Maasai marriage

Marriage in Maasai culture is one of our most important traditional activities. A man has to be married as soon as he undergoes the circumcision ceremony. A Maasai murran is not able to choose whom he is going to marry. If a murran’s father has a good friend with a daughter, then the fathers will negotiate among themselves and decide on a date to marry off their son and daughter, without consulting them first.


A week before the celebration a meeting is held know in Maasai as “aadung inkishu“, which literally means the splitting of cows. This is where both parties agree on the number of livestock that will be paid by the family of the murran, to that of the daughter. This amount differs from person to person. If it is an arrangement between friends it may be 4 or 5 cows, or it may be as high as 14 or 15. As you can see in the video (filmed by Lion Guardian Koikai), he was joking that he would offer 12 cows for Amy to be his second wife!

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A Maasai murran does not see his bride before the marriage, and in most cases they have never met before the ceremony. Some days before the marriage a murran picks his best man and they travel together to the bride’s boma to pick her up, taking with them the dowry they are paying to the family.

If her boma is far away, they have to count how many days it will take them to walk to the bride’s boma and back to make sure they get back in time for the marriage! The bridegroom and best man must walk all the way there by themselves. Then they will pick up the bride from her boma, and they will walk all the way back to his boma. No members of her family are permitted to attend the marriage ceremony. She is no longer part of their family.


One may wonder why Maasai men have to pay the bride’s family livestock when they marry. This is so that the family will be able to remember their daughter who is no longer part of the family. These livestock will always remind them of her. Does this happen in your culture?


  • Sherri S. says:

    Oh, Antony! You are sure opening up a big can of worms, so to speak, with that question! Western women have A LOT of opinions on doweries and bride prices, and they rarely hesitate to share them. I’ll be very interested to read the comments!

  • louise says:

    Hey guys, interesting post the last 2 days, nice to read about Maasai culture. Nice pictures as well. Still what about: why can’t a woman marry different men, that would mean equality! I’ll bet she (or her family), can bring some cows herself…

  • sauwah says:

    a woman marrying more than one man? never will happen on this planet. remember, this is still a man’s world. since we, the human race, have changed from hunters & gathers to planting and manipulating nature ( animal husbandry), the status of women failed big time. As our societies become increasingly patriarchal than matriarchal, goddesses gradually disappear in all major religions.

    doweries and multiple wives are pretty common among all ancient cultures . before mao took over china, a wealthy man had more than one wife . the richer he was, more wives and sons he had. It was a status thing for a man whose dream was to live like an emperor. needless to say the chinese culture still is a patriarchal society even though it is a one child rule nation ( thank god since there are over one billion of them ).

    isn’t it a man’s dream to live like a dominate male lion with a pride? having many wives and off springs for him to dictate?

  • Pauline says:

    These are two very interesting posts.It seems very sad to me that the bride breaks all ties with her family. Is there no contact then between children and their maternal grandparents? Does the bride not have the support of her mother in childbirth? It also certainly puts a different perspective on the value of the cows and the weight of the decision which Lion Guardians have made to protect the lions which may threaten them.

  • Timi says:

    Oh, Sauwah, there ARE cultures on this planet in which it is the woman who can have several spouses. These cultures exist today, and many many more have existed in history. There are also cultures where marriage is not the norm. For example, in the book “Leaving Mother Lake”, Yang Erche Namu tells about her own culture (somewhere between Tibet and China), in which women are the ones who own the family’s property, and men are not even allowed to live in the family compound, but visit the women during nights. It isn’t a pure matriarchy, but probably they have been matriarchal in the past.

  • jizz says:

    in response to sauwah, there are socities (matriarchal) where they practice POLYANDRY. Where a woman has multiple husbands, this is to reduce population and benefits her protection.

  • chump says:

    No mother-in-law poking her nose in then.
    How civilised.

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