IGBO TRADITIONAL MARRIAGE
“IGBA NKWU NWANYI”
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The “Igba Nkwu Nwanyi” which means ‘The wine carrying of a woman’ is the customary traditional marriage ceremony of the Igbo people of Nigeria. Marriage in Igbo culture is a family affairs. The family members, the kindred, community are all involved in the marriage process. When a man sees a lady he intends to marry, he made it known to her; he then informs his parent. If the lady accept the marriage proposal, with the consent of his parent, the Igbo traditional marriage process begins. In the olden days, parents chooses spouse for their sons and daughters.
Before a man takes an Igbo lady as a wife, there are several steps/stages that must be followed. This steps differs slightly from one community to another.
Step I: The First Introduction- Ikwu Aka (Knocking/to inquiry)
The intending groom accompanied by his father or an elder relative or a close family friend to visit the parents of the lady to be formally introduced and state their son’s intention to marry their daughter. They take with them some alcoholic drinks to the home of the bride-to-be (but not compulsory at this stage). The man’s family will not expect an answer from the lady’s family in regard to propose of their visit at this first meeting. They will schedule another date for the second meeting with the bride-to-be kinsmen (Umunna). Before the second meeting, comes the Iju Ese/ Iju Agugu.
Step II: Family Background Investigation - Iju Ese/ Iju Agugu
After the first meeting, both families will carry out investigation on each other to know if the families are of good linage, character, health information, religious practice etc. The outcome of this investigation determines the next step in the marriage process. Any negative finding, the families can decide to end the marriage process because they will no longer be in support of the marriage. If there is no negative finding, they proceed for the second visit.
During this return visit, the intending groom’s family, together with their extended family member and kinsmen will meet with the bride-to-be family and restate their intention. The second introduction is more extensive. Some of the items offer as gift to the bride’s family include kola-nuts, palm wine, wine (alcoholic/non-alcoholic), wrappers, chicken etc. At this stage, the bride-to-be is called out by her father before both families to greet their guest. He (the bride’s father) informs her of the guests’ propose of visit (marriage proposal), if they should accept or decline? When she says “Yes” the both families will applaud and ‘the traditional marriage list’ will be given to the groom’s family. The list includes items for the bride’s parent, the kinsmen (Umunna), the daughters of the kindred (Umuada), the Youth, and the community. This list varies from one community to another, and from family to family. The traditional marriage list will be fulfilled on an agreed day or “the Igba Nkwu Day”.
In recent times, the groom’s family may require the bride-to-be family to monetize the whole items in the traditional marriage list (instead of them buying those items, they pay cash or bank transfer to the bride’s family. The bride’s family will then buy those items on the list and present on the D-Day). In some community, the traditional marriage list is given after “Imego Nwanyi” is done.
Step III: Bride Price or Dowry - Imego Nwanyi
This is the money paid by the groom to the parent of the bride-to-be. This stage comes with a lot of negotiation between the groom’s family and the bride. At the end, there is always an agreement. In some families, the father of the bride takes the bride price (the negotiated amount), takes little out of it and return the rest of the money to the groom’s family stating that he is not giving out his daughter for sale but rather as a companion to he and he should take care of their daughter. In the case of divorce in future according to Igbo culture, the exact amount collected by the bride’s father will be returned to the groom’s family.
Step IV: The Bride’s Wine Carrying - Igba Nkwu Nwanyi
This is also known as the traditional wedding day. It is an agreed date chosen by the groom’s family for the Igba Nkwu Nwanyi event to be held at the bride’s family compound. This is an open event whereby the public are invited along with friends and well-wishers to witness the union of the couple.
In most times, the bride’s price is paid a day before the Igba Nkwu Nwanyi. In the case whereby the bride’s price and marriage list are agreed to be paid on this day (Igba Nkwu Nwanyi), it is done before the wine carrying (ie before the event starts).
Photo credit: Avenue Calgary
The Igba Nkwu Nwanyi is the most important part of the marriage process in Igboland. The bride is given a calabash cup known as “Iko” filled with palm wine by her father (or an uncle in the case the bride’s father is late), to ‘search’ and ‘show’ the public who she has chosen as a husband. Old and young men beckons on her to bring the drink to them in the process of this ‘searching’ for her husband. When she finally sees her husband, she kneels before him, sip the drink and offer it to him, he collects and drink the palm wine. This signifies they are traditional married. This action is followed by cheers and jubilation from the audience. The groom put some money (no specific amount) inside the calabash cup as they dance to meet the parent of the bride for marriage blessings. After the parental marriage blessings, the ceremony now climax with native music (live bands or Djs) dance by the couple, friends and well-wishers; feasting and merriment continues and presentation of gifts as well. At the end, the bride follows the groom’s family to their home signifying a change of home and addiction to her husband’s family.
Photo credit: Nairaland Forum
Idu Uno (Bride settlement)
After the traditional wedding, comes the ‘Idu Uno’ (Bride settlement) by her family. Before the bride embarks on her journey to the husband’s home, her family gives her a lot of gift items to start family life with. These items includes cooking utensils, bed, bed sheets, wrappers, box, sewing machine and so on. These depends on the bride’s family financial capability. This is done to ease the financial burden on the new couple. In recent times, the ‘Idu Uno’ is done by most families on the ‘White Wedding’ reception.