Marriage is one of the oldest institutions among Yoruba, it marks the end and the beginning of a new era between two different individuals, who agreed to live together, and through their union creates everlasting friendship between homes of their birth.

In times past, marriage matters were never left in the hands of prospective couples, rather, families’ affairs. Several steps were required before marriage could be consummated, although, things have really changed; yet, some of these steps are still valid and observed in a marriage journey by couples, because of their cultural relevance.

Yoruba traditional marriage ceremony is known as Igbeyawo in Yoruba usually takes place weeks, months before the white wedding ceremony while some families choose to hold both wedding on the same day.

In this setting, the bride’s family typically responsible for covering the ceremony but some families choose to split the costs among themselves. The Yoruba wedding is carried out in different stages which includes introduction and engagement.

Steps In Marriage:

Search for spouse initiated by males (Ifojusode), Wall-scratching time (Idẹgiri), Acceptance /Voice-opening (Iṣiun), Family soliciting (Itọrọ), Betrothal (Idana), Marriage proper and bride hand-over (Igbeyawo) Search for spouse begins with a man, when he is of age. The potential groom begins visiting night market, local streams (where laundry is done, mostly by maidens), Public Square, female centers.

Another search method is through friends, who have female siblings. Also, through potential groom sisters, these individuals serve as-go-between-brother-and-female friend.

At times, parents do the search, by looking out for a well-behaved child from a reputable home; and sometimes, in order to create lasting friendship, parents arrange for a union between their wards.

Regardless of the search method, should a suitable spouse be found, the male child will tell his father.

The male spouse continues his visits to the lady (to seek consent); the lady as it were without a word may have agreed, but still playing hide game (Idẹgiri). At this time, the lady never look at her would-be-spouse face, rather, she keeps looking on the floor or wall-scratching; probably in the presence of a chaperone.

The next marriage step is, “Iṣiun” meaning “I have accepted your proposal” after many visits to the prospective bride home, exchange personal of gifts. At this time, all family members of the lady have known their future son-in-law, background search on character, family reputation is already done and known. The lady feels it is time to consent, and move the relationship further after seeking parental advice and blessing on the matter.

When the lady agrees, marriage journey moves to the fourth and most important level “Itọrọ” that is soliciting for the prospective wife from father’s house. This stage in marriage steps is undertaken by the most senior males in the two houses, if the requests are granted, then the groom’s family moves to the next crucial stage of marriage called Betrothals (Idana), the second to the last leg in a Yoruba marriage.

Idana is the first public request of a female child, for hands in marriage from her father’s house. At this occasion, items of both spiritual and social values are presented to the bride’s family. These items are:

Honey (Oyin) – a bottle of wild honey, the symbolic value of this item is that, couple’s life will be sweet like honey; and be blessed with promising children.

Alligator Pepper (Atare) it comes in a pod with multiple seed, it symbolizes blessing, healthy and prosperous children for the couple.

Ground-nut Cake (Adun) – it is a local cake made from ground nut; it signifies sweetness, blessing and prosperous future for the couple and their children.

Local wine (Ọti-Ṣẹkẹtẹ) – this represents water, which is life, treasured for its multiple use. Since no one ever dislikes and speaks evil of water, so the couple will live a peaceful life, free from hate and dislike.

Kola-nut (Obi-Abata with four halves, 42 or 100 pieces; in some cases it can more) – Kola-nut has several social and spiritual values in Yoruba land, when it comes to marriage, it symbolizes fertility. The kola-nut brought on this day will be used to pray for the fruit of belly.

Suitcase of assorted traditional outfits

Bible/Quran – depending on the religion

1 Big Jar of Vegetable/Olive Oil

1 Large Bag of Salt

12 Tubers of Yam

12 Whole Stock Fish

2 Baskets of Assorted Fresh Fruits (edible arrangements are good)

1 Large Bottle of Honey

4 cases of 6/pack of Apple Cider

2 cases of 24/pack of Malt

8 packs of 24/pack of Assorted Soda/Pop drinks

4 packs of Assorted Cookies

8 packs of 10/pack of Capri Sun

4 packs of 24/pack bottled water

The engagement is an integral part of the traditional marriage and as the ceremony proceeds, items listed for the engagement that was given to the groom’s family is presented to the bride’s family. The items vary slightly in each Yoruba traditional wedding but the general articles are the same. The bride is then heralded into the venue of the ceremony followed by her friends, all dressed in traditional attires like buba and iro, ankra or lace long skirt and blouse as they join her in a boisterous dance down the hall.

The bride also goes through a few protocols but money is only given to her and not taken from her as in the case of the groom. She is introduced to the groom’s family before she takes her place beside the groom. At this stage, they may consider themselves married. The wife displays some wifely traits by feeding the groom some cake and wine, even a kiss to the amusement of the guests.

Yoruba traditional marriage is seen as an occasion for family members to reunite and catch-up on current happenings. They also see find old friends and acquaintances. It is a fun filled and meticulously planned period that announces to the world the union of their loved ones.


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