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5 Stages of a Traditional Yoruba Wedding Celebration

Nigerian traditional weddings are amazing! They have wonderful food, laughter, enthusiasm, and stunning colors. We are excited to present the Yorubas’ cultural rituals in this episode of our wedding series.

The Yoruba people are one of Nigeria’s three major tribes, with a rich and diversified culture. They primarily inhabit the southwest of the country. One way they demonstrate this culture is through their marriage practices. In Yorubaland, engagements (Igbeyawo) are very important.

Igbeyawo is a special ceremony that marks a couple’s official marriage. There are two speakers or spokespeople (typically hired), one for each family. The bride’s family speaker is Alaga Ijoko (the sitting MC), while the groom’s is Alaga Iduro (the standing MC). Prior to the engagement, families gather for a “introduction” ritual. This is where the families get to know each other and establish the wedding date.

Here is how a Yoruba traditional wedding (Igbeyawo) takes down:

1. Grooms’ family entry

The groom’s family makes a grand entry with music and dancing, guided by his parents and elders. Alaja Ijoko, from the bride’s side, approaches them and inquires as to why they are present. The family tells that they want to marry the bride and would pay a little amount to enter.

Everyone introduces themselves, and a representative from the bride’s family (usually a sister or cousin) reads a letter regarding the proposal. If accepted, the groom’s family receives a letter of confirmation. The audience then offers prayers for them.

2. The Groom’s Entry

The groom dances inside with his buddies. After entering with friends and in front of his in-laws, he makes four prostrations. He does his four rounds of prostrations—two with his pals and one alone in front of his new in-laws. Both family extend their arms in prayer for him as he prostrates. Finally, he makes his final prostration before his relatives and sits.

3. The Bride’s Entry

The bride, wearing a veil, enters with her bridesmaids or companions. It’s customary for women to dance and express her happiness. She kneels first before her parents, who bless her, and then the groom’s parents, who do the same. After her in-laws reveal her face, she joins her soon-to-be husband, kneels again, and they both receive blessings. The groom then hands her money, elevates her so that everyone can see, and places his cap on his head. This cap-placing indicates that she accepts his proposition.

4. Engagement gifts

After the couple has taken their seats, the Alaga Ijoko asks the bride to choose one of the various engagement presents (Eru iyawo) presented by the groom’s family.

The Eru Iyawo often includes many things specifically requested by the bride’s family, each with its own meaning.

The bride is expected to select the Bible or Qur’an, depending on her religion, from the Eru Iyawo. This contains her engagement ring. She proudly offers her decision to her hubby, who receives the engagement ring. He places the ring on her finger so she may proudly show it off to everyone. In addition, the bride price (dowry) and other fees demanded by the groom’s family are presented to the new wife’s family.

5. Cutting the cake

Without the engagement cake, a Yoruba traditional wedding would be incomplete. Although everyone’s tastes vary, the cake design often strives to depict features of Yoruba culture, such as a talking drum, a calabash, and a couple dressed traditionally. One of the most important aspects of the wedding is the bride and groom sharing and cutting the cake.

Following the cake cutting ceremony, the bride’s family publicly presents their daughter to the groom’s father in front of all of the guests.

Finally, before the concluding prayers are performed and the festivities begin (feasting and merry-making), the groom’s family gathers as a group to express their thanks to their in-laws for giving up their daughter.

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