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A Typical Nigerian Wedding

An Igbo bride. Image via funny-pictures.picphotos.net
An Igbo couple. Image via pinterest.com
A Yoruba bride. Image via weddingfeferity.com
A Yoruba couple. Image via weddingfeferity.com

I will start off by saying I’m not married yet but in Nigeria, you don’t even to be, to be caught up in the euphoria, laughter, joy, and wild moments of a wedding. A typical Nigerian wedding is not a small affair. Unlike the Westerners who have invitation cards, in Nigeria, you will find a guest saying her cousin’s best friend is the bride’s former roommate. We Nigerians like to party in a big way and the marriage ceremony can last for days, weeks even. Nowadays, Nigerians have added Court, Church or Islamic wedding (with a big reception of course). The marriage ceremony is very important in all Nigerian cultures and regarded as a union between both the families of the bride and groom. I’m focusing on Nigerian traditional weddings.

Generally, in Nigerian marriage custom, virginity is important. If a bride is discovered to have been deflowered before her wedding night, she and her family will be disgraced. The bride-price is another general feature of traditional marriages in Nigeria. The groom and his family pay the bride-price in any of the following – cash, clothes, jewellery, foodstuffs. The bride-price is paid to reflect the bride’s value, not to sell her.

Among the Igbos, the marriage ceremony is called Igba-Ukwu. A man proposes to a woman first and if she agrees, he goes with male members of his family to see her father. The father asks her in front of her suitor and his family if she has actually agreed to marry the man. After her confirmation, the next step is the bride-price settlement called Ika-Akalika. The bride-price is paid during a little ceremony before the wedding. On the wedding day, the bride sells boiled eggs to the guests to prove she is industrious. She is given a wooden cup (iko) filled with palm-wine. She takes the cup and dances around “looking” for the groom while other men try to distract her. When she sees him, she kneels before him and presents the palm-wine to the groom (kneeling before the groom represents submission and giving him the wine to drink first signifies respect). The groom drinks and feeds the bride the remainder. The drinking of palm-wine symbolizes the union of the husband and wife.

The Yoruba marriage process starts when a man or his parents find a suitable girl for marriage. When one is found, an intermediary (alarina) is called upon to act as a spokesman for the man and his family in the woman’s home. If the lady agrees to marry the man, he gives her some gifts. Before the wedding day, both families are introduced to one another and the bride-price is fixed. On the wedding day, there is lots of celebration and partying. The ceremony is hosted by the bride’s parents. The bride (iyawo) is the last to arrive and she is veiled. After the wedding, the bride is escorted to her new house by her friends and family (the escort ritual is called Ekun Iyawo). They all return except a younger female member of the family, who stays with her to help her with chores in her new home. She has to have her leg washed before entering her husband’s house and she breaks a calabash (Igba) before entering. The pieces of the broken calabash signify the number of children she will have.

Among the Hausa people, the family of the man, not necessarily his parents go and visit the father of a potential bride seeking for her hand in marriage. They go with gifts, and acceptance or rejection of the gifts equal the answer of the proposal and it is called “Na gani ina so”. After this do the couple meet and the man proposes to the woman. If she agrees, her father informs her in-laws of her formal acceptance (Gaisuwa). The wedding date is set (sa rana) and the bride-price (sadaki) is fixed. Before the actual wedding, Kamu (catching of the bride) is done. The wedding ceremony called Fatiha, is held in the bride’s house. When the bride gets to husband’s house, she removes her veil to show her face to her in-laws.

Nigeria has different cultures that celebrate weddings in different ways but I only focused on the above because they are the three major ethnic groups in Nigeria.
A Hausa bride. Image via pinterest.com

A Hausa Couple. Image via imgarcadecom

A Fulani bride. Image via weddingnigeriablog.com

An Edo bride. Image via bellanaija.com

An Edo couple. Image via makeupbydrg.com

Author:

I'm OnyinyeOlufunmi, a visual artist, writer and psychologist from Lagos, Nigeria.

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