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Roora day etiquette

So much has changed since my own roora day in 1999 but the essential principles have remained the same. It remains a joyous occasion – an opportunity for relatives to glow in the pride of their daughter’s accomplishment and son’s acquisition. After all, the bible says “he who finds a wife finds a good thing”.

As with all events, organisation and planning is vital. The key people need to be notified of the plans in the culturally correct manner. Honour must be given to the critical participants – specifically the father (or person who stands in the role of father) and mother as well as aunts (tete) of the soon to be bride. It is believed that if the honour is not accorded to these significant people then the future will not bode well for the marriage. This is often the time when estranged fathers’ relevance is restored in the lives of their daughters.


Ideally and traditionally the venue for roora day is the home of the father of the bride. If he is no longer alive or present his brothers stand in as baba or, in their absence, the brother of the bride becomes baba. In some cases however the person who played the father figure may be the maternal uncle (sekuru) in which case his home will be the venue.

In modern roora days a neutral location can be utilised such as a functions venue or hotel, particularly where the event is going to be large and many guests are expected. Such a venue would have enough room for the groom and his representatives to have their private space/room. In addition there is need for a room/lounge for the fathers to be seated in negotiation and for invited relatives and friends to observe and participate usually though laughter, ululation and occasional comments. It is after all a joyous occassion. Where resources allow, space for dining may be prepared so that guests can enjoy a delectable full course meal. But the groom and his team will dine in a separate dining room with special traditional foods prepared only for their consumption.

Venue décor

Décor for the roora day can be plain and simple or it can be extravagant. In recent times the roora day is the same day of the “white wedding” and so elaborate décor which includes signage, ballons, flowers all in the chosen colour scheme. The dining section will have formal dining décor including cloths and overlays to match, elaborate flower arrangements, all the cutlery and crockery to allow for fine dining complete with celebratory wines.


In the past roora day dressing was very simple. Although there was an expectation to look neat and tidy the emphasis was more on the need to look like an innocent maiden. There was certainly no expectation to be dressed to the nines. The bride to be would be seated in an obscure section, possibly on the floor to emphasize her humility, wrapping a “Zambia” cloth from the waist down and with a doek covering her head. No hair or makeup would be done.

Present day roora day dressing is elaborate. A lot of effort and money is spent on hair, makeup, nails, lashes. Remember that for some the roora day and white wedding reception would all be happening on the same day. The demure “zambia” cloth has now been replaced by gorgeous Ankara outfits for the bride, groom and family representatives. A colour scheme is chosen with the bride’s family adorning one specific Ankara pattern while the groom’s family can have a different pattern but all in the same colour schemes. This makes it fun and exciting but also makes it easy to identify the close family and friends which is useful for the avoidance of proper traditional protocol.

Where the bride and groom intend to make their white wedding vows on the same day they can also change from their roora day Ankara outfits into the traditional white gown and suit. Some will adorn a combination of Ankara and white fabric (including lace, satin or netting) so that the outfit is relevant for both purposes.

It is extremely important for guests to adhere to the given dress code. Read more on the importance of dress codes on my blog “Decoding dress codes”.

Guest numbers

Numbers of guests can be as few as the immediate family and close extended family only. Depending on available resources – money, time, space at the venue the numbers can exceed 100 people, particularly if the roora day is also the day of muchato.

Behaviour and communication

A master of ceremony is required to guide the proceedings of the day. This can be a member of the family who knows all the family members present and who is known to be a good communicator. Alternatively, an MC can be recruited based on his/her qualification and skill.

The star of the show at the roora day is actually neither the bride nor the groom. It is in fact the “Munyai” who has to show his oratory and negotiation skills as a representative of the groom and his family. His work is akin to a performance which can leave guests amazed and often in stiches of laughter and admiration. The munyayi can be a close family member of the groom, a friend of the family or he can actually be hired for that job based on his own expertise in the role.

For more etiquette and protocol advice contact Professional Presence +263 719609025 or +263 777609025


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