In Nigeria, marriage is a union of two individuals, their families and cultural values.
Marriage is a pretty big deal in this part of the world and a young unmarried lady of marriageable age is considered wayward or possessed. I am sure you’re having a good laugh over this but it is the bitter reality.
Weddings are usually an all-out, multi-day, colourful and eventful affair with lots of cultural intricacies.
Oftentimes, everyone is invited in Nigerian weddings as an invite sent out to one family is an open invite to five other families – amazing right? In my opinion, guest lists are usually not a thing in Nigerian weddings.
When planning or invited for a Nigerian wedding, the outfits are depended on which side of the family you are from or invited from. It is usually a colourful event with different shades of fabrics and uniforms.
This brings to mind the topic of “asoebi” – asoebi is a Yoruba word which translates to “family cloth”. It is a uniform worn to show solidarity and support during celebrations and events.
Wearing asoebi for a Nigerian wedding identifies you as family, friend, or acquaintance during the ceremonies. These uniforms range between different kinds of fabric but for Nigerian occasions, “Ankara”- African wax prints is mostly worn.
Nigerian weddings are periods of happiness, merry making, bonding, dancing, eating and celebration and once two adults come together and establish love and mutual interest; both families are informed about their intentions.
THE BRIDE PRICE
It is universal across Nigerian tribes for the husband to be of the woman to provide an agreed set of items to the bride’s family before the marriage takes place. This is known as the bride price. This vital step has been controversial and debatable as to if the groom buys his bride. Over the years, men have claimed ownership over their wives as properties they acquired since they supposedly paid an amount to have them as wives. Well, the bride price does not indicate that the woman is being sold but it is a symbolic gesture to ascertain the husband’s financial capabilities and responsibility to his new family. Also, it is a way of compensating the bride’s family for the income and labour invested in training the bride who is being married out of the family. The bride price requirement varies between tribes and families as it could be more exorbitant due to the number of items to be bought added to the list. The bride price is a vital process that has come to stay regardless of its controversies over the years.
After the groom’s family has provided the requested items and the bride’s family determines the requirements are met, the event is proceeded.
The bride price is usually a combination of cash and gifts ranging from clothes, food, household equipment etc.
Nigeria has three major tribes; the Igbo, Yoruba and Hausa and I will be discussing the marriage processes of each tribe.
The Igbo traditional marriage rites starts with the inquiry stage which is ‘coming to know or inquire’. The groom is accompanied with his father and members of his family to visit the bride’s family. At this meeting, the groom’s family comes bearing gifts and the groom’s father announces his son’ intention to marry the bride to be. The bride to be is then called out for affirmation. Afterwards, the next meeting is between the bride and groom’ families to restate their interest and secure consent then a date is fixed and the bride price list is sent out.
Next is the bride price negotiations and payment. Once negotiations are concluded, the bride price requirements are either provided on an agreed date or on the date of the wine carrying which is the final stage. During the ceremony of the wine carrying which is done at the bride’s home, her family prepares a large feast for the groom’ family and invited guests. During the course of the celebration, the bride is asked to publicly identify her husband to be offering him a cup of palm wine which he must then drink to signify acceptance.
The Yoruba weddings are boisterous and large ceremonies hosted by older women from both the bride and groom families. But first, the groom’s family visits the bride’ family and declare their son’s intentions which is the introduction stage ‘know me and let me know you’ where the bride price is also discussed and negotiated. Once consent is granted, a wedding date is set.
The wedding day is usually very glamorous. The groom and groomsmen prostrates before the bride’s family as their greeting custom demands, the bride’s family asks a few questions then the groom is seated and the bride dances in and places a hat on the groom’s head and then the groom carries her and then places a ring on her finger.
The Hausa wedding begins with payment of the bride price after the groom visits the family of the bride to express his intentions usually referred to as ‘I have seen something I admire’. Once the proposal is approved, then the bargain of the bride price begins. A lower bride price is said to result in greater blessings for the couple according to the Islamic teachings. Once the bride price is paid, the wedding takes place. The wedding day is a day of joining the two families together and not the couple themselves as both families’ exchanges vows before a religious priest. Next, the bride enjoys time with her female friends adorning their hands with ink “henna”. Later on, the groom’s relatives negotiate with the bride’s friends for the release of the bride for the reception party.
Money spray is the highlight of every Nigerian wedding reception. Guests, family and friends spray the couples with money on the dance floor to shower them with love and support. Most couple receives a lot of cash gifts this way to start up their new home. During the spray, someone is delegated to pick up all the cash. Ever wondered why a week to any Nigerian wedding, clean bills demand are always on the high from financial institutions? Well, you got your answer right here.
A rule of thumb in a Nigerian wedding is that no one leaves hungry. The prestigious party staple; the jollof rice which is synonymous to parties sometimes called “party rice or party jollof” is a celebrated party Nigerian dish which over the years has long standing rivalry with neighboring country Ghana regarding who cooks it better. This and a lot of assorted native and continental dishes, cocktail, appetizers and chops are all major highlight in a typical Nigerian wedding reception.
The overall attendance check list of a Nigerian wedding is going home with branded items and gifts with either the couple names or photos and dates on it. These can range from household appliances to kitchen wares etc.
Attending a Nigerian wedding is one of the ways to experience the beautiful richness of the Nigerian culture and heritage. You can either come for the food, the souvenirs, the dancing and beautiful environment for pictures and meeting people alongside leaving with an unforgettable memory.