Traditional Marriage In Igbo-land

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Traditional Marriage ceremony is  a ritual officially celebrating the beginning or coming together of two young people (male and female) in a ceremony in which they are proclaimed wife and husband.
This is done in presences of the village or town people, who serve as a witness to the both union.

In Igbo-land which is located in the  southeastern part of Nigeria, parents of the bride and groom, their extended families, villagers and towns people plays active part in traditional wedding ceremony. During the olden days, traditional marriage used to be by arrangements, where the parents of the young man goes and search for a beautiful and well trained young girl to become their son’s wife.

In this arranged marriages, parents and relatives simply choose a bride for their sons and help them conclude the marriage ceremony. One disadvantage of this type of marriage is that there is no courting before marriage, the both young lady and man are totally strangers to each other but with the faith that their parents have made the best choice for them.

Today, arranged marriages still takes place in some parts of Igbo-land but it is largely rare.
Current traditional marriage in Igbo-land involves four stages.

First stage

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The future groom finds the lady he wants to marry and tells his parents.  The future groom accompanied by his father, mother, siblings and close family members contacts the family of the bride to be and set a date for both families to meet.  During the meeting, the groom’s father will state their intention.  The father of the groom and his relatives normally will not expect the family of the bride to give them positive or negative answer right away.  They will schedule another date to meet.  Before the next meeting, both families normally conducts  investigation on each other to see if the families are of good morale character.

The Second Stage

 On their return visit to the bride home, the groom’s parents will restate their intention that their son wants to marry their daughter.  At this stage it is expected that the bride to be family must have concluded their investigation and consultation with their daughter and should be ready to give the groom either positive or negative answer. Some of the items presented to the host family by the family of groom during the return visit are Kola-nuts, Palm wines (local wine), regular wines and soft drinks.  Gift presented by the groom to be family may vary depending on the community or town since they are not all monolithic.  Both families will share the food and drinks.  In some communities, the bride to be is summoned before both families on the return visit and asked if she is interested in her future husband.  If she agrees to marry her future husband, they will set another date for actual marriage ceremony called “Igba Nkwu” The family of the bride compiles list of items the groom family will bring to the wedding ceremony as demanded by their customs and traditions.  Typical list includes the following:

  • Gallons of Palm-wine (local wine)
  • Cash Gift
  • Bottle of Wine such as Schnapps
  • Kola-nut
  • One goat
  • Rolls of Cigarettes
  • Bags of Rice
  • Yams
  • Crates of Minerals (soft drink)
  • Tubers of Yams
  • Stock Fish
  • Tobacco
  • Cigarettes
  • Malta, Soft Drinks
  • Guinness Stout
  • George/Hollandis
  • Jewelry
  • Clothes/Wrapper

 The exact number of items required depends on tradition of each community or town.

The third stage

On the day of the 3rd and final stage of the traditional wedding.  The groom will go to the house of the bride to be with his immediate and extended family, villagers and towns people with the above items.  Host families will cook all kinds of dishes to entertain their guests.  Both families and their extended families including members of their communities will eat, dance and drink together.  The bride and groom will dance along with their family members.  A lot of pictures of the bride and groom along with others are taken while eating and dancing .  When the ceremony is over, the bride will go home with the family of the groom signifying that the two are now husband and wife.

Fourth Stage (Idu Uno Stage)

There is a fourth stage called “Idu Uno” that is practiced by some communities in Igboland.  Idu Uno stage is when the family of the bride officially goes and visit the home where their daughter lives.  Note that the previous three ceremonies took place in the bride’s home.  In this fourth stage, the brides family buys cooking utensils, bed-sheets, suit cases, boxes, sewing machine, bed, pillow cases, comforter, plates, clothes and other things newly married couples needs to start life and family.

The wife’s family along with their extended families sets a date to visit the couple with all the goods they bought.  On “Idu Uno” day, the wife’s family will give the newly married couple all the things they bought for them.  This is usually done to give newly married couple  a head start by defraying some of their expenses.  Marriage in Igbo-land can be a long and expensive undertaking.

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