I will be starting a series on Nigerian Traditional weddings, first up; The Yoruba Traditional Wedding ;)
Yoruba marriage introduction
The Yoruba culture of western Nigeria is full of folklore, color and pageantry. The people are easy going friendly and very cosmopolitan and contemporary evolving clever ways to synergy old traditionswith more modern themes. Having the advantage of western learning the Yoruba people use this to their advantage in most practices this is evident during their traditional marriage ceremonies.
The Yoruba traditional marriage ceremony even though a serious affair is full of playful banter, rich contemporary Nigerian music, graceful colors and sumptuous meals. Weddings in Yoruba land is an occasion to show your best outfits, handbags, jewelry and even dancing styles.
The traditional wedding is an occasions to alleviate the drudgery of normal life and are greatly anticipated by friends and well wishers.
The families of the bride and groom long before any engagement ceremony takes place the groom visits the family of the bride in company of his father and some family members. The occasion is an informal introduction without fanfare but a cordial atmosphere to know each other.
The informal introduction does not require much except some tubers of yam and a few bottles of wine; the family of the bride is purview to the visit and hosts the visitors with a simple meal of rice and mineral water. Apart from all round introductions, they might discuss when the event would take place, this is not a hard and fast rule and such discussions might take place later.
A Yoruba bride and groom
Yoruba wedding hall
The event planner caterers and drinks
The venue could be an events center, a large hall, open canopy or an open field; the decor is contracted to an events planner whose job is to interpret the colors chosen by using breath taking decor to complement the joyful union. The guest list could number over two hundred and fifty guests so proper consideration of seating arrangement, the cutlery and proper placement of finery is of great importance.
The decor usually consists of floral arrangements, colored balloons, tapestry of both color schemes and white, lavishly styled table cloths, chairs covered in lace materials and ceremony colors. The planner decorates the high table for dignitaries and places two prominent chairs in front of the party crowd for the bride and groom. Other add-oms could be flower vases cutlery and other elaborate decorations.
The catering is also serious business again this could be done by both families and the contracted caterers should be professional in their conduct, and are able to make assorted meals like jollof rice, moin moin which is beans that has been washed, grounded and steamed.
The chicken could be fried or roasted, fried meat, fish both fresh fish and catfish , they also make small chops like sausages, meat pies, small cakes, chin chin and other small delicacies. Traditional meals are also served like pounded yam, amala which is yam extract, fufu and wheat meals, and are eaten along with a verity of vegetable dishes.
Sometimes family members from both sides also cook additional meals to entertain their immediate guests such as neighbors and family friends.
The drinks could be the responsibility of the caterers or contracted out to wholesalers or drink suppliers, their duty is to refrigerate the drinks and serve the guests. The type of drinks could be alcoholic drinks, juices, punch drink, choice wines, brandy, mineral water and bottled water. The drink handlers and food caterers have service attendants who see to the needs of the guests.
The ceremony is incomplete without young elegant girls that could be friends of the bride or graduate students who usher the guests to their tables.
Bride and Grooms cloths
The brides outfit is a reflection of what the female guests will wear, she might choose, damask, lace, Nigerian wax fabric or any fabric that appeals to her. The outfit consists of gale which is the head tie, the buba the tank top and an IRO which is a large material tied round her waist and is ankle length.
The colors she chooses reflects the color theme her family has chosen but should also complement the grooms outfit and look identical. She can wear accessories like gold chains, beads, bangles, gold earrings and shoes to match. Her face would have gone through a beauty regime with professional makeup artists, hair stylists and color coordinators.
The groom could decide to wear an Agbada which is a two layered material of heavy dimensions like the aso oke, it might be cotton, and damask or he might wear lace, wax fabric (Ankara). The nice color combination should complement the brides and reflect the color his family has chosen.
Yoruba Engagement ceremony
The traditional engagement
The traditional engagement is carried out by a contracted professional called the Alaga ijoko which translated is the traditional master of ceremony, the professional could e a member of the bride’s family or a complete stranger. The Alaga Ijoko is always women and their duty is to properly officiate and coordinates the proceeding so each provision of tradition is strictly adhered too.
There are different stages she coordinates and each stage might elicit a collection of cash which the Alaga keeps, various fines are paid and formal introduction of the groom accompanied by his age mates and friends. The introduction involves prostrating to the family of the groom formally requesting their daughters hand in marriage.
The groom’s people also hire a professional called the Alaga iduro which means the standing master of ceremony who follows the groom and family to beg for the hand of their daughter. The Alaga iduro is also a professional custodian of Yoruba wedding tradition, she could be a family member or hired for the occasion.
Other festivities include the letter reading which is read by a young lady from the groom’s family also asking for the hand of their daughter (the bride), the brides family also responds with a letter of their own.
More on the traditional marriage and engagement
The engagement is an integral part of the traditional marriage and as the ceremony precedes items listed for the engagement that was given to the groom’s family is presented. The items vary slightly in each Yoruba traditional wedding but the general articles are the same.
Some of the items demanded by the brides family are, bag of sugar, bag of rice, alligator pepper, large number of bitter kola, bag of salt, kola nut, if they are Christians a bible, keg of honey and about forty large tubers of yam. Non edible items could include expensive materials like lace, several pairs of shoes, wristwatch, a gold engagement ring and head tie.