Weddings almost always bring joy and smiles to the faces of guests and everyone in the know. A joyous moment built on love, commitment, and yes again, love. In Europe and America, weddings are quite simple. An ordained priest, guests, the couple, the exchange of vows and voila! With smiles and a full-blown grin sometimes, the couple proclaims that they do.
However, in Nigeria, the story is a bit different. Yes, there is an ‘I do’ to be said, but before the ‘I do’ there are a lot of bridges to cross and all those bridges are met with an extravagance that would get you wanting to be married.
Nigeria has many ethnic groups. There are the Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa. The marriage processes for all these groups are different, but if there is one thing they have in common, it is the plush luxury attached to the ceremony.
While all the groups show off during weddings, the Yoruba’s have it bad and their weddings carry the opulence and showcase of wealth especially if it’s a ceremony between wealthy families.
It is often said that in Nigeria, weddings are between families and not the children getting married only. Suffice to say, the wedding is for the parents and not the couple. It’s an opportunity for parents to not only brag but to show and prove their wealth through the ceremony.
The Yoruba wedding
Like any other ethnic group, the wedding ceremony is of great importance to the Yoruba people. The coming together of two separate families as one carries so much joy and happiness that fills the atmosphere.
Weddings in the Yoruba tradition are enormous and colorful affairs with 200 to 1,000 guests present. The two MCs in charge of these events are referred to as alagas. There is one from each side of the family, and they are often elderly ladies. The lively, endearing alagas liven up the day with their comedy. Throughout the entire performance, they are accompanied by a talking drummer who adds more vitality and excitement with each beat.
Dobálè, a Yoruba greeting tradition, involves males bending over and placing their entire bodies on the ground as a symbol of respect. In order to properly meet the bride’s family, the groom and his groomsmen must entirely prostrate before them, with the chest touching the ground.
The bride arrives with her ladies, who are all dressed in matching aso-ebi, after the men have made their men prostrate on the ground, the bride’s family has asked a few questions, and the groom has taken a seat. She then puts a hat on the groom’s head before being carried by him. It is referred to as Igbeyawo. They are then declared to be married after he places a ring on her finger.
Women typically don an iro and buba, a colorful wrapper and top costume that is typically lavishly beaded, coupled with a veil and an ipele shoulder scarf, at traditional Yoruba weddings. They also have a fan and a gele tied (an ornate head wrap). The color of the agbada, an enormous kaftan made of asa-oke fabric worn by the men, invariably matches the fabric of the bride. Through the course of the event, couples frequently exchange glances.
The Igbo wedding
Ikuaka, which literally translates to “knocking,” is the ritual an Igbo man goes through with his father and other male relatives to knock on the door of the bride’s family. Typically, the man’s father (or uncle, older brother, or other older living male relative) is the one to inform the woman of his plans to wed her. The men bring gifts with them, including kola nuts and what Nigerians colloquially describe as “hot drinks,” which are alcoholic beverages.
Imme Ego, or the payment of the dowry or bride price, is the second phase of an Igbo wedding. Igba Nkwu, or “wine carrying,” is the name of the last traditional ritual.
The bride must look through the crowd of men at this exciting celebration to find her future spouse, who is lurking there. She dances happily, looking around the room for him. She must correctly identify her fiancé before giving him a cup of wine to sip, signifying that he is actually her husband. The couple is then legally pronounced married, another wardrobe change occurs, and joyful dancing breaks out.
While wedding ceremonies differ between the Igbo and Yoruba, one thing that stands out is the wedding celebration or you could call it ‘wedding party.’ Both groups go all out and display so much wealth and affluence from dressing to the food eaten.
One of the most noticeable features of Nigerian weddings is the aso-ebi, which is a term for “the family clothing.” The couple chooses a color scheme that will be used by both sides of the family. It’s a means to distinguish between the bride’s family and the groom’s family depending on the materials and hues they wear. Aso-ebi is frequently worn by the friends of the couple. Aso-ebi was originally a component of Yoruba weddings, but it has subsequently extended to other ethnic groups in Nigeria and, in fact, to other African countries.
The main event of a Nigerian wedding celebration is “spraying.” On the dance floor, guests shower the couple with cash as a form of blessing and to encourage them to continue dancing. A live band and DJ who play afro beat, hip-hop, traditional, and modern music are typically present.
Couples might start their married lives with a lot of money in this fashion, and the bridesmaids assist in picking up all the cash that falls to the ground. The more time the couple dances, the more money they get, and whenever they are on the dance floor, they will be doused in liquid. You would always give a monetary gift to the couple and occasionally even to their parents, whether or not there is a registry. Put singles in your wallet and get ready to party. Do not worry if all you have is huge banknotes; a “change table” is common at weddings.
The celebration is often wild friends, family and well-wishers come together to celebrate with the couple clad in their asoebi. The beauty of it all is the apparent joyous atmosphere that is as infectious as the wedding itself.
The Nigerian wedding culture has sold to the world rich authentic culture as other ethnic groups apart from the Yoruba have upped their game and added more luxury to the celebration.