The Igbos are from the southeastern region of Nigeria, and the traditional marriage rites in this part of the counrty is usually very festive and colourful. In many parts of the world, a marriage ceremony is mainly an affair between the bride and groom, but in Igboland, parents of the couple, their extended families, villagers and towns people play active roles in traditional wedding ceremony.
In the olden days, traditional marriages used to be arranged by the parents of the future bride and groom, after careful investigations into the background of both families. These days, however, young men and women are now free to choose whoever they want to get married to, with parental approval.
Despite the seeming change in the method of choosing a spouse, the Igbo culture has been sustained, where traditional marriage is concerned. The process involves different stages.
First, the future groom finds the lady he wants to marry and tells his parents. He is then accompanied by his parents, siblings and close family members, and contacts the family of the bride-to-be. A date is then set for both families to meet. During the meeting, the groom-to-be’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 then will schedule another date to meet. Before the next meeting, both families normally carry out investigation on each other to see if the families are of good character and morale standing in the society.
On their return visit to the bride-to-be’s home, the groom’s parents will reiterate their intention that their son wants to marry the girl in question. At this stage, it is expected that the bride-to-be’s family must have concluded their investigation and consultation with their daughter and should be ready to give the groom either a positive or negative answer.
Some of the items presented to the bride’s family by the family of groom during the return visit are: kolanuts, palm wine (local brew), dry gin and soft drinks. Gifts presented by the groom-to-be’s 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 the actual marriage ceremony called “Igba Nkwu”.
The family of the bride compiles a list of items that the groom’s family will bring to the wedding ceremony as demanded by their customs and traditions. Typically, the list includes the following:
Gallons of palmwine
Bottle of gin
Packets of cigarettes (optional)
Bags of rice
Tubers of yams
Crates of soft drinks
Bundles of George/Hollandis wrappers
The exact number of items required depends on tradition of each community or town.
In the final stage of the traditional marriage rites, 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 prepare different kinds of indigenous dishes to entertain their guests. Both families and their extended families including members of their communities will eat, dance and drink together.
During the ceremony, the bride will be asked to give palm wine to her husband, which she will do while kneeling down. The parents and elders in the family of both the bride and groom will pray for the newlyweds and the for success of their marriage.
Afterwards, the bride and groom will dance along with their family members. 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.
In some communities in Igboland, “Idu Uno” is practiced. Idu Uno is when the family of the bride officially goes and visit the home where their daughter will be living. Note that the previous ceremony and meetings took place in the bride’s family home.
The bride’s family buys cooking utensils, bed-sheets, boxes, sewing machine, bed, pillow cases, plates, clothes and other things newly married couples need to start a life and family.
Also, the bride’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 ceremonies in Igboland can be a long and expensive undertaking, but they are usually worth every kobo.