or green Tswana prints to sew them. The flare gown is usually fitted at the top and it could be either sleeveless, strapless, or come with any sort of arm covering.
The Tswana print can be used to make the entire dress but for style and trends, a bride may decide to use the print for just the upper part of the dress, while the flare part of the gown can be made with a white or blue material. The flare part can also be styled with a touch of Tswana prints, depending on the preference of the bride. Her bridesmaids and other wedding guests can also use the Tswana prints to make a midi flare gown.
Venda Traditional Wedding Dresses
Another tribe in South Africa with very unique cultural attires and traditional dresses is the Venda people who are located majorly around the South African-Zimbabwean border. A Venda bride can either decide to go for a typical Venda traditional wedding dress or a modern dress that is inspired by the Venda people’s cultural style. Whichever way a Venda bride decides to go, she is still going to be the toast of the day because she will look perfect. The following are some of the various options available to the Venda bride when contemplating what style she will appear in on her traditional wedding ceremony:
During a typical Venda traditional wedding, the bride wears a small apron called ‘Shedo’ to cover her body down to the laps. They also wear a ‘Nwenda’ around their shoulders to cover their breast and the mid part of their body, then there’s a cape made with the same material as the nwenda. The Venda bride is also adorned with beads and accessories around her hands, legs, and neck.
Venda fabrics are usually made up of blue, yellow, black, and red patterns, and their bead accessories are normally yellow.
13. White Sleeveless Top and Venda Print Fabrics
A Venda bride and her bridesmaids can also go for a white short sleeve or sleeveless top and Venda fabric. The bridesmaids could use the fabric as a fitted pencil skirt – a pencil skirt made of Venda prints – and a cloak carefully tied on one side of her shoulder.
The bride is adorned with beads on her head, legs, and hands. This is a very simple South African traditional wedding attire that shows off the rich culture of the Venda people.
14. Modern Venda Traditional Wedding Dresses
A Venda bride who does not want to go for the typical Venda traditional wedding look can decide to go with the modern-day dress styles which involves blending the unique Venda fabrics. This way, you have a touch of modern fashion and a traditional appeal in your appearance.
Depending on your stature as a bride, you can decide to go for a flared gown, a peplum blouse, and mermaid skirt, or just any style, as long as the dress is inspired by the Venda traditional style and has a touch of the Venda fabric on it. Most modern Venda brides usually go for white or yellow as the major color of the dress, followed by a touch of Venda fabric and pattern.
South African Traditional Wedding Dresses For The Ndebele Tribe
The unique and colorful Ndebele fabric is not only found and appreciated in South Africa but also in Zimbabwe. South African Ndebele brides always look very stunning and beautiful in it.
There are a good number of beautiful South African traditional wedding dress styles a Ndebele bride can make with beautiful fabric. The unique Ndebele fabric is usually made up of red, blue, yellow, and green. And while all of these look like too many colors on one dress, the pattern by which these colors are arranged usually makes the difference, blending with each other and looking beautiful.
15. Typical Ndebele Traditional Wedding Attire
A typical Ndebele bride who does not want to add any touch of modern fashion to her traditional wedding attire wears the Ndebele apron, and blanket, her neck, legs, and hands are decorated with heavy Ndebele beads. The bride must wear a veil to cover her face as a sign of respect to her in-laws.
16. Ndebele Inspired Sleeveless Mermaid Gown
Just like other tribes, Ndebele also has mermaid gowns inspired by their culture that can be worn by brides, bridesmaids, and wedding guests who want to steal the day.
The Ndebele-inspired sleeveless traditional wedding dress is similar to the mermaid gown from other tribes already discussed, but unlike other mermaid gowns, the upper part of the gown, from the tiny sleeves to the bust and a few inches below the bust, is made of beautifully patterned Ndebele prints. The rest of the gown can be made of any color from the Ndebele fabric on the upper part.
The unique Ndebele fabric can also be used for the flare part of the gown that starts a few inches above the knee. Like any typical Ndebele traditional wedding attire, the bride also wears a hat to cover her hair. The hat can also be designed with Ndebele fabric prints.
17. White Strapless Peplum Blouse And Mermaid Skirt
Ndebele print pattern and fabric is what makes a Ndebele bride stand out from brides from all other South African tribes. While she can go with any style of dress, it must have that signature Ndebele fabric on it.
The white strapless peplum blouse and mermaid skirt are just perfect for a bride who wants to have a modern dress inspired by Ndebele culture. This white blouse and skirt are beautifully styled with a touch of Ndebele prints. The traditional wedding outfit is suitable for both slim and plus-size ladies.
18. Ndebele Inspired Flare Gown
Another beautiful South African traditional wedding attire a Ndebele bride can wear for her traditional wedding is the Ndebele-inspired flare gown. The upper part of the gown, which is usually fitted to the bust, is made with Ndebele prints, while the flare part, which starts a few inches below the bust, can be made with any color of material but usually, brides go for white or black. As a sign of respect, the bride covers her hair with a Ndebele fabric.
Tsonga Traditional Wedding Dresses
The people of Tsonga are an ethnic group found in the southern parts of South Africa (Limpopo and Mpumalanga) and Mozambique. They are known for their rich and colorful culture and their traditional wedding is one way they try to showcase it. The Tsonga brides usually look very stunning on their wedding day and do not need to worry about the traditional wedding dress color matching their skin tone, because the Tsonga has a good number of colors on their fabrics. This makes it very easy for a bride to choose a perfect color.
19. White Top and Printed Skirts
For Tsonga traditional weddings, brides and bridesmaids can also wear a spotless white top, a black or deep blue printed Tsonga skirt, which makes the waist look fuller with a Tsonga fabric tied from one side of her shoulder. The beautiful flower designs on the Tsonga prints make the day colorful.
Tsonga has a good number of beautifully colored prints for the bride and bridesmaids to choose from, however, while the bride can decide on a color that makes her stand out, yellow is usually the preferred choice. The bridesmaids can also use a unique color while everyone would usually style their hair with unique Tsonga prints.
20. Modern Tsonga Traditional Wedding Attires
Most Tsonga brides usually go for a yellow or pink gown, styled with the unique Tsonga flowery pattern design. Despite the fact that the dress is a South African traditional wedding dress, you can still see a touch of modern fashion and beauty. The beautiful flowery patterns on the dress still bring out that beautiful and colorful Tsonga cultural heritage.
The color-filled Tsonga traditional dress pattern has inspired a good number of South African traditional wedding dresses. A bride can go for any modern dress style, what matters is that it is styled with the Tsonga pattern.
Xhosa Traditional Wedding Dresses
Xhosa is another South African tribe that draws attention. Their beautiful and unique cultural heritage is second to none. At every stage of a Xhosa woman’s life, there is a particular outfit for her. Xhosa traditional weddings are usually filled with beautiful decors, music, and food. The bride of the day is usually the major point of attraction, and Xhosa brides do not fail to deliver. With their rich cultural heritage, it does not take a Xhosa bride any stress to look both traditional and beautiful.
Isishweshwe is also known as Ijeremani and it is a dress worn by Xhosa brides, usually stopping at the ankle. It signifies her passage from being a single girl to being a married woman. The essence of this dress is to let intending suitors know that the bride has been taken, and now belongs to her husband.
Ijeremani does not go alone, it is paired with a tartan blanket, the bride wears the blanket on her shoulders to go over the Isishweshwe, the essence of the tartan blanket is to show the protective traits a bride adds to the family. The bride also wears a woolen scarf around her waist as a symbol of someone who has kept her virginity, and a black doek (headscarf) wrapped around her head which demonstrates a show of respect for her elders.
A typical Xhosa bride who does not want to blend modern fashion and Xhosa tradition can not go wrong with Isishweshwe. And just like many other typical South African traditional wedding dresses, Isishweshwe suits women with any body type.
22. Xhosa Inspired Strapless Mermaid Dresses And Accessories
Xhosa-inspired strapless mermaid dresses are worn as modern South African traditional wedding attire, but, with the accessories, they represent everything Xhosa traditional wedding stands for. With the right dressmaker, a Xhosa-inspired mermaid dress looks beautiful on any bride. This is because the dress is usually white, with a touch of bold blank lines. The white color of the dress makes the lady’s body more pronounced, so, slim ladies with little curves still have a chance of showing some sort of curves in such dresses.
The Xhosa mermaid dress is just like every other mermaid dress we have discussed so far, what makes it unique to Xhosa is its color and the bold black stripes. The Xhosa-inspired mermaid gown is also worn with a tartan blanket, and beaded accessories to cover the upper region of the lady’s body since the gown is strapless. The bride also wears a black and white headpiece to cover her hair as a sign of respect for elders.
23. Xhosa Inspired Layered Blue Dress With Yellow and Black Pattern
Most Xhosa brides who want to add a touch of modern fashion to their South African traditional wedding dresses usually go with the white and black Xhosa pattern, but they are not limited to that.
The Xhosa people also have other traditional wedding attires. The blue dress with yellow and black patterns is also a stunning Xhosa traditional wedding attire. This is a modern traditional wedding dress that still contains all typical Xhosa traditional wedding attire symbols, starting from the head, the bride wears a beautiful black and white head tie that has a touch of yellow, then bold beads to cover the upper region of her body, the strapper blue layer gown contains layers of yellow and black fabrics.
In place of a tartan blanket, the bride can wear a black cloak with yellow and white stripes at the button. This outfit looks very stunning on slim Xhosa brides.
24. White Dress With Red Tartan Blankets
The beautiful white Xhosa traditional wedding attire is made to cover the entire part of the bride aside from her face, the full-length long sleeve gown is aimed at chasing suitors away from the bride and signifies that she is now taken. Just like every other Xhosa-inspired traditional wedding dress, the white dress does not go without a tartan blanket, the red tartan blanket is styled with beads to create unique Xhosa patterns.
In a bid to show respect to elders, the bride also wears a red beret to cover her hair. Her neck is beautified with beads that show off the rich culture of the Xhosa people.
25. Sleeveless Black and White Maxi Dress
This is yet another simple but beautiful traditional wedding attire from the Xhosa tribe. The upper part of the sleeveless gown is beautified with black flower-like patterns and a few inches beneath the bust, the gown flares. The flared part of the gown is majorly made of white African fabric and almost at the bottom, the white fabric is patterned with bold black stripes to signify the Xhosa culture.
The Xhosa culture values respect and the Xhosa bride will not fail to embody that as she usually wraps her hair with black fabric. This particular South African traditional wedding outfit is suitable for both ladies who are plus-size and those who may are slim.