If you’re a man who is planning to marry an Igbo woman, then you are in the right place at the right time.
We are delving in the beautiful Igbo culture and will get you familiar with the Igbo engagement ceremony stages, processes and the customary marriage rites a groom is required to complete – trust us, it’s not as overwhelming as people say it is.
At the end of reading this comprehensive piece, you will get an overview of the Igbo engagement and traditional marriage ceremony process, as well as see what goes into the Igbo traditional engagement list that the groom should take to his in-laws, so that you’ll know, in advance, what to expect.
Our aim is to give you an idea of what to budget for when preparing for an Igbo traditional marriage ceremony. While this is a guide for grooms who want to marry Igbo women, note that the Igbo custom requires that a groom is required to officially ask his in-laws for the customary engagement list. If your prospective father-in-law is alive, he is the one to ask; if not, ask your fiancée’s mother – she knows how to get the list (usually, she’ll ask for it from the elders in the village).
The Igbo traditional engagement ceremony is in stages, but they can be done a few days apart – it all depends on when you (the groom) get the engagement gifts ready. If you’re on a low budget, and your future wife understands, you can skip one of the stages. Please find below the comprehensive guide you will need.
Overview of Customary Traditional Marriage Proposal in Ndigbo (Igbo People)
First, you must understand that before a man marries an Igbo girl/ woman, he must first ask for her hand in marriage, from her parents, as well as her umunna (her extended family, represented by the elders). The modern /Oyinbo/ western-style ‘marriage proposal on-bended knee to the woman’ doesn’t count – her ‘yes’ to you (the groom) is not really only or final say, you still have to formally “ask” her parents, as well as her kindred (extended family) in her traditional or ancestral home town.
So, it’s not enough to also announce your engagement or proposal (marriage-) intentions to her parents. Marriage is a communal thing in Igboland, like everywhere else in Nigeria, so you (the groom) are expected to ask her clan for her hand in marriage in accordance with the Igbo custom and tradition.
The 4 Stages of Igbo Traditional Marriage Ceremony
According to the Ndigbo traditions and customs, the Igbo traditional wedding/ marriage involves the following stages:
- Marriage Introduction/ Proposal/ Inquiry (Iku Aka or Iju Ese): This happens pre-wedding, and here, the bride and groom’s family get to meet and be formally introduced;
- Consent From Her / Extended Family: This is the traditional marriage proposal. As with the Igbo customs, the groom asks for the bride’s hand in marriage, in the presence of her Umunna (direct and extended family, with family elders).
- The Dowry/ Bride Price Payment (Ime Ego): The dowry is a presentation of the customary list of gifts by the groom to the bride’s family, to ask for her hand in marriage. It is only accepted if the family accepts the groom/ finds him worthy to marry their daughter. The dowry is not an exchange or money to buy the women but has a significance in Igbo culture. Dowry is also practiced in many parts of the World, even during Biblical times.
- Wine-Carrying Ceremony (Igba Nkwu Nwanyi): This is the traditional wedding reception party.
In order to help you as the groom understand what is involved when marrying an Igbo lady, this is our first post on the vibrant Igbo traditional wedding stages and culture, we implore you to join us next time for the remaining guide in this series.
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