One way to witness the richness, style, and diversity of the Nigerian culture is through our traditional weddings. It is a combination of our food, our style, and our music all in one beautiful and lavishly planned event. The events are usually expensive (even without the bride price) and time-consuming, but fun. It is usually a time to bond between families. Plus it is also becoming a trend in the global scene; many Nigerian wedding videos go viral on the internet almost every week.
With colonization, however, came a lot of Western practices. So it’s safe to say some of our wedding traditions are now ‘diluted’. Below, is how the three major Nigerian tribes celebrate their traditional weddings.
The Yorubas celebrate the unity of family members alongside the bonding of two individuals at their weddings. If you have ever heard of an ‘owambe’, that is what this celebration is about. Plenty of food, beautiful colors of clothing, music, and laughter.
After a formal introduction is made, they set a date for the engagement. The event is celebrated by two female moderators – Alaga Iduro from the groom’s family and Alaga Ijoko from the bride’s family.
The celebration begins with the arrival of the groom’s family, who must come early or risk paying a fine. He dances into the venue with his friends and then prostrates twice with them and once on his own. The family members then stretch out their hands to pray for him and bless him. He proceeds to prostrate one last time with his friends and then go to sit down.
A letter of proposal to be read by the youngest member from the bride’s family. is then presented by the groom’s family. If the family is satisfied, they also present a letter of acceptance. The bride (covered in a veil), dances into the occasion with her friends (asoebi girls) and kneels before her parents, then the groom’s parents who pray for her. She then goes on to put on a hat called the fila on the groom’s head, as a sign of her acceptance to be his bride. At the instruction of the Alaga, the bride takes a gift of either the Bible or Quran (the two major Nigerian religions) with a ring attached to it.
The couple is dressed in matching outfits, which is chosen by the groom’s family. The groom wears an agbada while the bride wears gele, buba and iro along with other accessories such as beads.
The Hausa traditional ceremony is not as expensive or time-consuming as that of the Yorubas or Igbos. It is usually simple, but still elegant. Like other traditions, the groom goes for ‘gaisuwa’, which is when his family goes to ask for the bride’s hand with sweets, drinks, and kola nut. If the family approves, the groom is expected to pay ‘rubu dinar’ (quarter kg of gold) according to how much he can afford. After the ‘sadaki’ (payment of the bride price), the families agree on a set date for the celebration.
The amariya’s (bride’s) friends and women in her family organize a bridal shower event called kunshi in preparation for the ceremony. On the wedding day, the amariya is rubbed with a huge amount of perfumes and scented flowers. She also gets traditional body art (lalle) drawn on her hands and feet. The groom (ango) wears an embroidered cap and babariga. While the bride wears a dress or skirt and blouse with subtle makeup and a head wrap.
Music, dance, delicious Hausa dishes are always something to expect at the wedding reception of a Hausa wedding.
The official name for the Igbo traditional wedding is ‘igba nkwu’, which means wine carrying. But before reaching this stage, the groom’s family pays a visit to the bride’s family to request for her hand in marriage. This process is called ‘iku aka’ which translates to ‘door-knocking’.
The groom’s family comes with locally brewed palm wine, dry gin, kola nut, and other soft drinks. Then, the families go ahead to perform some investigations to know the moral standings of each other in the society once the gifts are accepted.
At the ceremony, the bride carries a cup of freshly tapped palm wine as she searches through the crowd for her groom. When she finds her groom, she kneels before him and gives him the wine. If he drinks, that’s his acceptance to marry her. They then proceed to meet their parents for prayers and blessings on their marriage.
The bride either wears an embroidered top and ties two ‘George’ wrappers, with a headgear and coral beads. Sometimes, they use wrappers to make a dress while using the beads to style her hair. While the groom wears the ‘isi-agu’ top, a cap, walking and also a George wrapper.
Many inter-tribal marriages happen in Nigeria. And during these, the bride’s tradition mostly takes first place until after they have performed the marriage rites. After the rites, the couple switch outfits to the groom’s tribe as a sign of cultural integration.
Nigeria is a beautiful place and what better way to show that than with our marriages.