Initially, I wanted to start with the Indian culture and the way they did their marriages, but I just couldn’t find the right words to express what I had in mind. Then it struck me that in Nigeria alone, there were so many cultures and each had their own way of performing a marriage ceremony and I could just pick one and blog about.
So, I would start with one culture I am very conversant with and that is the Igbo style of marrying a wife.
The Igbo Man’s Style Of Marrying A Wife
I find this personally intriguing and sometimes I am disturbed at the high amount of money paid at the end of the day just to marry an Igbo lady. The Igbo/Ibo people originates from the eastern part of Nigeria. They include people from Anambra, Imo, Abia, Enugu, Ebonyi, part of Rivers, part of Delta etc. A man who wants to marry an Igbo lady should hold a lot of money as popularly believed. Yes, very true because one way or the other, he is going to pay and payment differs from one place to another.
After the guy has been introduced to the lady’s parents and his intentions made known, the father of the bride would go to his kinsmen to obtain a “bridal list” (I like to call it a bridal list). This list contains all the items the groom will be buying for the kinsmen of his wife’s people. After the list has been obtained and delivered to the groom, the groom and a few elderly males of his family are expected to visit. That should include his father, two uncles and maybe a mentor or an older friend. It is important he comes with sensible negotiators that could negotiate the list with the bride’s father and some of his (bride’s father) own townsmen. By the end of this meeting, some things on the list should have been slashed and some things agreed upon. For this first meeting, the groom and his people dare not come empty-handed or they could be fined for being stingy. This however, is an unofficial visit.
By the second meeting, it is expected that the groom and the elderly men of his household come with all the items on the list to meet the father of the bride and some of his kinsmen. Now, this visit is called Introduction. If the groom is well prepared and well loaded, then all that pertains to the father of the bride and the men in his quarter will be satisfied. They will break kola, drink palm wine, bring out the wife-to-be for her to meet her in-laws and then agree on a date for the traditional marriage. Most times however, most of the young men are never able to complete the task of paying all on the list in just one visit because the kinsmen might prepare a we-forgot-to-add list for the groom, so the groom and his people will keep coming back till they have completed the task and for every visit, the groom is expected to buy something for the father-in-law and his kinsmen…
Oh, did I forget to mention the items on the list? I’m sorry! They include: wine, cartons and cartons of beer, stout and alcoholic beverages (to the kinsmen, these are different drinks that stand alone), tubers of yam (definite), kegs of palm wine, kolanut, some request for cartons of bottle water and money (very very key) etc. By the time the groom has paid all on the list and is ready to leave to prepare for the traditional marriage, then the mother of the bride will bring out an even longer list from the Umuadas of the lady’s quarter. Who are the Umuadas again? LOL, they are the women (both young and old, married and unmarried) from the father’s small quarter – Umu = children Ada = first daughter of a household – so a collection of all the first daughters from the father’s place will assist the mother of the bride to compose a list of things to be brought on or before the day of the marriage by the groom.
It will interest you to know that the Umuada’s list is more important than the kinsmen’s list and if the groom doesn’t pay for everything on that list, no wife for him! That simple! And negotiating with the Umuadas, is almost next to impossible; except the groom is really loved by his in-laws, who also want their daughter out of their custody, then pleading will be done.
It is on the Umuadas’ list you will find: powder, bags of rice, a cow (this depends on whether the in-laws weren’t owing before. If they were owing, the groom will be asked to bring more than one cow), cartons of malt, more tubers of yam, all the items needed to cook for the traditional marriage, wrappers for the mother-in-law and her sisters (only when requested by the mother-in-law. But it is expected that the groom drops money for it all the same), money. For money, the groom will replace the amount that was spent to train the bride from childhood to secondary school, the one spent between secondary school and university, if she’s a first class holder, the groom will pay appreciation fee; in fact for every degree the bride holds, the groom will pay. Then, the Umuadas will now accumulate all the fines that the mother-in-law and the bride had accrued for absence from Umuada’s meeting and it is added to the groom’s bill. For example, my mother doesn’t believe in Umuada’s meeting or August meeting or December gathering etc, whoever will marry me will pay my mother’s fine for all the meetings she has ever missed since she married my father and my own since I became of age to attend meetings. Then if my mother had openly quarreled with a fellow Umuada, my husband-to-be will be fined. Then he will pay “departure” levy for me, “appreciation” levy for a job well done and “maintenance” levy so that more wonderful young women can be produced.
By the end of all the payments and whatever ridiculous thing the Umuada’s decide to add to the list, the groom should have spent at least between #200,000 – #700,000 to appease his bride’s kinsmen and her Umuadas. Then all can safely move on to the traditional marriage.
No right thinking man should ever come to his traditional marriage with just #20,000…God help you! You will be surprised that you cannot take your bride home. Most grooms I know come with large cash, his friends and family also hold backup money because if he is lucky to leave the place with #20,000, he should thank God for giving him wonderful in-laws. I remember when my cousin got married to his wife from Rivers state, we almost went home cashless even after paying through our buttocks for the introduction ceremony and all my uncles were so angry that one left us there after almost causing a scene and went home. When we got home with our newly wedded wife, one of my uncles called me aside and began to holler like it was my fault their wallets were sagging; “Ekenedilichukwu,” he began, pulling his ear “ό kwi fun (you see), shebi you have seen as those Ekwere people wanted to suck us dry. You’re our property o! Investment ki bu (that is what you are). So do and finish this school and bag all the certificates you can, then come home with a sensible man, ᾴ sίm (I said) sensible man that will pay your diploma school fees without blinking.” Then he left to address another of my cousin.
Isn’t this intriguing, the amount made or lost in marrying an Igbo lady? And that is the norm in the Igbo land, marriage is a business venture for the townspeople, except the parents of the bride are ready to stand their ground and fight, the groom will sweat and pay every last kobo levied on him.
So, if as a man, you’re eyeing an Igbo lady for a wife, my first advice to you: Do not chicken out and run (I know of a groom that did that but that is story for another day), be like the man in the above picture, remember love endures ALL things. My second advice: Open a savings account and start saving. You can even start dropping hints for your bride to join in the savings so that the both of you will not be delayed on your love journey. Then an unsolicited advice, tell your bride-to-be to start talking to her parents on your behalf, so that they would fight tooth and nail to make sure you pay fairly. Also be a good man!