It is often said that when it comes to a Nigerian wedding, the bride and groom don’t have a say. Nigerian wedding is the affair of the entire family on both sides. Let’s say the couple wants a private wedding of just a few family members and friends. But the family has a different idea of inviting the entire community including their ancestors to their children’s wedding. In this scenario, the family wins.
In a Nigerian wedding, the more, the merrier. That’s the unofficial motto. Don’t also forget wedding crashers, people who are not invited but make their way to a wedding ceremony to drag food with invited guests. But the brighter side is that Nigerian weddings are often lively and fun. There’s a lot of singing, dancing, and general entertainment.
Nigerian wedding ceremony
Nigerian couples usually have two weddings – traditional and Christian/Islamic/court weddings. The traditional weddings usually come first before the other weddings take place which could be a few days or even years apart. There are an estimated 371 tribes in Nigeria, with each tribe having a unique way of performing traditional weddings. Despite the differences, all of these tribes have common elements during the wedding process.
Proposal and Introduction
The first step is the man must seek the woman’s consent for marriage. This is called a proposal which can happen at any time in any place. If she agrees to marry him, then tradition requires that he and select family members go to the house of the bride’s family with some items such as hot drinks, kola, etc., to introduce himself and make known his intentions. In Igbo, this is called Iku aka n’uzo which literally means to “knock on the door.”
Normally, the bride is called in front of the family members to declare her consent to marry the groom. Then her family will also give their consent by presenting a list of items the groom will have to provide for the wedding to take place. This list varies from tribe to tribe.
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The groom’s family usually presents the bride price to the bride’s family before the wedding date as a sign of respect. However, it’s not compulsory as some prefer to present it on the day of the wedding ceremony. The most important thing is that the bride price must be paid before the wedding is allowed to take place. This often takes a lot of time because there will be some negotiations and disagreements that usually follow.
The bride price is regarded as the most important part of the wedding family. It is a symbolic way for the groom and his family to show appreciation to the bride’s family for the hand they played in raising the woman he will get to call his wife. It’s also a way of acknowledging the sacrifices her parents and family members may have made throughout their lives, the investment they made in her education, etc. This is why the bride price is not just given to the bride’s nuclear family but shared with extended family as well.
Traditional wedding ceremony
This is where the main parry takes place. By this time, every item on the list including the bride price has been paid in full. Here are the common elements we love to see in a Nigerian traditional wedding ceremony:
- Breaking of the kola: Kola nut is the bitter fruit of the kola tree. The breaking of the kola nut signifies the start of any traditional event including traditional weddings for many tribes and is a way for elders to welcome guests. Here, the kola must be blessed by the head of the bride’s family where he prays for the prosperity of everyone present. Then it will be broken into different pieces to be distributed to male guests that have gathered for the ceremony.
- Wedding outfit: The bride and groom usually wear coordinated colour outfits for the ceremony. While the groom is allowed to wear just one outfit throughout the ceremony, the bride must have at least two outfits as she will be appearing twice for the ceremony. The first appearance must be to dance around the arena to greet guests while the second appearance is to officially meet her husband and take him to her father for his blessings.
- Aso ebi: Aso ebi means “the family clothes” and it is one of the most striking aspects of Nigerian weddings. It is one of the things that make the wedding very colourful where both bride and groom’s family and friends wear different harmonious attires to grace the occasion. However, the colours must be decided by the bride and groom.
- Dancing and Spraying money: This is the highlight of the entire ceremony where guests spray the couple with cash on the dance floor as a way of showering them with blessings and to keep them dancing on.
- Food: If there’s no food in a Nigerian wedding ceremony, wetin we gain? Food is a VERY IMPORTANT aspect of the ceremony where guests will be served different dishes. Jollof rice is a must-have in a typical Nigerian wedding otherwise guests will go home cursing both bride and groom and their ancestors.
- Presentation of gifts: This usually comes last in a traditional wedding ceremony. Here, the bride’s family will present gift items to the bride to accompany her to her new home. These are usually essential home items such as pots, stoves/gas cooker, wrappers, boxes, food items, cash, etc. Guests can also present their gifts to the couple as well.
Nigerian wedding reception
When we say Nigerian wedding reception, we think of the religious or what Christians call a white wedding. First, there must be a reception hall which must have well-arranged tables and chairs for the couple and guests. Lighting and decorations are also important to highlight the celebratory feel of the occasion. Here is a highlight of a typical Nigerian wedding reception:
- Arrival of guests
- Introduction of special guests
- Introduction of bride and groom
- Opening prayer and chairman’s remark
- Sharing of food (Jollof rice very important)
- Cutting of the cake
- Couple’s first dance and spraying of money
- Father and daughter dance
- Mother and son dance (optional)
- Tossing of bouquet
- Dance, dance, dance
- Vote of thanks by the groom
- Closing remark by the chairman
Nigerian wedding dance
Dance is an important part of a Nigerian wedding. The couple are allowed to dance first before family and other guests join them. For rich families, professional dancers are invited to entertain guests.
Nigerian wedding food
If you go to a Nigerian wedding and there is no food, please leave that place. The typical food items you will find in Nigerian weddings are jollof rice, fried rice, white rice with chicken sauce, soup (Egusi, bitter leaf, afang, efo riro, etc), and swallow which is usually semo, ponded yam or amala. Drinks can be soft or alcoholic drinks like beers, whisky and wine.
It’s also painful to watch food pass around to guests and nothing is reaching your side. E dey pain to the bone marrow.
Nigerian wedding attire
As previously stated, the couple wears a coordinated colour outfit for their traditional wedding while family and friends wear aso ebi to grace the occasion. For the white wedding, the groom only wears his tux while the bride wears her wedding dress for the church and can change into another outfit for the reception. However, this is not compulsory as many brides still prefer to wear their wedding gowns throughout the ceremony.
The bride’s bridal train will also wear coordinated outfits while the groomsmen do the same. Aso ebi is also part of outfits worn by family and friends of the couple.