Yoruba traditional marriage is not just a time to unite two individuals, but also an occasion for family members to reunite and catch-up on current happenings.
The Yoruba traditional marriage ceremony even though a serious affair, is full of playful banter, rich contemporary Nigerian music, graceful colours and sumptuous meals. Weddings in Yoruba land is an occasion to show your best outfits, handbags, jewelry and even dancing styles.
The traditional wedding is an occasion to alleviate the drudgery of normal life and are greatly anticipated by friends and well wishers.
It is carried out in different stages which will be discussed extensively in this article.
The Introduction: The families of the bride and groom meet long before any engagement ceremony takes place. The groom visits the family of the bride in company of his father and some family members. The occasion is an informal introduction without fanfare but a cordial atmosphere to know each other. The informal introduction does not require much except some tubers of yam and a few bottles of wine; the family of the bride hosts the visitors with a simple meal of their coice. Apart from all round introductions, they might discuss when the event would take place, this is not a hard and fast rule and such discussions might take place later.
Bride's Outfit: The bride's outfit is a reflection of what the female guests will wear, she might choose, damask, lace, Nigerian wax fabric or any fabric that appeals to her. The outfit consists of gele which is the head tie, the buba (the blouse) and an iro which is a large material tied round her waist and is usually ankle length. The colours she chooses reflects the colour theme her family has chosen but should also complement the groom's outfit and look identical. She can wear accessories like gold necklace, beads, bangles, gold earrings and shoes to match.
Groom's Outfit: The groom could decide to wear an Agbada which is a two layered material of heavy dimensions like the Aso-Oke (traditional hand-woven material) , it might be cotton, and damask or he might wear lace or even wax fabric (Ankara). His colour combination should complement the bride's and reflect the colour his family has chosen.
The Traditional Engagement:
The traditional engagement is carried out by a contracted professional called the Alaga ijoko which translated, means the traditional master of ceremony. The professional could be a member of the bride's family or a complete stranger. The Alaga Ijoko is usually a woman and her duty is to properly officiate and coordinate the proceeding so each provision of tradition is strictly adhered too. There are different stages she coordinates and each stage might elicit a collection of cash which the Alaga keeps, various fines are paid and formal introduction of the groom accompanied by his age mates and friends which also involves prostrating to the family of the bride to formally request their daughter's hand in marriage. The groom's family also hire a professional called the Alaga iduro which means the standing master of ceremony, who follows the groom and family to ask for the hand of their daughter. The Alaga iduro is also a professional custodian of Yoruba wedding tradition. She could be a family member or hired for the occasion. Other festivities include the letter reading which is read by a young lady from the groom's family also asking for the hand of the bride in marriage. The bride's family also responds with a letter of their own. The engagement is an integral part of the traditional marriage and as the ceremony proceeds, items listed for the engagement that was given to the groom's family is presented. The items vary slightly in each Yoruba traditional wedding but the general articles are the same.
Items Requested By The Bride's Family:
Some of the items demanded by the bride's family are; bag of sugar, bag of rice, alligator pepper, large number of bitter kola, bag of salt, kola nuts. If they are Christians, a bible, keg of honey and about forty large tubers of yam are included in the items. Non edible items could include expensive materials like lace, several pairs of shoes, wristwatch, a gold engagement ring and head tie.
Bride Price: There is no fixed amount of money for the bride price, as it is usually dictated by the bride's family and is subject to negotiation. However, there are other fees to be paid by the groom/his family (which are also negotiable); Owo Isigba - N500. This is used to open the packaged gift items brought by the bridegroom, Owo Ikanlekun (entrance fee) - N500, Owo Ijoko Iyawo - N1,000. This is the money given to elders in the groom's family, Owo Isiju Iyawo (fees paid to unveil the bride) - N500, Owo Baba Gbo - N500. This amount is paid to ask for the bride's father consent, Owo Iya Gbo - N1,000. This is the amount of money paid to ask for the bride's mother consent, Owo Omo Ile Obinrin - N500.