Crowning the Bride & Groom – Wedding Headgear

If you’ve ever been to a West African wedding the first thing you’ve probably noticed was the beautiful headgear worn by the women.

This headgear – or gelè – is a African bride’s crowning glory.

Obi Nwokedi Photography

Obi Nwokedi Photography

A gelè (pronounced gae_lae) is a Yoruba term for a woman’s head wrap and it’s the final touch to any bride’s outfit.

Gelè’s are a great way reflect a bride’s style and personality, from the kind of fabric used to the way the gelè is tied.

This large rectangular cloth can be shaped as a simple head-tie or bandana, or as elaborately as a peacock’s train.The wraps have been worn by women for generations and the more casual gelè’s are usually made from the same material as the traditional bridal outfit.

But in recent years more fashion conscious brides are opting for couture or custom-made gelè’s.

Obi Nwokedi Photography

Obi Nwokedi Photography

Tying a gelè is an art in itself – the bigger the cloth the more elaborate the look. It can be a lot of work! Not surprising then that this unique accessory was beginning to fade out – especially in the U.S. However, gelè master – Segun Gele – has been credited with making them popular again. His gravity-defying creations have become fashion statements and he travels across the U.S tying wraps for brides and their guests.

Here he is in action:

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Headgear for men is less of a big deal but still a significant part of their traditional outfit. The Kufi cap (or Fila in Yoruba culture) is a favorite of West African grooms.

burkina faso west african mens outfit

Kufi’s come in all shapes and sizes but the most popular are a rounded box-like shape.
They are most often made of kente cloth, mudcloth or knitted or crocheted in a variety of yarn.
For an African groom Kufi’s are a great way to preserve their traditional heritage and look just as regal as their bride.

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