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Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Nigerian Traditional Weddings- The Yoruba Traditional Marriage Ceremony

Hi guys, 

I will be starting a series on Nigerian Traditional weddings, first up; The Yoruba Traditional Wedding ;) 

A  Yoruba bride and groom

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 traditions
with 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 introduction
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

A  Yoruba bride and groom
A Yoruba bride and groom

Yoruba wedding hall

Yoruba wedding hall
Yoruba wedding hall

The event planner caterers and drinks

Event planner
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

Brides outfit
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.
Grooms outfit
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.

The Groom and Friends Prostrating in Front of the Parents and Elders of the Bride

the groom and friends prostrating in front of the parents and elders of the bride
the groom and friends prostrating in front of the parents and elders of the bride

Bride and Groom

The groom and bride

Some of the engagement protocols officiated by the Alaga ijoko is carried out in the absence of the groom, the professionals go through a question and answer format were the brides moderator puts the representatives of the groom through some hoops. At one point the groom’s presence is needed and he comes forward and goes through the introduction process to the bride’s family and parents.

When all requirements are met the groom is led and allowed to seat on one of the two large chairs conspicuously placed in from of the guests, the chairs are artfully decorated in the chosen ceremonial colors by the wedding planner.

The bride

The bride is then heralded into the hall followed by her friends and bridesmaids this is another example of similarity with western culture, the difference is that the ladies wear ethnic outfits like buba and IRO and they join her in a boisterous dance down the hall. The bride also goes through a few protocols but money is only given to her and not taken from her as in the case of the groom.

She is introduced to the groom’s family and assumes her place beside the groom, at this stage they may consider themselves married. The wife displays some wifely traits by feeding the groom some cake and wine, even a kiss to the amusement of the guests.

Yoruba traditional gift and edible items
brides gifts
traditional edibles
gold wrist watches
alligator pepper
bag of rice
gold earrings
bitter kola
bag of salt
wax fabric

Gift items at the traditional wedding

Gift items at the traditional wedding
Gift items at the traditional wedding

Traditional wedding cakes with bride and groom

Traditional wedding cakes with bride and groom
Traditional wedding cakes with bride and groom

The traditional engagement items

List of engagement items
1 Large tubers of yam
2 Bag of salt
3 Bag of rice
4 A few female shoes
5 A bible
6 A wristwatch
7 Gold earrings
8 Expensive material
9 One aso oke material
10 Some wax fabric
11 A number of kola nuts
12 A number of alligator pepper
13 A number of bitter kola
14 Pure honey
15 Sugar
16 Head tie
17 Toiletries
18 A few beverage drinks

Edible items

Edible Items presented to the brides family during a Yoruba traditional wedding are, large tubers of yam, alligator pepper, bag of salt, bag of white rice, kola nuts, bitter kola, beverages, alcoholic drinks and mineral water.

The Traditional Wedding Cake and Entertainment

The entertainment might consist of a celebrity master of ceremony who could be a member of the family or a professional, he or she is different from the traditional female masters of ceremony on both groom and bride side. The master of ceremony in charge of the final stages of the festivities coordinates the entertainment segment by introducing the live band or disc jockey, and adheres to the prearranged program, the marriage has been contacted and all that is left is dance, feast and make merry.

The band is usually ethnic but combines contemporary popular songs blending it with both English renditions, Yoruba native tongue and talking drums, the most popular music genre played at such traditional marriages are juju music, afro juju music, high life music, gospel music, hip hop and current wave making Nigerian sounds.

The cake

The cake is the responsibility of the bride and she chooses one that best complements the joyful occasion, it could be a chocolate cake, regular multiple layered butter or regular icing. The cake might have small manikins of two traditional cloths couple or simple inscription all to the discretion of the bride.

The cake maker tells the revealers what the cake is about and the contents just before the cutting, the bride and groom dance ends the traditional wedding. The ceremony may be recorded into video and still life pictures while the occasion was in full bloom and the end is characterized by the taking of photographs between the families, guests, friends and well wishers.


Yoruba traditional marriage is seen as an occasion for family members to reunite and catch-up on current happenings, they also see find old friends and acquaintances. It is a fun filled and meticulously planned period that announces to the world the union of their loved ones.

The couple can choose to include a civil union through a court wedding and also go through a church wedding and a separate wedding reception. Muslims who also form a large number of Yoruba people have a more simplified wedding protocol which involves Islamic scholars and religious leaders who offer prayer to the union followed by merriment in form of a party.
The setting of a Yoruba bridal engagement will look like the picture to your right or something similar to it. There are an array of chairs arranged facing each other. The bride's and the groom's families are seated separately on each side. Bride's and groom's chair is placed on stage or higher platform over-looking the audience. All attention must be on the celebrants.

Celebrant's chair should be unique, comfortable, and well decorated

The gifts brought to the bride and her family are to be wrapped in a presentable fashion.
The honey is another example of the gifts that may be given. Those items that cannot be wrapped such as aadun are presented in fancy serving dishes.

The Proposal and Acceptance Letters are also presented in a unique manner but must be easy to open. The letters could be printed on scrolls, plaques, framed etc.
Usually the cake is not all that big but unique. Just use your imagnation and let your Cake Designer bring it to life. The piece that you see here is decorated with Aso- Oke color theme.

This is the cake for the wedding reception. As you can see it is simple and yet elegant. Again, bring your imagination to life.


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In case of any omission, errors, suggestions or requests, you can drop these in the comment box below 



  1. Wow... I am thrilled...would love to go to a Yoruba wedding ceremony.. Not really ad d chance...Sadly..am not Yoruba or else would av said I would experience such cos its truly an experience... Thank u dear

  2. The Yoruba wedding is quite an outstanding ceremony, its very lovely. Thank you for the comment.

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