Weddings are not cheap, and in African culture, the financial commitment can be even higher because of customs such as lobola.
Among many South Africans, lobola is seen as a token of gratitude by the bridegroom’s family to the bride’s family for caring for her and allowing her to become the bridegroom’s wife.
Usually, the amount depends on a variety of factors such as the brides level of education, cooking skills and whether or not she has children.
In most cases lobola is on top of the costs of the wedding itself but some families will use the lobola to pay towards the wedding. According to Cape Town-based financial advice firm Crue Invest, a wedding in South Africa costs, on average, between R70 000 and R150 000. Couples spend an average of R30 000 on their honeymoon, and between R20 000 and R30 000 on wedding rings.
Wikipedia says the following about lobola: “Lobola in Zulu, Swazi, Xhosa and northern and southern Ndebele (mahadi in Sesotho, roora in Shona, magadi in Northern Sotho, and lovola in Xitsonga), sometimes referred to as either ‘bride wealth’ or ‘bride price’, is property in cash or kind, which a prospective husband or head of his family undertakes to give to the head of a prospective wife’s family in consideration of a customary marriage.”
It is generally accepted that a minimum of 10 cows, or their cash equivalent, is a good starting point in the lobola discussions.
According to the Nguni Cattle Breeders Society, a cow costs, on average, R9 000. So assuming that the bride’s and groom’s families agree on 10 cows, the groom’s family will have to pay lobola of R90 000. But this amount might not seal the deal, because, depending on your cultural background, there are other costs.
Let’s take Zulu culture as an example. The lobola negotiations always take place at the home of the bride’s family. When the groom’s delegation descends on their homestead, the delegates will stand outside the gate and introduce themselves by shouting out their clan names.
The bride’s family will remain in the yard, pretending not to hear. When the bride’s family are satisfied that the groom’s delegates have shouted enough, they will send a young boy to attend to the delegation at the gate, and the groom’s family must pay money in order to enter the yard.
The groom’s family will have to pay more money to call the bride’s father to the negotiations. As this process unfolds, the groom’s family is required to do all the talking and must pay an imvulamlomo (“mouth opener”) to the bride’s family for them to start engaging in conversation with the groom’s representatives.
Alexander Forbes Financial Planning Consultants say the following four avenues are the best ways to save for lobola and the wedding day:
• A tax-free savings account. This product allows you to invest up to R33 000 per tax year, or a maximum of R500 000 in your lifetime. You do not pay any tax on the dividends and interest earned by your investment, and you do not pay capital gains tax. You can withdraw from this investment at any time without penalties or restrictions, so the investment offers the liquidity required for short-term investing.
• Unit trust funds. This option is effective if you want to invest more than R33 000 in a tax year. The funds are also easily accessible with no penalties or restriction.
• Money market account. This option allows you to invest directly in cash and various money market instruments. The returns depend on the interest rate.
• Stokvel. Each member of a stokvel has a turn to receive a cash lump sum, which is paid every month. Some stokvels contribute amounts monthly and these funds are invested in a stokvel account.
Happy Ngale, a financial well-being consultant at Alexander Forbes, says lobola makes getting married very expensive because many couples also have a traditional “white wedding”.
“It is advisable to save for lobola well in advance, giving enough time to earn returns. With many options available to the investor, various factors such as liquidity, the term of the investment and the risk profile of the portfolio, should be considered before deciding where to invest the money,” Ngale said.
While the burden of the lobola price is a traditionally laid upon the groom and his family, women get hands-on when the process has been concluded in planning their wedding day.
Lobola app can also help
The Google Play store has an app that can help you to work out how much lobola you will have to pay.
Step 1: Download the Lobola Calculator app.
Step 2: Answer the questions, such as employment, age, and education.
Step 3: Click “Calculate”, and the app will provide the lobola you will pay in rands and cows.