Weddings, who doesn't like them? The romantic atmosphere, the beautiful clothes, the food, the music and especially the 2 people who declare their love. I personally are a big fan of weddings and find it very interesting that every culture has their own traditions. Despite being married in Nigeria, I have never had a traditional wedding myself and so I was pleased that the first one I was attending to, was the one of my sister-in-law Ogoo and her husband Dave.
It all began, as in most cases that the Dave asked Ogoo to marry her and she said yes. We as family got informed about this, but different than with a european engagement it wasn't done here. A meeting was arranged between both families so that Dave could introduce himself and his family and officially request Ogoo's hand in marriage. This is called the introduction ceremony.
The Introduction Ceremony
Perhaps it's useful to know in advance that my husband, after his father was late, is the head of the family. This means that he takes over all the duties of the "family father", including giving away his sisters into marriage.
Before the ceremony started, Dave came to our house with his parents and some other family members (who served as witnesses). After my husband and our family had welcomed Dave's uncle (because his father also is late), he introduced himself and his family, and he explained the reason for their visit. When he finished, my husband repeated this to us, the family. This is done more or less to prevent misunderstandings. Now Ogoo, my sister-in-law, was called for and asked if she knew Dave and whether we could accept the gifts brought by him. She agreed to it and retreated again. Now the official ceremony began.
First, during a prayer, the "kola nut" was broken and divided. This is an official welcoming tradition within the Igbo culture. After that, food and drinks were served. When everyone had finished eating, Dave's uncle again told us their reason for coming. My husband called for my sister in law again and now asked her if she wanted to accept the request. Once again, the answer was positive and it was time to give Dave the bride-price list. He thanked us and said he would still contact us for the bride-price ceremony.
The Brideprice Ceremony
Once Dave chose a date for the ceremony, it became interesting, especially because, like most people now a days, they combined the bride-price ceremony with their traditional wedding.
The evening in advance our entire family gathered at the paternal home in the village and everything, the whole house was getting prepared for the important day. My mother in law and sisters are luckily enough a good team so it all went pretty quick. The next morning around 6:30 I woke up and was surprised. The whole house was full of family members and friends. Many of them I did not know yet, so while I was still half asleep I was introduced to everyone. I thought oh my, oh my, so many faces how will I ever remember all haha. After a while, I noticed that two beautiful decorated tents were set up. One exactly in front of our house for our future in-laws and one more for our family, the king's men and village elders. There was also a Deejay for the entertainment and a photographer to capture everything. Everyone who came was welcomed with food and drinks and when everyone was there, it could all finally start.
First, both families were officially introduced and Dave's uncle explained that the reason for their visit. My husband then thanked them for their save arrival. My husband's oldest uncle also introduced himself. I, as my husband's wife was standing next to him, as expected of me, but if my husband had not explained to me beforehand what would happen, I wouldn't have understand it because I don't speak the Igbo language.
After the official introduction was done, the men retreated to the living room where each item of the bride-price list was named and presented. This list may vary from drinks/beverages, food, Wrapper's (5.5m traditional fabrics) and sadly enough also goats.
Women are not welcome at this part of the ceremony. In fact, they can not be part of it, according to tradition these are men business.
When all of the list have been provided the men came back outside , where everyone was enjoying the music, food and drinks ..
Ogoo, my sister in law was not present with all this, only later she was called for, and followed by myself, my other sisters in law and some aunts, she had to go to the table where my husband and the rest of our family were sitting. Here, once again, Dave's intentions were made clear to her and she was asked if she wanted to accept the marriage proposal. Once openly accepted, she received a filled traditional 'palm wine cup' which was blessed and had to search for Dave within the crowd, give him the cup and let him drink the palm wine. Once the cup was empty, Dave and Ogoo had to go to the table of my husband and family to return the cup and to receive their blessing as a couple by the oldest man of the village. With this the engagement was then official and everyone danced, laughed and celebrated. It was very nice especially how my mother in law and Dave's mother seemed to get a long very well. Everyone was happy and enjoyed the very happy moment.
The Traditional Wedding
As I said before they combined their bride-price with the traditional wedding. This happened sometime later in the evening, when the men returned to the living room for the payment of the bride-price. The official bride-price is always an amount of money, but it is more about symbolism than about the amount itself. This money is paid by the groom to the head of the family, in this case my husband. My husband thanked Dave, blessed the money and returned a part of the money back to him. This is expected of a noble and respectful family. The meaning behind it is that the head of the family finds it wiser to use the money to take care of the new wife. Thereafter, it was openly pronounced that we are now officially in-laws, their marriage itself was blessed and thus Ogoo and Dave were official.
The men returned and joined the ongoing party. When it started to get dark, we were thanked by Dave and his family and it was time to say goodbye. Ogoo gad to follow her husband and his family, because according to tradition, once a woman is married she no longer belongs to her father's village, but to the one of her husband. Everyone ran after Ogoo's car to congratulate her and wish her the best.
At the end of the day I was really tired, but I have to say I truly enjoyed it very much and I found it most interesting. My husband always tells me that if I still want to have a traditional wedding I could have one, but for now I'm good.