Traditional Marriage System In Yoruba Culture, Nigeria
Marriage is seen as an important culture among the Yoruba people. A woman who is single at a marriageable age is seen as a crownless woman. Husbands are seen as crowns and a single lady is seen as incomplete without her crown. Another reason why marriage is seen as an essential practice is because Nigerians love and cherish children. Mothers are fond of pestering their children (bachelors and spinsters) to get married so that they can see their grand-children before going to their graves.
After the selection of mate, both of them will visit their parents’ house for consent to continue the relationship and proceed with the marriage rites. The traditional marriage system is divided into two sections: Introduction and the Engagement Ceremony.
1. The Introduction
This is the first marriage rite where the parents of the groom-to-be meet the parents of the bride-to-be. The meeting place is usually the in the partner house of the bride (bride’s father’s or kinsmen’ house). Introduction is informal as the groom’s family members come with bottles of wine, palm wine and few tubers of yam. On the other hand, the bride’s family serves their guests with foods and drinks. After the parents’ agreement, a date will be chosen for the engagement and the wedding ceremonies. In most cases, the date selection is done by the bride’s family members but in some situations, the couple chooses the date convenient for them.
Couples or parents do consult their oracle or religious leaders before they pick the D-day so as to know if the day is free from danger or safe. In the Yoruba culture, the date picked is always dedicated and consecrated so as to avert evil or the plans of the wicked ones. The prospective couples are advised to stay where they are and not to travel when the marriage ceremony is near. Friends and family members travel and go around in preparation of the ceremony instead of the couple.
2. The Engagement
The engagement ceremony is the most crucial and recognized part of the marriage rites. They call this “idana” where the bride’s family gives out their daughter to the groom’s family. Both families are also married to each other through the union of the children. This ceremony takes place at the bride’s house. The bride’s father or the oldest kinsmen (if the father is dead) have the sole responsibility of handling over the bride to the groom.
There is always one or two women that coordinate the ceremony. They are known as the ‘Alaga Ijoko’ or “Olopa ijoko”. These women make sure all the engagement items are complete, they sanction anyone who violates rules (especially the groom). The groom enters the venue in company of his friends and prostrate many times depending on the instructions of the ‘Alaga Ijoko’. There is also the presence of the “Alaga Iduro” or “Olopa Iduro”, which is from the groom’ side. She has the responsibilities of assisting the groom, his friends and family members beg the bride’s family for their permission to give out their daughter. Both the Alagas are familiar with the tradition and they know what to do.
A letter, which is written by the groom’s family is being read by a young lady from the groom’s side asking for the bride’s hand in marriage. The letter is being replied to through another letter written by the bride’s family accepting the proposal. This letter is also read by a young girl from the bride’s family.
Bride price is been given in form of money in an envelope from the elders to the brides’ family members which is always returned indicating that they are not selling their daughter but giving her away. The engagement items include tubers of yam, kolanuts, bitter cola, alligator pepper, bottles of honey, dry fish, suitcase that is filled with clothes, bag of salt, bag of rice, vegetable oil, bag or cartons of sugar, sugar cane, palm wine, plate of “aadun”, pairs of shoes and bags, scarf, wine, juice, umbrella, Holy Book (Bible or Qu’ran). The quantity of these items varies according to clans and family in Yoruba land. The couple are being prayed for and joined by their parents and joined as husband and wife.