Have You Always Wondered???: Yoruba Traditional Engagement/Wedding Ceremony

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Hello Guys! Today I have a post answering questions some people may have! The question of the day is what goes into a Yoruba Traditional Engagement/Wedding and what is it all about??

In Yoruba culture, the engagement ceremony is seen as the actual wedding ceremony, with the church event and reception being a formality due to Western influences. The engagement ceremony is held a couple of weeks or during the week leading up to the church event. The groom is dressed in an agbada and underneath that he wears, buba ati sokoto (men's blouse and pants). On his head he wears a fila (cap). The bride is in iro ati buba (wrapper and women's blouse) accompanied by an ipele (the garment on her shoulder) and a gele (headgear). Around her neck she wears traditional beads called iyun. These are made from red coral. The fabric used for the agbada, ipele and gele is aso-oke, specially handwoven for the couple for the day. Typically, the aso-oke design is unique and never repeated for anyone else and is usually chosen by the bride's mother at the weaver's store. The buba ati sokoto as well as iro ati buba are usually in a lace fabric and worn only by the couple on that day. Below is a photo of an example of the outfits the couple will typically wear.

S67 Photography
Traditional marriage consists of two parts. The Introduction & The Engagement. It is now common for these two to flow into each other as they are held on the same day while the wedding ceremony for a Christian couple takes place soon after, in the church. This is akin to the practice in the Biblical times when a bride is betrothed to her husband but the wedding celebration is at a future time.
The Introduction is the part of the ceremony where the groom’s family introduces themselves to the bride’s family and also makes known their intention to ask for the hand of the bride (from the bride’s family) in marriage to their son. This is done through the help of a spokesperson on both sides of the families. The spokesperson on the groom’s side is referred to as The Standing Chairman (“alaga iduro” in the Yoruba language). The spokesperson on the bride’s side is referred to as The Sitting Chairman (“alaga ijoko” in the Yoruba language). Most of the exchanges will be between The Standing Chairman and The Sitting Chairman. The groom and his friends are normally asked to "dobale" (prostrate) as a form of respect in front of the bride's family, in order to show how SERIOUS he is about marrying their daughter!!
S67 Photography
Then next, a proposal letter written by the groom and his family is presented to the bride’s family and in return, an acceptance letter is given to the groom’s family and the engagement follows. 
The Engagement is the part where the groom’s family is expected to bring the items listed in the engagement list given to them. This list is often agreed upon ahead of time and may include some of the following items: yams, honey, salt, fish, drinks, a suitcase of clothes for the bride, The Bible, an engagement ring, etc. Each of these items has its own significant symbolism which serves as the spring board for prayers during the ceremony. Below is an example of a "engagement list" (the amounts are in "Naira", Nigeria's national currency)
Typical Yoruba Traditional List for the Groom
-Engagement Bible-Owo Isigba(fee to open the gifts on this list (usually packaged))- ₦ 500
-Engagement RingDowry - ₦ 5,000
-One Big Suitcase-Owo Omo Ile Okunrin(Money for all male children) - ₦ 500
-2 Different Pairs of Shoes and Bags-Owo Omo Ile Obinrin(money for all female children) - ₦ 500
-2 Head Gears (of high quality)-Iyawo Ile - (money for all wives in the family) ₦ 500
-Gold Wrist Watch-Owo Iya Gbo(money for bride’s mother’s consent) - ₦ 1,000
-1 Traditional Cloth (Aso- Oke)-Owo Ijoko Agba (money for all the elders in he family) - ₦ 1,000
-4 Other Assorted Clothes-Owo Ijoko Iyawo(Money to bring in bride) - ₦ 1,000
-42 pcs Obi (Kola nut)-Owo Isiju Iyawo(money to unveil the bride) - ₦ 1, 000
-42 pcs Orogbo(Bitter kola)-Owo Ikanlekun (Entrance fee) - ₦ 500
-42 pcs Atare (Alligator pepper)-Owo Baba Gbo (money for bride’s father’s consent) - ₦ 500
-1 Decanter of Pure Honey-Owo Phone(money for phone calls) - ₦ 500
-1 Big Dish of Aadun(peppered Corn meal)-Owo Plane (money for travel to groom’s family house)- ₦ 500
-1 Big Dish of Sugar-Reading of Letter - ₦ 500
-42 pcs Big Eja Osan (Dry fish)-Owo Alaga Ijoko(money for MC) - ₦ 500
-1 Big Dish of Salt-4 Cartons of Five Alive
-42 Tubers of Big Yam-4 Crates of Can Drinks
-1 Roll of Sugar-6 Bottles of Wine
-1 Big Bag of Salt-2 Crates of Can Malt
-Umbrella-1 Empty Decanter
An example of gifts the Groom's family will bring to the engagement ceremony
The groom will present the bride with her engagement ring. Both the bride and groom are then prayed for by the heads of both families including their parents and others appointed on each family’s behalf.
 After prayers, families and friends of the bride and groom are invited to eat and dance. 
A Mother holding on to her daughter while praying for her for the last time b4 she joins into another family (Google)
What do you guys think?? Do you have any other questions about Yoruba Engagements??? Ask away!! 

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KNaijaQueen said...

Great write up Memi!!!

BEWAJI said...

The "Introduction" originally was just between the couple's immediate families, but people now have turned it into a big event, sometimes u think it's the actual wedding. The "Engagement" proper is where u have the alaga iduro and ijoko, and where u have the groom come "dobale", but these days, both events are usually merged into one to save cost..
..... and the list, well it differs from family to family, region to region eg, it's typically the Ijebus/Lagosians that request for eja osan and umbrella..
Overall, good write up, 2 thumbs up!!

Memi said...

Thanks Kelechi!!!

Bewaji you are VERY correct! Most people let them flow together or sometimes do both. For instance we already had our intro at my parents house and it was fairly small, but I'm sure on the day of the engagement there will still be other introduction stuff??

And yeah the list was just a sample! LOL! Thanks sooo much for your feedback!

BEWAJI said...

Yes memi, on the day of engagement, they will do introduction of the larger/extended family

Anonymous said...

Yourba weddings, just love it. Especially when the groom and his guys have to lie on the floor for some time, trying not to fall asleep.

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