How Traditional marriage Is Conducted In Nigeria Among The Yorubas
Many years ago, a colleague of mine invited me for his traditional marriage in Lagos State. Since I have not witnessed such ceremony before, I was particular happy to honour the invitation. On the wedding day, I wore white shirt with black suit to the event, and for my dressing, I was different from other guests, who attended the wedding. Why? It was because everybody was adorned with their native attires.
One funny thing that happened that day that I can’t forget in hurry was the fact that when my friend (the groom) went to greet the bride’s parents, they had to prostrate and lay down on the ground like three times. The bride’s parents poured several prayers and blessing on him. After the prayer, in the course of standing up from the ground, I lost my balance and I almost failed down. This sounds funny right?
In this article, I am going to share the experience I had during the Yoruba tradition marriage for the benefit of those who are not Yoruba, and have not witnessed such ceremony before. Read on to know the steps and features of this beautiful process.
Yoruba is known as one of the biggest ethnic groups in Nigeria. The Yorubaland consists of such states as Osun, Ondo, Ekiti, Oyo State, and Lagos State. Yoruba traditional marriage is a unique ceremony with rites, bridal list, and other requirements.
The main steps of traditional marriage in Yorubaland
The first step towards tying the nut in the Yoruba land in accordance with the traditions of the Yoruba land is “the introduction”. This is the first and most important step the intending or potential couples take as they formally introduce their parents to themselves stating their desires to become husband and wife.
Before any engagement ceremony can take place, the groom visits the family of the bride in the company of his father and some family members. The introductory ceremony is an informal introduction without fanfare but has a cordial atmosphere so they can get to know one another which is why it’s regarded as an introduction.
This is a meeting hosted by the bride’s family with no large participants but the bride’s family and the groom’s family, the groom’s family visits with few gifts of request like fruits, yam, and some wines.
While the bride’s family prepares a simple dish to entertain the visiting family as they both seat to negotiate on the upcoming plans. During this meeting, they get to fix dates of various ceremonies left to be done and agree on other things needed. Though not necessary they discuss these issues or negotiate on them, it all boils down to their desires as most would rather do this there and then to avoid any complications. While they do all of this, they get familiar with themselves and start to gel as one family even before they become one.
After that, the family chooses Alarina who plays the role of middleman and with his or her help, the investigation of a future wife begins.
The task of Alarina is to find out all the information about the potential bride. He or she finds information about the reputation of the girl, about her family, maybe about any illness. If the Alarina doesn’t find any bad information, the Yoruba traditional marriage process continues. The Alarina also acts as middleman between the intending couple.
The next step is called Momi N Mo, this is the meeting of the families. This is kind of introduction ceremony, at this ceremony, the family of bride provides so-called Eru Iyawo – Yoruba bridal list.
Bridal list consists of special items:
-42 Orogbo – Bitter kolas
-42 Isu – Tubers of yam
– 42 Obi abata -Kolanuts
-42 Atare – Chilli/Alligator Peppers
-42 Eja Osan – pieces of dried Fish 1 Aadun – Dish of peppered corn
– 1 Pack of Sugar
-2 Baskets of Fruit
-2 Decanters filled with honey
-2 Bottles of non-alcoholic wine
-4 Crates of canned or bottled soft drinks
– 4 Crates malt soft drinks
-4 Cartons of bottled water
-2 Cartons of fruit juice
-1 Bag of salt
-1 Bag of rice
– 1 Umbrella
– 1 Goat
1 Keg of palm wine
1 Keg of groundnut oil
1 A suitcase with shoes, and clothes.
1 pair of Earrings, Wristwatch, and Chains
Biscuits and Sweets
Rings for groom and bride
Bible (for Christians) and Quran (for Muslims) As for the fees of the ceremony, there are such requirements
The Bride Price (Owo Ori) – Varies
Money for the elder’s consent (Owo Ijoko Agba) – N,1000
Money for the bride’s father’s consent (Owo Baba Gbo) – N,1000
Money for the bride’s mother’s consent (Owo Iya Gbo)- N1,000
Door knocking fee (Owo Ikanlekun) – N1000
Fee for unveiling the bride (Owo Isiju Iyawo) – N1,000
Bride transportation fee (Owo Aeroplane) – N1,000
Money for the Housewives (Owo Iyawo Ile) – N500
Money for the Children of the household (Owo Omo Ile) – N500
Letter reading fee (Owo letter kika) – N500
The fee to call the bride out (Owo Telephone) – N500
Engagement gifts unveiling fee (Owo Isigba) – N500
Master of Ceremonies fee (Owo Alaga Ijoko) – N500
Engagement of Yoruba traditional marriage
The next step of Yoruba traditional marriage ceremony is the engagement. All the process is conducted by Alaga Ijoko and Alaga Iduro, they are invited to be moderators of the ceremony. These two people play important roles in the ceremony.
Alaga Ijoko properly coordinate all the process of the traditional wedding, he or she keeps all the fees and conduct all the steps of the wedding. Alaga iduro – a standing master of ceremony, a custodian of wedding tradition.
After all, requirements have been presented and confirmed complete and satisfactory by the Alaga (sometimes with the help of the bride’s family member), then, the groom is permitted to take his seat at the centre stage (the chair designed for the couples by the event planner). After this, the wife to be is ushered in.
Once the groom is seated, the bride wearing a veil dances in, in the company of her parents and Ore Iyawo (the wife’s friends), who are usually some close female friends and female family members. Goes before her parents kneeling down before them, in the joy of this, the parents pray for her and bless her. Moving towards her husband’s parents, she does the same thing with her husband’s parents, before taking off her veil and joining her husband.
Once she gets to her husband’s presence she kneels before him then prayers are ushered on both of them as they bow their heads. After that, the groom (now fully acknowledged as the husband) gives her some money, before carrying her up for all to see, at this point, the Yoruba bride puts the groom’s fila (cap) on his head to signify an accepted marriage proposal. But wait a minute, did you imagine how crazy it will feel and look if the bride refuses to put on the husband’s Fila (cap)? Just my thoughts anyway…
When the proceedings are done and dusted then, they exchange engagement rings and go and kneel before their parents for prayers and blessings. At this stage, they may consider themselves married.
Cutting of the cake
I don’t think there exist in the Yoruba traditional wedding history if there has been any wedding done without cutting the Cake (Akara Oyinbo). This wedding cake is specially designed to fit its name (wedding cake), it’s done by the event planner or Baker. This special cake is crafted to depict some elements of the Yoruba culture, e.g a talking drum, calabash, fruits or a cake topper of the bride and groom in their traditional Yoruba attire.
The cutting of this cake and the sharing of the cake between the bride and groom is a pretty important step in the wedding. Immediately after cutting the cake, the wife feeds the groom some cake and wine and even gives him a kiss, to the amusement of the guests which is always my best part of the whole ceremony. Now it’s finished, and two shall become one. Hence, the bride’s family formally hands over their daughter to the groom’s father in the presence of everyone.
Finally, when the snatching has been done, the groom’s family comes out as a group to render appreciation to their in-laws for giving out their daughter before the final prayers are said.
Don’t expect another procedure; it’s a wedding, not a constitutional conference… The only thing left is the reason why most people are present, to celebrate the union of couples. This is when we all roll up our sleeves and begins to put the best dancing steps. But before ours, the couple gets to show us what they’ve got in store for us in their dancing routine. Then boom! We follow.. Hey! I forgot to mention this, a lot of eating starts immediately…
The traditional wedding attires
The Yorubas have one the most elegant wedding attires you could ever dream to wear on such a day as special as this. The couples put on royalty made dresses, dresses as precious and majestical as that of a Kabieysi (King) and his Olori (Queen). I’m pretty sure any King would grab the groom’s attire is available to him.
Bride’s Outfit: Tradition outfit consists of gele – head tie, the blouse (buba), and an iro, it is a big material tied around her waist. Usually, the bride’s look adorned with accessories like bangles, beads, gold earrings and necklace.
Groom’s Outfit: Usually he wears Agbada. The colors of groom’s and bride’s clothes must be the same.
As we see the traditional wedding in Yoruba tribe is a process that is conducted with active participation of families. The authority of parents plays a decisive role during whole process. The ceremony is bright and active.
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