When we hear the word marriage, we all develop different schemas and episodes of what we know about marriage based on our cultural backgrounds. As there are cultural
differences in food, dress codes, parenting, norms and values, so it is with marriage.
In the Igbo tribe of Nigeria, marriage follows almost the same pattern in every clan. Originally, when a man performs that rites, he is fully married and can go ahead with living and exercising the rights of a married person- consummation of marriage. But by the encroachment of foreign culture and the introduction of Church wedding, even the performance of the traditional marriage rites, does not give one conjugal rights.
In Igbo culture, before acculturation started, the steps to getting married are as follows:
1. Visit the family of your intended wife with your parents, close relatives or friends. It is called “iku aka.” This is not done empty handed. The person goes with a keg of palm wine or a bottle of whisky, but this really differs from person to person. Some people who can afford a box of foreign wine, it is also acceptable.
An accepted visit is always marked by accepting and consuming the drinks presented by the groom and his family. It is called “Nnabata ibu ogo.”
2. The next step is the intended groom’s revisit to the “potential” in-Law’s family for the collection of “list” which is the comprehensive list of items to be used during the marital rites. This list varies from one community to the other. Some lists are exhaustive while some are not. The list would contain the numbers of yam tubers, goats, tobacco powder, gallons of raffia wine and palm wine, boxes of soft/alcoholic beverages, soaps and biscuits, items for the kindred women folks, men folks, youths and even children. In a town like “Mbise”, the list’s strength depends on the educational background of the girl. Like my friend would say, “…for you to be married to an ‘educated’ Mbise girl, you must be rich.”
3. The next step is the Traditional Marriage proper. This is the day the groom pays the dowry (bride price). This marks the onset of presentation of the listed items above. If they are incomplete, it would be rejected. After this, the bride’s father, in the presence of the spectators, friends and relatives, hands over a cup (iko nkwu) of palm wine to his daughter, ordering her to go show the world her husband.
When this is done, the bride pretends to be searching for the groom. This lasts for few minutes solely on her own discretion. And when she finally finds him, she kneels and gives him the “iko nkwu” to drink. This is actually to tell the world that she is properly married.
The groom empties the cup in one gulp or two and replaces the content with some money- any amount he wishes. Then they would proceed to the bride’s father, kneeling for his final blessings. After this, its dancing and merriments.