Traditional Marriage rite in Igboland: How it is done

Traditional Marriage Rite is an arrangement that could help the intending couple to be fitted into marriage and other marriage ceremony activities.

In so many parts of the world, a marriage ceremony is an affair between the intending couples, but in Igboland, parents of the bride and groom, their extended family members and villagers play active participation in traditional marriage ceremony.

The Igbos (also known as Ibos) are from the eastern region of Nigeria. They have a unique culture, and the traditional marriage rite in this part of the country is usually ceremonious.

Courtesy: Ancient Jamaanu

Perquisites of Traditional Marriage in Igboland

Before traditional marriage rite can take place in Igboland, the intending couples must meet some certain perquisites. They are;

  1. They must attain some certain age that will qualify them into marriage.
  2. The bridegroom must have something that provides money for the intending family.
  3. The intending people must be psychological fit to be able to balance their moral and emotional age.

In entire Igbo land, traditional marriage rite is the same, though it may look slightly different in the eye of people.

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The age, finance and psychological fitness are important in Igbo marriage rite because no man will give out his daughter for marriage to an immature person or to someone who has no means of livelihood.

 

System of Traditional Marriage rite in Igboland

The system of traditional marriage rite in Igbo land as a whole are the same, that is why I took case studies of two important towns in Igbo land (1) IHE in Awgu L.G.A.in Enugu State and (2) Aro Ndi Izuogu in Imo State. Aro Ndi Izuogu people are ancient Kingdom of Arochukwu people, of Abia State who settles in Imo State.

First, I met one of the eldest men in IHE town, Chief Okeke Ude. According to him, the expression that one has reached the age of getting a wife can come from two ways:

  • One from the person who felt that he has reached the age of marriage
  • from his parents who may be urging his/her son/daughter to marry because of his age.

The later, may get two different responses such as, Papa I have agreed or Papa I am not ready yet. I am not ready yet, maybe that he has not gotten financial status to do so or, he does not need a wife now.

There will be no marriage preparation in the later, while in the former, wealthy parents may decide to marry for their son who has no money and continued to foster the marriage till the son gets something doing.

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Stages of Traditional Marriage rite in Igboland

Here is how traditional marriage in Igboland is done;

  1. Picking of a Wife
  2. First Discussion of the intending couples
  3. Second Discussion of the intending couples
  4. Third Discussion of the intending couples
  5. Knocking at the door
  6. First Coming
  7. Second Coming/Paying of Dowries/Bride Price
  8. Igbankwu or final coming

Let explore in detail these stages…….

Picking of a Wife

 The first stage of traditional marriage rite in Igbo land is the picking of wife. In IHE Awgu of Enugu State or other Igboland, a man may pick his wife from the people he is living in the same environment, from the people he is working with in the same office, from the people in the same school with him, from the same church or organization etc.

First Discussion of the intending couples

The second stage of the traditional marriage rite is the first discussion between the intending couples. According to Okeke Ude, this will be a private discussion between the man and the lady he is intending to marry, pointing out that, at this private discussion the man will tell his intending patterner exactly what he wants.

Second Discussion of the intending couples

If the young lady replied positively in the first meeting, the second meeting or discussion will be fixed for a later date and the cost of this discussion or meeting will be enlarged. This will be at the presence of the man’s parents, especially the father. The discussion at this stage is to repeat what the man and his intending partner have discussed in the privacy in the presence of the man’s father

Third Discussion of the intending couples

 The fourth stage of the marriage rite is the third discussion between the intending couples. The third discussion or meeting will be between the man and his father, this will be a round table discussion. The discussion will be centred on the date to meet the intending partner’s family. Before the date, the intending partner’s father will be informed about the development.

Knocking at the door

The man with his parents will go with some quantity of kola, a bottle of hot drink, and some quantity of palm wine, this in order words is called “Knocking at the door”.

First Coming

 The next stage both parents of bridegroom and bride will meet to fix a date for the next coming. The man and his parent will be given a list of what they will come with, this in order words also is known as the “first coming”.

The content of the list according to Chief Okeke Ude is stated as follow:

In the first coming after knocking at the door: Ten pieces of kola, combination of Igbo kola and Gworo, Two Cartons of Beer, One Jar of palm wine, One bottle of wine, one bottle of hot drink and Two packets of Cigarette

Chief Okeke Ude said that at this stage the man’s family is been controlled by the intending partner’s family because what they will bring in each coming will always be listed for them.

Second Coming/Paying of Dowries or Bride Price

After the first coming, there will be a ‘second coming’. In the second coming, the man’s family (bridegroom’s family) will be given another list.

For second coming, the content of the list is as follows; Four Cartons of beer, Two jars of palm wine, Two creates of Malt, Two Creates of Minerals, One bottle of hot drink and One bottle of wine.

Dowries or Bride Price may be paid at this second coming.

Igbankwu or Final Coming

The final coming will be Igbankwu. IGBANKWU in IHE, Agwu like other comings has its own list but the list will be according to the agreement reached by the two parties. The level of agreement is determined by the level of well to do of the groom’s family and how smooth their responses were in the first and second coming.

The number of people that attend Igbankwu is more enlarged, this may result in the groom’s family adding more things in the list given to them. This is to have enough to entertain people who came with them.

In the venue of Igbankwu, there is always a well-arranged stage with Canopies to cover the sun or rain. Music to entertain the people. The highlight of the occasion is the bride publicly shown of her groom.

This is usually done by the bride receiving a cup of palm wine from her father to give to her groom. This also serves as an invitation to the groom to come before the father of the bride with the bride and receive his blessings.

The witness will be relevant in all these stages. The witness may not be the actual person who found the bride for the groom or Vice Versa.

Bride Price Ceremony

This is done in a private place with selected few members from both families. There is always special wine for this occasion

During the ceremony, the groom’s father will put his hand in his pocket and present to the bride’s father money or bride price. If the money is okay the bride father will take it. The bride father can say that the money is not okay, that something will be added to it. Many a times, the bride’s father did take some amount from the money given as bride price and give the rest back to the groom’s father.

 

Traditional Marriage in Aro Ndi Izuogo

According to MAZI BASIL ANIADI (AKU ENWE BE FROM ARO NDI IZUOGO), if a man is matured for marriage and have good source of livelihood and he is ready to get a wife at Aro Ndi Izuogo of Imo State, first of all he will look for somebody he loves. When that is done and both agreed to marry.

The second round is showing to their parent. The man will take the girl to his parents and introduced the girl to them, after, the girl will introduce the man to her parents.

Then, after all these casual introductions, the man with his father or his friend will go with the following: One bottle of hot drink and Kola nut.

This stage is called knocking at the door or (Iku aka na Onu Uzo). The father of the girl will now tell his visitors that he will get back to them after seeking the girl’s opinion about it.

When the man gets a nod from the girl’s parent, he will now come back with his Umunna (Kindred) with the following items: Two gallons of palm wine, a carton of beer and a hot drink.

This is called first coming because, it is now made open. At this level, the girl’s parent can give the man’s family list. The list will contain what the man will do including Igbankwu (traditional marriage ceremony).

The bride price can also be discussed at this stage (I pia akirika nwanyi) and if the man is with the money he can pay immediately.

Igbankwu (traditional marriage ceremony) can be fixed and in Igbankwu (traditional marriage ceremony), the list given shall be adhered strictly.

Betrothal stage

 This is a stage in Igbo land where a small boy and small girl can be handed over for marriage by their parents at a small age whether the bride price paid or not but something tangible can be used as a means.

Bride price ceremony

This is a stage via the intending couple is allowed to organize to pay the dowries of the girl he is to be married.

Marriage Consent

This is a process through which the families of the bride and bridegroom have agreed for their children to marry each other.

Traditional wedding (Igbankwu)

This is the proper ceremony that brings people of different culture to chair the occasion of total hand over of the lady to the man who wants to marry her. On this note, things are cooked, drinks are brought which, therefore, serve as means of entertaining people or guest.

Polygamy in Igbo Culture

This thus, stands as a pillar that holds two women together with one man at the centre. Igbo Culture perhaps, admits one man marrying more than one wife.

Conclusion

I have explained Traditional Marriage Rite in Igboland and how it is done using 2 towns in Imo State and Enugu State Nigeria; some other time I will explore other ethnic groups in Nigeria like;

  • Traditional Marriage Rite in Ibibio (Akwa Ibom State)
  • Traditional Marriage Rite in Igala land
  • Traditional Marriage Rite in Ogoja
  • Traditional Marriage Rite in Yoruba land

Resources:

Personal interviews and case studies

M.A.Orebanjo (et al) Social Studies book 2 Lagos: Macmillan Nigeria Publication Limited

Gbenga M. Babalola: Essential Civic Education for Senior Secondary Schools. Lagos: Tonad Publishers Limited.

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