Do children have a place in Somali wedding ceremonies?


By Suleiman Hassan

“We nowadays walk down the aisle, with children leading the caravan or have them in tow. Whatever the reason, I don’t know. But those who do it, from whom we blindly copied the practice, have a reason for it”.

somali traditional arusi

Young men put final touches on a newly constructed traditional Somali house known as herio (aqal hoori in North Eastern Kenya) in time for a marriage ceremony.

As I sat in a barber shop in Eastleigh a few days ago, waiting for my turn to get my favorite haircut, three youthful men walk in looking for their favorite barber as well.

Of late, it has become the norm in barber shops in Eastleigh and other Somali inhabited places for each barber to have a following just like on social media.

It is therefore not a wonder to see tens of people going into a self-imposed queue in order to be served by their point man while there were empty slots in the premises.

I happened to have fallen for this craze and was in the queue too. All over sudden, the three guys who walked in looking like they were about to catch a flight, bombarded us with requests to allow them be served first.

They are in a hurry because it was a big day for one of them. The other two were the best man and the driver respectively.

Since none of the queuing customers were in a ‘hurry’, they were allowed to be served first.

But no sooner had the beautification process begun than they started discussing their next moves.

I could not help but join in their conversation when they started mentioning children playing a role in the wedding ceremony.

“Do I go and pick the kids as I wait for my turn?” asked the driver.

“No please, wait, they will disturb us. Let us finish the haircuts and prepare ourselves first before we pick them” answered the man of the day.

“Remember, they have to be prepared too, they may let you down” added the driver.

Wondering at why one would be bothered by disturbance by his children, I threw in myself asking why on earth kids would attend a wedding ceremony that was taking place in the late hours of the day and whose children they were.

The answer I got reminded me of my mother’s advice to always mind my own business.

I was dismissed as a villager who had no idea of the current trends in the ‘modern world’.

While I have been to a few wedding ceremonies over the years, I have witnessed alien behaviors that were of late finding their way into such events among the people whose language I speak, the Somalis.

Somalis are predominantly Muslim and just like any other community, we also have traditions and norms that we conform to in everything we do.

From wedding ceremonies to funerals, until recently, we had our own ways of doing things.

Thanks to ‘modernization’ we now have new ways of going about our daily activities.

In the traditional Somali marriages, the bride will either identify the flower of his eyes or his parents would do so for him. A meeting will then be arranged between elders of the two families and sometimes clan elders will play a role in this initial stage known as ‘doonis’.

Thereafter, permission is granted to the man who asked for the girl’s hand in marriage to proceed and make arrangements for the same.

Marriage ceremonies and the entire processes were so simplified that the husband and wife would immediately settle with the little they have, sometimes with small help from friends and relatives. No more hullabaloos!

Since my topic of interest was the ‘alien’ activities that characterize today’s marriage ceremonies, I will not go into detail of how the rest was done.

I remember going to marriage ceremonies as a kid and our roles were limited to running errands for the event organizers to make it a success.

Fast forward, we nowadays walk down the aisle, with children leading the caravan or have them in tow. Whatever the reason, I don’t know. But those who do it, from whom we blindly copied the practice, have a reason for it.

arusi edited

Children lead the procession in the wedding ceremony of a Somali couple. The practice is relatively new to members of the community. We have hidden the faces of participants to protect their identity.

In order to get a glimpse of the whole idea, I approached a relationship speaker and coach who told me that in the professional circles, such a marriage ceremony was referred to as ‘blended family ceremony.’ But why blended?

“Most often we think of marriage as the joining of two people to be wife and husband. In reality, marriage is often much more than that. It is also the coming together and merging of family and friends. When the bride and/or groom have children, it is appropriate for the children to be included in the wedding ceremony. With children present, the wedding ceremony also becomes the proclamation of a new family or a “family wedding.” Said the marriage consultant.

Ahaa! Now I know, so the kids belong to the couple whose big day is being celebrated?

Oh yes!

Somalis, do we have that? I mean, children before marriage?

Blended families are often referred to as step-families or co-families. This ceremony can easily be incorporated into the wedding ceremony.

Different communities have different cultures and norms as I said before. Whether those traditions are in tandem with the religion one professes, is a subject of discussion for another day.

There are different types of relationships, one of them being ‘come we stay’.

In the process of staying together in the informal family setup, though not necessarily, we may welcome new members in the form of children.

When the two parents decide to solemnize their vows, they officially become husband and wife once again. In the event such a blended family decides to hold a marriage or wedding ceremony, of course the children will have to share in the joy of the big day. And that is why you may find them being part of the wedding processions.

In the Somali context however, marriage ceremonies for blended families exist albeit in a different manner and that is when a man marries a widow with children (garoob).

The marriage ceremony of such a family is normally a muted one. This means that there is no much hype associated with the big day other than a small feast organized for close relatives and friends who grace the sanctifying event known as nikkah.

I am therefore amazed nowadays when I see a young Somali couple walking down the aisle with children in tow or leading the caravan as mentioned earlier.

Amazed because, we proudly portray a behavior that has no place in our ceremonies altogether. Both traditionally and religiously.

First of all, this is a new family consisting only of a bride and his groom. The children we find in these ceremonies are ‘borrowed’ ones who belong to close friends or family members. Borrowed because; Somalis do not have children before marriage! Should they do so, the couple will not have the guts to display them publicly as such children are considered outcasts and referred to ‘wecel’ or ‘garac’. They should only be heard and not seen! Sex before marriage is a taboo among the community and is not allowed Islamically.

When I recently asked a friend of mine why that was the case in his wedding ceremony, he had no answer for me other than the now famous ‘everyone else was doing it, that is the trend’.

So before we blindly copy the traditions of others, let us first establish the reason why something is done rather than blindly taking it up.

Let us show the World and be proud of our own ways of doing things as ours may turn out to be the best.

After all it is!

Suleiman Hassan is a freelance writer and blogger. You can reach him on


The views expressed herein are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Nepjournal.





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NepJournal is Northern Kenya's online newspaper. It is also a space where the leading thinkers and writers from the region bring you unsolicited and uncensored views, analysis and opinion from the region and beyond.

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