In South Africa Traditional funerals still sometimes use professional wailers. This can be quite a spectacle. Women who are paid to go to a funeral, scratch their faces with their nails until they bleed and wail and cry as loud and as long as they can. Deafening. Usually a bull (or if the family doesn’t have enough money) a sheep is slaughtered. The funeral is followed by a day or two of feasting and a great deal of drinking. Usually friends of the family will go around before the funeral collecting money to help the family pay for the funeral and the feast. I think this is a very considerate custom as funerals (and the feast) can quite often turn out to be rather expensive.
In traditional African wedding ceromonies, the bride-groom is expected to pay “Lebola”. This is a term used to indicate that the bride-groom has to pay money for the bride. In the old days Lebola was paid in cows, as the more cows a man had the richer he was considered. Having many children a man was (and to a certain extent still is) an indicator of a man’s wealth. Ergo, a man can support a large family so he must be wealthy, and having daughters would ensure you get some cows down the line. Today, Lebola is often paid in money, as the average South African won’t be able to keep 50 odd cows in the backyard. However, the Lebola sum is still worked out in amount of cows. i.e. Say the Lebola price is considered to be 10 cows, then the bride-groom should give the bride’s family the price in Rands (SA’s currency) of 10 cows.
Whites used to think that the bride was being bought, but this isn’t true. Actually, Lebola (the price varies wrt the brides status and other charms) is to show that the bride-groom can actually take care of the bride. Also, the Lebola usually goes toward paying for the wedding ceremony (which like a funeral is over several days and consists of much feasting and carousing) and the brides family usually sends her off to her husband with a dowry of linen and other household necessities.