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Getting Married in Igboland

By Obinna Ibe, Umuahia

For the Igbos in the South East Nigeria, their traditional marriage is not a tea party. It is not a venture one rushes into without preparation. This is because it entails a whole lot for the would-be suitor who wants to ask the hands of a lady in marriage. On the whole, traditional marriage rites vary from one community to another, one state or the other of five main Igbo speaking states : Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo.States such as Rivers and Delta that are also Igbo- speaking are also not left out.
In the olden days especially in Abia and Imo, traditional marriages were celebrated at night where the groom and his relatives will go to his wife’s community to perform the necessary marriage rites before taking his wife home which often lasted till early hours of the following day.
But now days, traditional marriages in Igboland have taken a new dimension and it is celebrated in the day time with the popular new concept called “Igba Nkwu”, which literary means carrying of palm wine. This new concept was borrowed from Anambra State and has now become the in-thing in the whole of Igboland. This is what cultural analysts’ make traditional marriage in Igbo land somehow expensive.
Speaking on traditional marriage in Igboland, Mr. Celestine Ihejirika, a journalist from Aboh Mbaise in Imo State told DAILY ASSET that he did his traditional marriage in 2002 and that time it cost him about N120,000 but however said for now, one should be thinking of between spending between N200,00 and N250,000 depending on family, community or state in question in Igbo land.
He added that what makes traditional marriage in Igbo land costlier than the Yoruba and Hausa/Fulani speaking zones of the country is because of the innovation of “Igba Nkwu”.
To this end, Ihejirika said that apart from payment of bride price or dowry, settlement of Umunna/Kindred’s rites and the women group, the settlement of the lady’s father and mother’s marriage rites, where one spends “real money” is the “Igba Nkwu” stuff which he said involves hiring of a video coverage, photographer, hiring of musical life band or DJ, buses, chairs, canopies, tables, cooling van, decoration of venue for the occasion.
He maintained the “Igba Nkwu of the traditional marriage is a borrowed culture from Ananmbra State and the best way of running away from the high cost is to join both the traditional cum church marriages either the same day or a day after.
To achieve this, he said that the groom would select some of his kinsmen to go to his wife’s community, perform all traditional marriage rites and the wife would be handed over to him. And that same day or the following day, they will go for church wedding where the marriage would be consecrated in Christian way, after which the “Igba Nkwu” commences.
On his part, Deacon Chiedozie Obioma, community Chairman of Ofeiyi, Ogbodiukwu, Umuopara, Umuahia South Local Government Area of Abia State told our correspondent, that marriage is a very serious business in Igbo land and that once the suitor has gotten the approval cum acceptance of his would be in-laws, he would be handed over a list with payment say N1,000 for them to go and study. In the list, he said contains the details of Umunna (kindred’s entitlement that of the women, the youths and the girls group.
He added that fixing of bride price is subject to the negotiation from parents of the girl that some parents would not collect any money or a paltry sum but would however charge his son-in-law to go and take care of his daughter that he is not selling her to him.
Obioma who is a deacon of “Assemblies of God church said it is not permitted within the Assemblies of God doctrine for husband and wife to live together after traditional marriage until the church wedding is carried out to avoid them committing sin when they have not been joined in holy matrimony.
The community leader further explained that once the traditional marriage rites are done, the newly married wife will be handed over to the wife of the Pastor and she will stay in the church parish till the wedding day when she will be permitted to go home with the husband.
On whether parents have control on who their daughters or sons will marry he disclosed that such things does not hold water again that parents would merely advise that the children should be watchful on who to choose as their life partners.
As for Elder Amaobi Orji, a community leader of note, he told our Correspondent that a young man’s maturity is measured if he is able to pay the necessary marriage rites of his bride without taking the said lady to live with him when he has not gotten the consent of the parents or pay all the traditional marriage rites needed.
He pointed that any man who takes a wife without paying the marriage rites would not be allowed to partake in sharing with others who fulfilled the marriage rites of their wives.
Elder Orji who was an immediate Chairman of his community, Ofeiyi Ama-Ato Ogbodiukwu, Umuopara, Umuahia South Local Government Area of Abia State said that there was nothing wrong for a man to live with his wife once the traditional marriage rites are concluded and the wife is handed over to him. And that church wedding is optional or should come later when the couple has the financial wherewithal to execute it even though the church may want couples wedded in church before living together.
On whether parents should have a say on who their children marries he said that society has come of age, that once. It is ascertained that the man or woman is aware of the cultural norms, what is acceptable and what is forbidden that no problem, he or she should choose who to marry where the person comes from is immaterial.
Elder Amaobi Orji cautioned that people should not see marriage as been expensive in Igbo land because of someone is able to fulfill all the rites associated with it, it means that he is capable of taken care of the wife and would be able to take care of the family when children start coming noting that it is wrong for a man to take a wife without the family members (kindred) accompanying him to take their rites (Ihe ira ugba).
Also, contributing on the issue, Elder Kalu Eziyi who hails from Abia north Senatorial district of the State said that to marry in his Ohafia Community, which he said is the one of the cheapest in Igbo land and that even with the recession, a man who has between N150,000 to N200,000 can conveniently marry in his community covering the basic marriage rites.
He further explained that once the basic marriage rites have been paid and your wife is handed over to you going to church for white wedding is optional.
Eziyi maintained that if one first did the church wedding without first settling the traditional rites that the person has not married in the real sense of it as far as Ohafia community is concerned.
On whether the parents have inputs on who their children marry, he said in affirmative , that parents play vital role by trying to find out the history of the family, the son/daughter is going to marry whether they have history of stealing, die young or was ex-communicated by the community including other vital information that will enable them make informed opinion whether to encourage the marriage or not.
Senior Apostle, Gospel Adiele of Abia South Senatorial district said that it will take between N350.00 to N400,000 to take an Asa girl hand in marriage because of “Igba Nkwu” details that goes with it the card you will print invitation to friends and well-wishers as well as hiring of buses.
He also added that once traditional marriage is carried out as required by the cultural norms of Asa land, the couple do not need to do their church wedding before living together.
As for Hon. Chief Dan Egbeogu, the Eze elect of Okwuta Autonomous Community, Ibeku in Umuahia North Local Government Area of Abia State told our Correspondent that the perception that marriage in Igbo land is costly compared to other States Igbos already have deep-rooted tradition in every aspect of their life. Marriage, specifically, is a tradition which the Igbos holds very dearly adding that this is manifest that in Igboland, once marriage is contracted it is very difficult to have a separation or a divorce.
Chief Egbeogu who is the immediate past Chairman of Abia State Local Government and Service Commission also added that the reason for this is that families are involved in this union of husband and wife. This is unlike Europe where marriage is between two couple with a witness or two.
The Eze-elect who maintained that coming to the issue of high bride price, this is done because the Igbos wants to drive home the point that marriage is not something you go in and get out just for the fun of it. So when we talk about high bride price, it is not necessarily the cash that is paid but the other requirements that must be fulfilled before you can say that a marriage have taken place.
Chief Egbeogu further disclosed that what is responsible for these material requirements is that these materials that are required are shared to the whole village or community the lady comes from.
Chief Egbeogu revealed that the point the Igbos are trying to make by getting everybody involved is to make sure that the man and his family realise that marriage in Igboland is not a tea party that is why bride price in Igbo is costly compared to other ethnic groups in Nigeria.
“Whether parents have influence over choice of husband and wife of their children, the answer is definitely yes and let me add that this was the practice very long time ago. In those days, people don’t even meet their marriage partners before marriage is contracted. What happens is that parents choose the girl or the man their child will marry based on the reputation and family background of the man or woman.
“In recent time with civilization education and exposure, now the girls, boys choose who they want to marry sometime without the consent of their parents at such.
One instance, our children who travelled abroad would simply pick a wife or husband outside the shores of this land and they become husband and wife.
Whether couples who married in a traditional way should live together or to wait till after church wedding is another issue on its own.”
He added: “It is more influenced by the religious inclination of the parties involve. I will say without fear of contradiction that most religion frown at a boy or girl living together before marriage is contracted.
“In the local tradition, it is assumed that couples are married once they fulfilled the traditional rites therefore; they are permitted to live together. The churches any way frown at this.
“As a matter of fact, in this age and time people marry who they fall in love with so that with love involved, most people don’t care about cost. For those who think they are too poor to marry and still in love, simply move in together and start co-habiting such people want to make enough money and then go to perform the marriage rites. So most of those people would have kids already for such union and this is tolerated by both parents” Eze-elect said.

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