By Somto Okoroma and Favour Chinaka
identifying husband in presence of Audience
Marriage in Igbo land is a revered event that doesn’t just include the bride and groom, but also calls for the presence of the entire family and the community at large. In Igbo, marriage is Igba Nkwu which loosely translates to a wine carrying ceremony. This name can be derived from the main occurrence at an Igbo wedding, which is when the bride walks around the ceremony with wine, ‘looking’ for her new husband. However, before we are able to delve into the events that occur on the day of the Igba Nkwu, it’s imperative that we discuss all the necessary stages one is required to pass through before the big day.
Stage 1: Ikụ Aka N’uzo (Knocking on the Door)
In this initial stage, the groom visits the family of the bride and informs them of his intention to marry their daughter. Typically, the groom visits the bride’s family accompanied by his kinsmen including his father, uncles, elders or any other immediate male family members. Meanwhile, the bride’s family waits at home getting ready to welcome their guests by cleaning and preparing an abundance of food. Upon arrival, the bride’s family welcomes them and presents them with kolanut. The groom’s family will then make his son’s intention known and after speaking to his daughter, the father will go on to accept or deny.
Stage 2: Ije Di Abali Ano (Four nights visit)
Compared to other traditions we’ll look at later in the article, this one is a bit older but no less helpful for Igbo Marriages. It’s called Ije Di Abali Ano (eejay-dee-abahleah-anoh) translated in English to, ‘’Going for four days of marriage.’’ During this time, after the man has come to the bride’s family home and gotten acceptance from her and the family regarding his intentions, the girl will then go home with the man’s family and stay for four days. This is after a couple of days of preparation to make sure the woman’s stay at her future family’s home is still comfortable. After four days, she will then go home to her family, where she will be asked by her parents if she likes the place and the family she is getting married to, as well as quench any other concerns they may have about how they live.
Ije Di Abali Asatọ (Eight nights visit)
This next part can be seen as, another step, but is just another part of this procedure. Ije Di Abali Asato is essentially an extension of this shared living experience. On her own, the woman will then go back to the man’s family to stay again for 8 days. This shows she has accepted the family, and their customs. After 8 days, if the man’s family accepts her, they will then purchase a lot of gifts and take her home to his parents, showing they have accepted her, and she also accepts them. This is a period of the girl understanding the family she is getting married to, and the family understanding her, if both will be able to live together as husband and wife: if they like her they will take her home with gifts, if they don’t, they will ask her to go home. This is, in the end, a testing period. The girl is observing the family and the way they run things; if they’re clean people, have good relations, mannerisms, and whether or not they’ll treat her well, etc. While on the other side, they’re doing the same; checking her house training, if she can cook, her on manners, what time she wakes up to take care of things she needs to do, if she’s sloppy, etc. This gives the two sides a chance to get to know one another, and is crucial to the marriage process.
Stage 3: Ijụ Ajụjụ ( Process of Investigation
Through this process, both families get to know more about each other by making inquiries throughout the villages and towns. The investigation aids the families in learning more about their origins, the locations of their villages, family dynamics, the members of each family, and even their personalities. The results of the family background check may influence and define the next stage of the engagement process. Also, it is usual for either family to halt or postpone the marriage procedure at this point due to the results they garner.
Stage 4: Onụ Ahịa Nwunye / Ego Isi Nwanyi (Negotiating the Dowry)
The dowry is a major aspect when it comes to Igbo marriage. It is any specified amount of money that the groom is required to pay in order to take the bride home. The two families would meet to discuss the amount required to be paid, and in some cases negotiations can be made. This part of the Igbo marriage process has disappeared in certain communities due to modernization, or has been adjusted to meet societal standards. The dowry is no longer seen as a way to “buy” the bride, but is now viewed as a form of respect and to acknowledge the culture. The bridal list can also be shared during this time, which consists of food items and apparel for the family as well as the community as a whole. A typical bridal list includes:
- Tubers of yam
- George wrappers / Ankaras
- Kola nuts
- A cash value and a variety of other things
Stage 5: Igba Nkwụ, Atilogwu (Traditional Wedding & Bridal Dance)
This is the final step of the traditional wedding! In most communities, this wedding is more important than religious or civil weddings. The Igbo traditional marriage ceremony, which takes place at the bride’s family house with both families, friends, and well-wishers present to witness the union of the couple, is the only part of the ritual that is open to the public. The bride’s family is in charge of organizing the traditional wedding day, while the groom’s relatives provide the funds. Both families will issue invitations to friends, well-wishers, and even community members to attend. A wine bottle and some cash are included with these invites, which would be personally brought by that of the engaged couple, as a mark of respect and with the expectation that you’ll attend. Additionally, many Igbo dishes and beverages, as well as music, dancing, and other forms of celebratory entertainment, are prepared for the guests.