Marriage is an important culture in Yoruba land and the main reason behind it is because the Yorubas love kids so much. They attach so much importance to child-bearing after the wedding ceremony and count a marriage devoid of children as an unfruitful union. The idiosyncrasy of a typical Yoruba man differs so much from that of people from the western world and that’s why as a case study, although the trend has greatly changed due to civilization with some aspects unchanged, some still hold on to this act fully without repentance.
Below are some of the steps that must be followed in a typical Yoruba setting.
This is divided into two parts. In the olden days, it is the parents who secure the wives for their male children. As soon as a father who has a male child sees that his son is around five years of age, he will begin to look out for the family from which he can get a good girl who will be wife to his son and by the time he has gotten a family from which he sights a girl who can be the wife to his son, he will make known his intention to the parents of the said and start acting like an in-law to the girl’s parent and family.
At times, some parents make requests right from pregnancy stage that if the a particular women whom they like gives birth to the pregnancy she is carrying, they will like to marry the child for their son if the baby happens to be a girl. As soon as the agreement has been reached between the two family sides involved, the family of the young boy will begin to render services like free farming work for the family of the girl.
The second part is when a young man of marriageable age sees a lady he likes, he doesn’t go directly to meet the lady himself but he uses another person who mediates between him and the lady he likes. This mediator does all the necessary undercover work for this young man by stylishly introducing him to the lady (in the guy’s absence) and appraising some good qualities in him just to stir up the interest for this guy in the heart of the lady.
By the time this mediator would have brought the lady and the guy into contact with each other and they are already in love, it is still this same mediator who will carry out research on the two family sides to know whether there is any kind of problem prevalent in either of the two families. If none could be found, then they can proceed to the next thing which is:
The parents will ask the young man and the lady whether they really mean what they said and if they tell them that they meant what they said, the parents will go ahead with their own investigation which is basically consulting some deities like “ifa” and “orunmila” to know whether the marital union of their children will be blissful or not. If the deities approve of their relationship, they can now move to the next stage which is:
After all the series of investigations might have been completed, the mediator will now bring the fiance and his fiancee together in a glamorous ceremony where the young man will make public pronouncement that he wants this particular lady and the lady also agreeing to marry this young man. The young man will be asked to pay the consent fee which will be determined by the lady. After the payment has been made, then comes the next step:
Although the parents of the lady are fully aware of what is going on it is still necessary for the family of the young man to come and perform a duty called borrowing from the most eldest person (not necessarily the lady’s parent) in the lady’s family. The young man’s father would have come ahead of time to inform the lady’s father and the father in turn will inform the elders in their family. This ceremony is always carried out early in the family and the family of the young man usually come with kola nut, palm wine and schnapps.
The next thing is:
This is always a big ceremony preceding the wedding ceremony. The following items are commonly taken to the house of the wife-to-be:
• palm wine
• sugar cane
• chili pepper (to mention but a few)
These materials differ from one geographical location to another but the engagement ceremony is always a big ceremony with people choosing to wear the same kind of fabrics, inviting band performers for music rendition and providing food in surplus for the attendees. The husband to be with his friends are usually laden with the hectic responsibility of prostrating from one end to the other for the elders in the lady’s family and several fees being collected by different factions from the lady’s family. After the engagement ceremony, the next thing is the preparation for the wedding ceremony.
Before the D-day, Yorubas in the olden days do go to the herbalist or ifa priests to know the date they should fix for the wedding ceremony so that all will be well. The other aspect of the preparation is for the husband-to-be to make money available for the purchase of all the things that will be needed for the wedding ceremony ranging from clothes to shoe and bag and other necessary things.
The wedding ceremony
The wedding ceremony is always a glamorous affair depending on how wealthy either or the two families involved are. Food is always in surplus with palm wine, music is always in excess and fun fair will fill the atmosphere both in the young man’s house and the ladies’ house.
By the evening period, the lady’s mother will call her daughter and admonish her on how to live her live in her husband’s house before the eldest person in the family calls her to pray for her before giving her departing gifts. After this, her family members will now begin to see her off with singing and dancing to her new home.
As soon as the people from the lady’s family begin to approach the house of the husband to be, he must leave the house as it is a taboo for the newly wedded wife to meet her husband at home. In some parts, a living thing must be slaughtered and such animal’s blood sprinkled on the lady’s leg before entering her husband house and immediately she enters her husband’s house, she will be taken to the eldest person in the husband’s family for such person’s prayer
On the wedding night or in some areas, on the third day of the wedding, the man must have sexual intercourse with his wife to know whether she is still a virgin or not. If the lady happens not to be a virgin, the young man might reject her and send her back to her parents in disgrace or decide anything about her case but those who follow the lady to her husband’s house will be the ones who will go and inform the lady’s parent at home.
It is expected in the olden days that all marrying ladies must be virgin. The family of the husband will now take/send a half-filled palm wine jar along with coal and empty match box to the lady’s parents to denote that they’ve given them a used girl to marry. If the lady is from a well-behaved family, the whole family could be turned into mourning because it is a highly disgracing thing.
On the other hand, if the lady happens to still retain her virginity, those who followed her to her husbands house will still be told the result and they will take good tidings to the lady’s parents at home. After the wedding, the next thing being expected is for the wife to take in and give birth after nine months because the Yorubas believes so much in having children.