Today, we are talking weddings. That union between two people from different backgrounds and orientations coming together in love to build a home and choose to become one. Universally, a wedding is one of the most important events in one’s life. In Africa, marriages are seen as a union not between two people, but between two families. It is indeed a big deal, hence the elaborate celebrations attached to the event.
In Nigeria, most weddings span several months and weeks for both preparation and the events. The Yoruba wedding culture is an age long tradition that has been passed from generation to generation. Once a man is of age, and is capable of providing for a family, he seeks a young lady he wishes to marry. In the customary sense, he does not approach the lady at first. He sends friends of the bride-to-be or adults close to her. These people are called alarena. Once she shows interest in return, then the courtship begins. The courtship takes months, sometimes years. During this time, both families do what is called a background check on the history of the family their child will possibly marry into. This background check includes knowing the health conditions of the family, if there is a history of disease or sudden death; also to find out if they are destined to be together.
Once all the background checks are done and both families are cleared, the parents of the groom-to-be send “emissaries” to the bride’s parents. This process is called Idana. It is also known as the Introduction. This step simply means that they are interested in marrying the young lady and would like to become in-laws. The introduction ceremony is a quiet ceremony strictly for the family members. It takes place at the home of the bride’s parents. The groom is also present at the event. Immediate family members such as the parents, siblings, aunties and uncles are also required to be present. This is usually the first step into the marriage ceremony.
The traditional ceremony takes place after the introduction. This is the major event. Here is where the pomp and pageantry occurs. The Yoruba culture is so rich and colorful, and the best ceremony to display this is the wedding ceremony.
The Agenda of the Traditional Ceremony:
- Letter of proposal
- Letter of Acceptance
- Dowry (owo Ori)
- Eru iyawo
- Eru ana
A list is given to the groom’s family on what to bring to the bride’s family. This may include tubers of yam, honey, sugar, salt, a variety of fruits, cookwares, sugarcane, kolanut, bitterkola, etc. Each item has its significance and must be used to pray for the couple.
On the day of the ceremony, the two families sit across from each other. There is usually the color of the day which is beautifully adorned in form of the Aso ebi. The fabric is usually worn by family members and loved ones associating themselves with the celebrants. The friends of the bride also wear the coordinating color of the day to dance with the bride.
The groom also comes in with his friends who are his supporters and help with the act of paying obeisance to the bride’s family by prostrating before her parents and elders to beg for her hand in marriage. The parents and family of the bride pray for the groom and he is officially welcomed to take his bride.
After the bride is escorted in by her friends, she kneels before her parents who pray and bless her as she starts a new journey. She is also prayed for by her new parents, the groom’s parents.
Once the bride gets to her husband’s side, they pray for each other, the rings are exchanged. There is also the cutting of the cake. The party then ends with foods, drinks and music.