The marriage process in indigenous Yoruba land starts right after a young man has made a choice of a maiden he desires. His parents’ appoints an ‘Alarina’ that is a middleman who starts the marriage process formally by inquiring into the family of the supposed bride.
After this, a meeting is fixed and it begins the formal courting. Another meeting is fixed and the supposed groom is given a list called ‘Eru Iyawo’ which includes the dowry to be paid at the wedding ceremony.
Eru Iyawo (Traditional Wedding Bridal List)
- Tubers of yam
- Palm oil and vegetable oil
- Obi (Kolanut)
- Atare (Alligator pepper)
- Sugar cane
- Honey (1 big bottle)
- Fruits (different types)
- Orogbo (Bitter Kola)
- Cow or goat
- Eja Osan (dried fish)
- Alcoholic drinks
- Owo Ori (The bride price)
- 1 big suitcase that contains shoes and matching bags, different types of fabric ranging from Ankara to lace, including gele and aso oke for the bride.
- 1 complete jewelry set with wrist watch, earrings and neck chains
- Engagement ring
- Bible or Quran
Dowry- Bride Pride
The bride price is usually not fixed and it is returned to the couple on the day of the wedding in the full view of everyone present.
Fines to be Paid
- Owo Ijoko Agba: fees for the elder’s consent
- Owo Baba Gbo : fees for the father’s consent
- Owo Iya Gbo : fees for the mother’s consent
- Owo Ikanlekun: fees for door knocking
- Owo Omo Ile: fees for the children of the household
- Owo Isiju Iyawo: fees for unveiling the bride
- Owo oko: fees for the bride’s transportation
- Owo Iyawo Ile: fees for the married women of the household
- Owo Leta Kika: fees for reading the letter
- Owo Telephone: a recent modern addition meaning fees for telephone calls made to bring in the bride
- Owo Isigba: fees for unveiling the engagement gifts
- Owo alaga Ijoko: fees for the moderator of the bride’s family.
Yoruba traditional engagement Ceremony
On the day of the traditional engagement, the program which is usually moderated by two people usually female, that is the Alaga Ijoko for the bride’s family and the Alaga Iduro or the groom’s family starts off with the entrance of the groom and his entourage.
The groom wears an Agbada which is a two layered material of heavy dimensions like the Aso-Oke (traditional hand-woven material) , it might be cotton, and damask or he might wear lace or even wax fabric (Ankara). His colour combination should complement the bride's and reflect the colour his family has chosen.
The bride's 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 gele which is the head tie, the buba (the blouse) and an iro which is a large material tied round her waist and is usually ankle length. The colours she chooses reflects the colour theme her family has chosen but should also complement the groom's outfit and look identical. She can wear accessories like gold necklace, beads, bangles, gold earrings and shoes to match.
The traditional engagement is carried out by a contracted professional called the Alaga ijoko (master of the ceremony. Her duty is to properly officiate and coordinate the proceeding so each provision of tradition is strictly adhered too. The groom's family also hire a professional called the Alaga iduro which means the standing master of ceremony, who follows the groom and family to ask for the hand of their daughter. The Alaga iduro is also a professional custodian of Yoruba wedding tradition.
The Groom is barred from entering the venue until he pays money to the Alaga Ijoko who then ushers him and his entourage into the venue with singing and dancing. They proceed to greet the bride’s family who are already seated, with the males prostrating and the females kneeling down. After the greetings, a proposal letter from the groom’s family is now read out by the youngest female in the bride’s family, stating their intention to marry the bride.
The groom is made to prostrate with the friends first before his own family and then before the bride’s family. He makes intentions towards the bride known and is made to beg for her hand in marriage.
The bride is the last person to arrive at the venue; she is veiled, and then escorted into the venue by her friends with lots of singing and dancing. She kneels in front of her parents for prayers and then proceeds to do the same or her groom’s parents. She is then unveiled by the groom’s parents; she joins her future husband and dresses him up with ‘Fila( Yoruba cap) to signify her acceptance of the union.
At the instruction of the Alaga Ijoko, the bride goes to the place where the engagement gifts have been arranged and she is asked to pick the most valuable thing there. She picks up the Bible or Quran which has a ring attached to it and moves back to her groom, he puts the ring on the fourth finger of her left hand and they move on to cut the traditional marriage cake if there is any.
It is at this point that the dowry is handed over to the various groups entitled to it, the bride’s father makes a show of returning the bride price to the groom after taking a small sum from the whole, to show the world that he loves his daughter too much to sell her while entreating his new son in law to take proper care of her.
This signifies the end of the traditional marriage rites. But the event continues with a lot of eating and celebratory dancing.