Traditional Marriage System Among The Igbos

Traditional Marriage System Among The Igbos

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The traditional marriage is known as “Igba Nkwu” in Igbo land. In the eastern part of Nigeria, marriage is not seen only as the union between the intending couple but also an affair between the parents, extended families and the members of the society. This is why divorce is difficult among them. After a man has found his prospective wife, the first thing is for him to inform his parents. The introduction process among the Igbo people is in stages.

Stage 1 : The Visitation

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This is a stage where the prospective groom visit the lady’s father’s or family’s house. He will be accompanied by his father. During this visit, which is usually in the evening, the groom’s father will state the reason for their visit, their visit will be welcomed by the parents of the lady but will not be given a definite answer about the proposal.

Stage 2 : First Formal Introduction

This is the most important stage of the stages of traditional introduction in this culture called the “Ikwu aka”. The groom is accompanied by his father and other kinsmen. The purpose of their visit will be repeated and the groom’s kinsmen will introduce themselves, their status, occupation, titles, lineage and descent system.  The bride’s father will call on his daughter to accept or reject the proposal. If the proposal is accepted, there will be subsequent marriage activities and vice versa.

Stage 3 : Second Formal Introduction

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Here, the groom with his relatives, on hearing the prospective bride’s acceptance of their proposal, will visit the bride’s parents again but now with gifts. Their intention of marrying the lady will be stated for the third time. Gifts such as clothing materials, wrappers, wine, kolanuts will be presented to the bride’s parents while the bride’s parents will give food and drinks to their guests. There will be a secret meeting between the two families where the dowry (bride price) and other marriage items will be discussed. This list will be given to the groom’s family before they leave.

Stage 4 : The Traditional wedding

Every Igbo couple is expected to have a traditional wedding. This wedding takes place in the bride father’s house. The ceremony is a joint ceremony that involves all members of the society. The groom’s family comes with the items that were given to them. These items are cost because they include the gifts that will be shared by the parents, family members, the bride’s age-mates, village elders and important people in that society. Marriage could be dismissed if any of the items is missing or not complete.

The price of the dowry depends on the money spent on the lady, her qualifications and achievements so far.  Sometimes, the father of the bride do not collect money because je believes his daughter is not for sale. The gifts presented include tubers of yam, bag of rice, kola nut, goats, chicken, cow, stock fish, clothes, wrapper, shoes, bags, jewelries, soft drinks, kegs of palm wine, beverages, toiletries, cigarettes and tobacco. The quantity depends on each community within the Igbo land.

During the ceremony, the bride goes around with boiled eggs which shows that she is industrious. After that, the bride’s father fills a wooden cup known as the ”iko” with wine for his daughter and she go around with it looking for her husband. After sighting the groom, she will present the cup to her husband on her knees while he sips out of the wine. The couple will be prayed for and blessed by the parents and elders of the community after which they are pronounced as husband and wife. Foods and drinks will be provided by the bride’s family.

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