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Nigeria, Africa's giant, is known mainly for its people, its resources and its cultural heritage. With over 300 tribes in the country having different languages and lifestyles. There is no doubt that weddings across these tribes will also take different shapes.
Traditional marriages in Nigeria, on all occasions, show the diversity and richness of Nigerian cultures and styles. Colorfully and lavishly planned, forcing a lot of people into debt to make it glamorous. The event is accompanied by beautiful attires, mouthwatering dishes, pulsating music, and expensive accessories.
Research shows that traditional weddings are celebrated similarly in different parts of Nigeria. The striking difference is the bridal list and the amount of money spent on the ceremony. However, before the main wedding ceremony, other activities take place such as an informal and more formal introduction. Let's take a look at the pre, during and post activities of a typical wedding in Nigeria.
1. Meeting the Guardians ['Investors'] - Papa and Mama Knows Best
A popular proverb in Yoruba states that "Uun yi agbalagba ri n'oiho joko, omoiton le ri un n'oiho uduo"; meaning "What an elder sees while sitting down, a child can never see it while standing up." This speaks to the essence of learning from the experience of elders. It is often believed that parents know best when it comes to marriage because they have passed through that phase before and understand what each step of the marital journey requires.
Imagine an organization that wants to make a major business decision; this decision first has to be discussed with the management and board of the organization who are often key stakeholders in the business before it is then proposed to the public. Just like in every major decision of one's life where the consent or advice of our elders, parents, mentors or men of God is sought, marriage is not an exception and it's a norm for the man to seek the consent of the woman's parents before wedding preparations commence.
In this case, especially with the Yoruba tribe, the woman introduces her husband to her parents and questions regarding the background of the man, his family, plans, and reason for choosing their daughter are asked. In some other tribes like that of the Hausas, marriages are sometimes arranged, and this introduction may not be necessary.
Each tribe has its peculiarities. However, it is common to see women and men alike first introduce their spouse to their parents, guardians or those they respect greatly before formal introductions. Parents are also fond of using this informal introduction as an opportunity to share their experiences and encourage the couples about managing their home and dealing with the pressures they may face along the marital journey. The agreement of the parents at this stage determines whether or not the marriage between the two love birds will happen.
In modern times, this precedes the open proposal of the man to his woman to make the world know she's "taken."
2. Meeting the In-Laws ['Shareholders'] - Inside the Village Square
Once the consent of one's parents has been received, then the formal introduction to other members of the family (nuclear and extended) happens intending to ensure both families know themselves and make decisions concerning the date of the wedding and the requirements "the bride list" expected from the man to his future in-laws. Often, it is not expected that this would require major financial commitment; however, families tend to make this more elaborate than it's required.
For instance, "Yorubas" hosts this ceremony in the bride's family house, and they are responsible for all the preparations and costs. There is usually a spokesperson on either side of the family, usually called "Alaga Iduro" (appointed speaker for the groom's side) and "Alaga Ijoko" (appointed speaker for the bride's side). The bride's family then prepares the bridal list often called "Eru Iyawo" to be given to the groom's family. This list varies from family to family. Some Yoruba families are more liberal than the others these days.
3. The Traditional Wedding ['AGM'] - The Bitter-Sweet Dance of Union
Traditional wedding ceremonies in Nigeria are ceremonies conducted by the customs of the bride and groom's families. This ceremony is recognized under the customary law of Nigeria and is meant for well-wishers to join the family and celebrate with them.
Depending on the order agreed by both families, traditional wedding ceremonies can take place before any other aspect of the wedding ceremony.
Kindly download our Wedding Report for more details about what happens in an Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa and Urhobo Traditional Wedding.
4. The Registry "Court" Wedding ['EGM'] - Signing Life's Dotted Lines
Marriages done in the registry are commonly known as the only marriage recognized by law. Also, the marriage certificate obtained by the woman is the only legally recognized evidence of a marriage between a man and a woman.
The process of conducting statutory marriages at most marriage Registry envisages that a couple may have contracted Traditional/Customary or Church/Islamic Marriage before applying to contract Statutory Marriage. If it comes to a situation, the couple feels they cannot live together due to fighting, abuse, adultery, and other reasons; they then have the option to seek official divorce. In this situation, all assets will need to be identified and valued as part of the process of working out what there is to divide up. The home and any other properties will be included in this regardless of whose name the property is in, or one spouse could buy the other out and keep the house, or the property could be sold and the proceeds divided. If there are children, a parent will often want to stay put to maintain as much continuity as possible. When this is the case, the other partner may receive other assets to even up the distribution or may agree to defer receiving the balance until the property is sold when the children move out or the partner remarries.
Court or Registry Wedding ceremonies are often the simplest, cheapest and fastest of all other types of marriage. Sequel to conversations with a legal practitioner, he opined that Nigeria's law recognizes some churches as statutory places of worship such as the Redeemed Christian Church of God and Foursquare Bible Church, where both the church marriage certificate and statutory marriage certificate can be issued after due registrations at the registry.
As mentioned earlier, Court weddings can be pretty simple and cheap. If you are planning a traditional and white wedding, then you don't have to throw an elaborate court wedding ceremony. You and your spouse can appear in the court without witnesses, take pictures after your certificate has been presented to you and carry on with the day's activities.
Below is a simple budget. You can work further on it if it is necessary to have a ceremony after receiving your marriage certificate.
5. The White Wedding ['Roadshow'] - Snow Flakes and Candles
This type of wedding depends on the faith of the couples. It is usually the ceremony that crowns it all when the couple gets to receive the divine blessings from God / Allah. Most times, the intended couple are dressed in Western-styled attire, and there would be official knotting where marital vows and rings are exchanged between the couple; after this, they will be declared husband and wife by the religious officiating officers.
Over the years, white weddings are often done in the place of worship of the bride's parents. This sometimes requires the couple and their well-wishers to travel out of their usual environ to the home town of the bride, the same way it applies for traditional marriages. This is usually the case since the bride's father is expected to walk his daughter down the aisle. In some other cases, probably when the bride's father or both parents are late, the ceremony can be done in the bride's place of worship.
Before weddings are conducted in the church, counselling sessions are encouraged between the couples and elders in the church. This offers the couple the privilege to learn from the experiences of others and get to know themselves better. During this session, themes discussed cuts across the spiritual, physical, emotional, social and financial life of the couple before, during and after the wedding ceremony. Questions asked to help the couples think deep about some of their decisions, such as having a joint account, the number of children they want to have, dealing with pressures from family members during the marriage, etc.
Most churches also ensure to conduct a pregnancy test before the wedding ceremony, check the wedding gown of the bride and present the couples to the church for prayers before the formal wedding ceremony takes place.
In recent times, couples tend to have this ceremony on the same day as their traditional wedding ceremony to maximize their resources and minimize cost. As always, the couple is expected to have a bridal train with a mix of flower girls, ring bearers, bride's maids, a maid of honour and groom's men, including the best man. The number of persons in this mix is not cast in stone. We have seen couples have less than five people on their train while some have close to 20 and more. It all depends on the decision of the couple most, especially the bride.
6. The Reception ['IPO'] - Keeping Visitors Satisfied and Pockets Tight
After the wedding ceremony or the traditional marriage comes the reception. This is often the aspect of the entire wedding ceremony that well-wishers long to attend, as its an opportunity to celebrate, have fun with the newly-weds and their family and show off their attire. It is the main "owambe" wedding party where all the drama, glamour, wining, and dining is displayed.
Depending on the order of the programme agreed by the couple, common aspects of the programme include the introduction of the bride & groom's parents, introduction of the bride and groom with their train and Aso Ebi girls and guys, cutting of the wedding cake, reading of vows between the couples, presentation of gifts and lot of dance such as the couple's dance, the "father and daughter" dance or the "mother and son" dance.
It is interesting to note that this aspect of the wedding is the most expensive and it is quite rare to see the entire wedding ceremony take place without a reception. In managing costs, some couples don't have a reception after their white wedding, especially when an elaborate party has been done after the traditional wedding ceremony.
Honeymoon ['Take-Off'] - The Sweet Taste of The Future: Of Friendship Forever
The wedding ceremony often ends with goodbyes to family, friends, and well-wishers as the newly-weds are expected to take off later to another location away from home, at least for the first night. This trip is fondly referred to as a Honey Moon.
Before now, tradition has it that the new wife has to spend the first night in her husband's family house where she's certified a virgin or not. However, in recent times and following the western culture, the honeymoon had become the norm.
A honeymoon trip can be had at any preferred place by the couple, as long as the newly-weds take the trip away from home. One can have a honeymoon trip within Nigeria or anywhere abroad. It can be to a hotel/ place on your street, to somewhere in the same city or state where you live, or to another state, or another country (in Africa or elsewhere). Where you choose to travel to for your honeymoon is a decision to be made between the couple.
Just like the entire wedding ceremony, honeymoons require proper planning to get the best of the experience away from home. The most common items on the planning list for trips abroad include the Visa fee & processing cost (for those that don't have one already), Ticketing, Accommodation, and other logistic costs. Some couples could be lucky and get an all-expense-paid trip to their preferred location as a gift from a family member or well-wisher. You can also consider liaising with some travel agencies who are familiar with this terrain to get discounted rates for your trip. Obudu Mountain Resort is a popular honeymoon destination in Nigeria, and neighbouring Ghana offers many affordable romantic getaways for couples who are on low to medium income budgets.
If you make a honeymoon a priority and budget even a small amount for it, you can make it work. Couples should cut down their wedding expenses to make room for a honeymoon. It is okay to have a few days' honeymoon vacation at a cheap hotel/ location nearby, even budgeting N30k or less for your honeymoon can get you a two nights stay at some low-cost hotel in the state where you live.
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