Weddings; going traditional.

Igbo bride greeting her audience.
Igbo bride dancing for her audience.

Weddings are an interesting and remarkable occasion anywhere in the world. Each however is unique and influenced by certain factors: the couple, their cultures, family and finance. Most Nigerians often do either of these weddings; traditional, church or court weddings some do all three or just one.

Hausa bride
       Hausa bride

Personally I find traditional weddings the most exciting and would have settled for it alone but mum and MIL were not having any of that. Traditional weddings are colourful, filled with great music, lots of dancing and celebration. The entire extended family is involved. To a visiting participant, it might give the impression of a carnival rather than the celebration of the couple with the key focus on the bride. There are different tribes in Nigeria and each has a different variation of the wedding, certain factors however remain the same across them.

The introduction of the groom and family: this step, I guess, happens to any marriage world over with each culture putting its own twist on it. In most Nigerian tribes, however it involves at least three steps.  The groom and at least three family members or friends bearing gifts pay the bride’s parents a visit and if everything goes affably the next visit is arranged. On the second visit, the groom accompanied by more family and friends; they also get to meet more of the brides’ extended family.  At this visit the dowry and every other traditional rite gets decided. Both families must reach an agreement on everything happening at the next visit, what gifts to bring and who would be present.

Fulani bride (under the Hausa tribe)
Fulani bride (under the Hausa tribe)

The third and final visit takes place before the wedding; it’s often a small ceremony but filled with lots of entertainment. Throughout the process, the groom and his family is assessed by the bride’s family with the aim of confirming if the bride is going to a good family.  Common terminologies associated with the process include ikuaka n’uzo (knock at the door) in Igbo land, igbeyawo (carrying of the bride) in Yoruba, Na gani ina (I like what I see) and Gaisuwa (greetings to their in laws to be). Kola nut also plays a central role across all the tribes, known for its healing ability; couples share it during the wedding indicating a willingness to heal each other. The entire process can be done in one day or over several weeks/months as determined by the couple and their families.

Yoruba couple after she is unveiled.Yoruba couple after she is unveiled.

Tasks/banter testing the groom: the groom and his family might be required pay a gate fee to get into the wedding venue; this is common with the Yoruba and Igbo tribes. In Yoruba land, the groom and his friends are asked to prostrate before the bride’s family three times, he then prostrates before his own family prior to taking his seat. Prayers are said for him and his family during this process. In certain parts of Hausa land, the grooms’ shoes/sandals might be hidden by female members of the bride’s family and the groom pays a fee to get them back. Some other antics might require the groom to sing or dance for his request to see his bride.  Grooms at an Igbo wedding hides; the bride searches for him with a glass of palm wine which they share once she finds him. The advent of modernization has seen traditional weddings become revolutionized to make it more entertaining and encompassing for guests.

Edo bride (grouped under   Igbo tribe)
Edo bride (grouped under Igbo tribe)

The giving of dowry and gifts: ok I know this can be a sore topic for my western audience so let’s take a good look at it. In the present day Nigeria a lot of couples have come together by themselves, thanks to social media long-time friends and acquaintances are reunited  and something new is birthed (that was my story).this makes the dowry less about what the parents get in exchange for their daughter. Dowry is essentially for us what a fabulous engagement ring and proposal are for you. It’s a show of how much value the groom places on his intended bride. When a happy and balanced marriage follows an engagement/wedding the question of how much you paid for a ring or as dowry rarely occurs. Such issues crop up when problems and unhappiness become predominant. Realising that the system has been abused most families today opt not to receive the dowry from the groom; those who do discuss and accept what the groom can provide. The gifts given include bags of rice, salt, yam tubers, kola nut, sweets, boxes of jewellery, Ankara, lace, perfumes, wine, palm wine etc. again this varies with each tribe but unquestionably  gifts are given with or without a traditional marriage taking place.

A veiled yoruba bride
A veiled Yoruba bride

Introduction of the bride: the bride is hidden until the groom accomplishes every task from her family. With the Yoruba and Hausa tribe, she is veiled when she makes an entrance and it is the job of the groom to unveil her. In the Igbo tribe, the bride isn’t veiled. Regardless of the tribe she is often lead out by her friends and female members of the family singing and dancing.  She dances for her audience, welcomes everyone, prayed for by both families before meeting her groom. After this the bride might change her outfit to another one which shares similar colours or features with the grooms outfit.

Traditional weddings vary amongst and within the three major tribes, but all of them share the above steps. Note: for ease of understanding the tribes have been limited to just three, for a further identification of the tribes visit Whatever the case every traditional wedding is elaborate bordering on flamboyant, but without question entertaining when properly planned.You should go to one soon! It would be awesome to hear about your own traditional weddings!

Igbo bride in the second outfit.

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