Igbeyawo: The traditional Yoruba wedding

Nigeria is a country with over 250 ethnic groups, each with their own culture and traditions. The custom extends to how wedding ceremonies are conducted, each having a distinct way of conducting marriages.

The Yoruba wedding popularly called an owambe wedding consists of two major events - the Introduction ceremony and the Traditional engagement. These events are usually characterized by a show of luxury, bold colours, extravaganza and a good flow of food, music and dancing.

In this post, we will highlight what takes place during the events that make up the Yoruba traditional wedding, also covering how to go about planning one.

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The Introduction ceremony

  • Planning:
    The introduction ceremony is held so both families can meet officially and get to know each other better. The intention is for key family members to be introduced ahead of other upcoming events. The bride’s family typically picks the date for this ceremony and handles most of the planning. The event is typically held at the bride’s family’s house as a small affair but can be held at an event centre instead if this fits better or if attendance will extend beyond immediate family and close friends.

  • On the day:
    Usually, a member of the bride’s family is assigned as a moderator of the ceremony, or a professional called an alaga is hired - to ensure that all the right steps are carried out (traditionally). The groom arrives with family and traditionally, asked to wait outside until invited in. The bride joins both families and the moderator will engage the couple in a dialogue including confirming with the bride that this is her groom. Finally, members of the immediate family are introduced and the event continues into merry with lots of mingling, eating and dancing. In some cases, the dates for future wedding events (traditional engagement and religious ceremony) are discussed and agreed.

The Traditional Engagement

  • Planning:
    Once the engagement date has been chosen, the couple and their families go into planning mode. The engagement can be held as a one-day event or combined with a religious ceremony and reception.
    Before selecting a venue, it is key to engage in adequate research and select a venue that suits your capacity needs, location, style and other needs. Other vendors are also required for the big day from caterers, event decorator to a DJ! Again, research and recommendations help to guide you in selecting your vendors.
    Also, the “eru iyawo” list will be shared with the groom and his family. They will need to source for the requested items to be presented as part of the proceedings of the engagement ceremony. There are dedicated vendors who can help with sourcing and packaging of the eru iyawo list.

  • On the day:
    The engagement is anchored by the “Alaga Ijoko”. There could be an “Alaga Iduro” to assist the alaga ijoko - the alagas could be family members or hired professionals. They are typically women and their duty is to properly officiate the engagement process.
    They follow the groom and his family engaging them in an entertaining dialogue. This includes asking the groom and his groomsmen to prostrate at the feet of the bride’s family. There is also the letter reading which is done by a young lady from the groom’s family asking for the hand of the woman in marriage. The bride’s family also responds with a letter of their own. The engagement is an integral part of the traditional marriage and as the ceremony proceeds, items listed for the engagement called the “Eru Iyawo” are presented.
    The items on the list vary slightly by wedding but generally the items are the same. Some of the popular items on the list include: tubers of yam, sugar, sweets, cartons of wine, Bible/Qur’an, bitter kola and baskets of fruits.

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Once the engagement is conducted, the couple, family and other well wishers transition into more fun!

  • Couples’ attire: the yoruba traditional attire is synonymous with bold colors! The color of the bride and groom outfits reflect the color theme chosen for the day. The bride and groom typically wear aso-oke (a traditionally woven fabric). The bride’s outfit consists of the iro (wrapper), buba (blouse), gele (headtie) and ipele (a piece of fabric worn across the shoulder). The groom wears his agbada and trousers, in a similar colour and (often) fabric choice as his wife.

  • Entertainment: this should consist of a master of ceremony (“MC”), separate to the Alaga Iduro or Ijoko. This MC coordinates the entertainment by introducing the live band or disc jockey, and adheres to the prearranged program. The marriage has been contracted and all that is left is to dance, feast, and make merry. The band is usually ethnic but combines contemporary popular songs blending with both English renditions, Yoruba language, and talking drums.

  • The Aso-Ebi: aso-ebi culture is engrained in yoruba weddings! This is a sign of cooperation amongst wedding guests, they wear the same type of fabric, in most cases both families choose different designs, the theme, color, quality of fabric should be considered when choosing an aso ebi fabric.

Your wedding is a once in a lifetime event and we want to help you make the best out of it, we hope these tips have been helpful in helping you achieve your goals, we hope to see your views in the comment section!