Yoruba Traditional Engagement Procedure
Interestingly, traditional marriages in Nigeria, are very similar in procedure from ethnicity to ethnicity. From family visits, to gifts, negotiations, fanfare et al. And the Yoruba traditional marriage or engagement isn’t an exception.
In this article, we are going to comprehensively look into all the stages and its activities.
Stage 1: The Introduction
The families of the bride and groom meet long before any engagement ceremony takes place. The groom visits the family of the bride in company of his father and some family members. The occasion is an informal introduction without fanfare but a cordial atmosphere to know each other. They also discuss when the engagement is likely to take place.
This informal introduction does not require much except some tubers of yam and a few bottles of wine. And the family of the bride hosts the visitors with a simple meal.
Stage 2: Traditional Engagement
The traditional engagement is carried out by a contracted professional called the Alaga ijoko which translated, means the traditional master of ceremony. The professional could be a member of the bride’s family or a complete stranger.
The Alaga Ijoko is usually a woman and her duty is to properly officiate and coordinate the proceeding so each provision of tradition is strictly adhered to.
There are different stages she coordinates and each stage might elicit a collection of cash which the Alaga keeps, various fines are paid and formal introduction of the groom accompanied by his age mates and friends which also involves prostrating to the family of the bride to formally request their daughter’s hand in marriage.
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. She could be a family member or hired for the occasion.
Other festivities include the letter reading which is read by a young lady from the groom’s family also asking for the hand of the bride in marriage. The bride’s family also responds with a letter of their own.
The engagement is an integral part of the traditional marriage and as the ceremony proceeds, items listed for the engagement that was given to the groom’s family is presented. The items vary slightly in each Yoruba traditional wedding but the general articles are the same.
Yoruba Traditional Engagement List
1 box/ suitcase of clothes
Yams – 42 big tubers
Palm Oil and Vegetable Oil – 25 Litres each
Honey – 1 bottle
Native Kolanut ‘Obi’ – 25 pieces
Bitter kola ‘orogbo’ in yoruba language
Alligator pepper ‘Atare’ – 42 pieces
Maize/ corn Cake ‘Aadun’ in yoruba language
Rice -1 bag
Salt – 1 bag
Wine – 1 bottle
Yoruba Traditional Cloth (Aso- Oke)
NB- The things on the items list are not cast in stone, as the groom can decide to do more.
There is no fixed amount of money for the bride price (Owo ori), as it is normally decided by the bride’s family and is subject to negotiation. But in many families peg it around N5,000 naira.
However, there are other fees to be paid by the groom/his family, and the traditional MC (Alaga), makes it all very interesting by playfully ‘making the groom pay’ before they unveil the bride, get her parents consent and so on. And it’s as follows:
Owo Isigba – N500 (This is used to open the packaged gift items brought by the bridegroom)
Owo Ikanlekun – N500 (entrance fee)
Owo Ijoko Iyawo – N1,000 (This is the money given to elders in the groom’s family)
Owo Isiju Iyawo – 500 (fees paid to unveil the bride)
Owo Baba Gbo – N500 (This amount is paid to ask for the bride’s father consent)
Owo Iya Gbo – N1,000 (This is the amount of money paid to ask for the bride’s mother consent)
Owo Omo Ile Okunrin – N500 (This is the money given to all male children in the bride’s family)
Owo Omo Ile Obinrin – N500 (This is the money given to all female children in the bride’s family)
Owo Iyawo Ile – N500 (This is the money given to all wives in the bride’s family)
Owo Ijoko Agba – N1,000 (This is the amount of money reserved for elders of the bride’s family)
Owo Alaga Ijoko (amount of money reserved for the MC) – N500.
The Groom and Bride:
Some of the engagement protocols officiated by the Alaga ijoko is carried out in the absence of the groom, the professionals go through a question and answer session were the bride’s moderator puts the representatives of the groom through some hurdles.
At one point the groom’s presence is needed and he comes forward and goes through the introduction process to the bride’s family and parents. When all requirements are met, the groom is led and allowed to seat on one of the two large chairs conspicuously placed in from of the guests. The chairs are artfully decorated in the chosen ceremonial colours by the wedding planner.
The bride is then heralded into the venue of the ceremony followed by her friends, all dressed in traditional attires like buba and iro, as they join her in a dance down the hall.
The bride also goes through a few protocols, but money is only given to her and not taken from her as in the case of the groom. She is introduced to the groom’s family before she takes her place beside the groom. At this stage, they may consider themselves married.
The wife displays some wifely traits by feeding the groom some cake and wine, even a kiss to the amusement of the guests.
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 groom could decide to wear 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.
So congrats in advance as you prepare for your big day!
NB- Your contributions on this topic are highly appreciated.
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