Traditional marriage rites in Nigeria vary from tribe to tribe, but one thing they all have in common is that the ceremonies surrounding them are meant to depict the culture and customs of both the bride’s and the groom’s families.

Aside from that, a traditional marriage is also very symbolic and is regarded as an agreement on the part of the families involved to be united as one family.

This is why in Nigeria, even if you get married in a church or mosque or in the grandest castle in the world, if you have not done your traditional marriage, you are considered not to be ‘properly married’ yet.

Igbo traditional marriage

However, as much as we are upholding our tradition by having these marriage ceremonies, the advent of civilization and Western influence have caused some of these marriage rites to be watered down or in some cases completely obliterated.

Let’s discuss a few of them below.

1. The fattening room: The fattening room is a place where young women were prepared for womanhood and marriage in ancient times. It was a practice common amongst the Ibibio people of Cross River and Akwa Ibom states. This custom was popular in the era where fat was regarded as a sign of good health, beauty, fertility and prosperity. In those days, only virgins were allowed entry into the fattening room where they would be fed and tutored on social etiquette as well as marital duties. Unfortunately, in this era of ‘fit fam’, nobody bothers with this particular pre-marriage rite anymore. Last year, the daughters of former Cross River governor, Donald Duke, got married in both traditional and Western ceremonies and judging by their slender figures, neither of them bothered with the fattening room rites either.

2. Pouring libation: The Urhobo people in Delta State are known for their love for gin (ogogoro) which serves many purposes for them at different times. In the olden days, the gin was a key part of traditional weddings and was usually used to pour libation to the ancestors by the elders of the both families as prayers of prosperity and fruitfulness were offered on behalf of the bride and groom. However, this aspect has been completely removed from the marriage proceedings nowadays. This is mainly because most people are now Christians or Muslims and such practices are now deemed fetish/pagan.

3. The palmwine gourd: During the traditional marriage rites of the Igbos, the bride is expected to carry palmwine in a small gourd to her groom who then drinks it as a sign of acknowledgement and acceptance of the bride. This was how it was done originally, but nowadays, the palmwine is often switched for fruit wine, while a glass cup is now used in place of the gourd. This is perhaps a way to modernize that aspect of the ceremony and make it seem less fetish.

4. Feet washing: During the Yoruba traditional marriage ceremony, the bride gets her feet washed with water by the eldest wife in the groom’s family as way to welcome her into the family. During this process, prayers are offered on behalf of the bride by all the women in the groom’s family. This usually takes place when she is about to enter her husband’s house after the festivity of the wedding. However, this is no hardly a requisite of Yoruba traditional marriage anymore because some people have claimed that it is an avenue to bewitch the unsuspecting bride or strike her with barrenness by diabolic means.