I’ve always been a fan of weddings being that I attended a lot of them as a child. I find the whole process very exciting. I honestly don’t understand how some people say they are not “wedding people”. It’s like saying you don’t love life. I don’t get it.
I loooove everything about weddings. From the dresses, to the joining and to the food, and even the fights! Yeah, we all know there has to be at least one minor or major altercation at an African wedding, be it about who got invited or who sits where or who gets souvenirs and my personal favorite, fights about food or small chop, your average wedding is full of action, drama and lots of emotion.
Recently, I attended a relative’s traditional wedding in the southern parts of Nigeria and I want to share the fascinating experience. Here’s traditional marriage rites of the Ika people in Agbor, Delta state.
First of all, there is something called the first knocking, which is where the groom to be comes to casually visits his prospective in-laws to let himself be known even though he may have been visiting before, he makes the visit look like it’s his first. He usually does this visit with a friend or two or an elderly person, depending on the distance to the bride’s family house. It is at this stage that they inform the parents of their intention to come and have a proper introduction and an introduction list is given to them by the bride’s family, which is the list of items required for the introduction ceremony. The items on the list vary from family to family but it is usually supplied by the eldest man in the bride’s family and each family usually has a spokes person for the ceremony.
The groom and his family then come prepared for the introduction, it could be a big or a small ceremony, depending on those involved. The bride’s family welcomes them with kola nut and palm wine which is shared from the oldest to the youngest, after which the grooms family is asked what they are there for and then they present the required items and say all the interesting but cliché stuff like “our son saw a flower in your garden and he is interested in having her” and then the bride is brought out for them to be sure of the flower, she is asked if they should accept the items or not and if she agrees, its accepted and food and drink is served.
At the end of that, a date can be fixed for the traditional wedding or left pending but a traditional wedding list is given. The groom’s family go and get ready for the main ceremony and gather the items on the traditional wedding list. When the date has been set and the items are ready, the groom’s family visit once again prepared to conclude their quest. The spokes person now let’s their intentions known and presents the required items, sometimes especially for proximity reasons, money could be given to the bride’s family to help in procurement of these items. The brides family goes through the list to crosscheck that every item has been brought and sometimes, items that couldn’t be acquired for one reason or the other are monetized.
After all has been checked and everyone seems to be satisfied, the groom is asked if he can still recognise the flower he say and of course he will say yes. Then they bring out a lady, someone else, covered almost completely and they ask him if that is the girl and he will decline. People cheer and they take her back and bring out another lady that is still not her, and each time the groom’s family will be required to put small money down before she is uncovered. The third time however, his bride is brought out amidst singing and dancing, he recognises her and everyone is happy. Then the brides family elders hand her over to the grooms father or the eldest person in their family be placing her on their lap and saying prayers as she is handed over to their family.
The couple are then prayed for by both families and joined as husband and wife. Afterward there can be a huge party with eating and drinking and dancing or both families can choose to disperse afterwards as the wedding has been concluded. Most times however, there is a party afterwards where there is food and drink, cutting of cake and dance dance dance. The couple get to change to various traditional outfits and in cases of inter-tribal marriage, they finalize in the groom’s cultural attire to show that she has become their wife and a full member of their family.