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A Nigerian Traditional Wedding: Yoruba and Ibo Style

Comfort Babatola is a Nigerian-American whose interests include travel, faith, cooking, sewing, decorating, wellness, and fashion.

Meet the bride and groom! The groom is in the Agbada (Dashiki) outfit with the doggy-ears styled cap (Fila Abeti Aja). The bride donned her Ibo traditional attire.

Meet the bride and groom! The groom is in the Agbada (Dashiki) outfit with the doggy-ears styled cap (Fila Abeti Aja). The bride donned her Ibo traditional attire.

The Coming Together of Two Tribes

This past year, I was blessed to witness the wedding of my only female sibling. She is the youngest of six children, me being the first. So, it was just fitting for me to be there to see her get married.

The wedding took place in Lagos, Nigeria, a few days before Christmas, so I was also privileged to spend this past Christmas with my family back home. I was very much a part of the planning of the white (church) wedding, but the traditional wedding, which by law takes priority over the white-gown wedding, was all put together by my sister, sisters-in-law, and close friends.

Yoruba and Ibo

To begin, I want you to be aware that this wedding is the coming together of two very well-liked young people. Both are believers in Christ and are where they are today through the power of the Living God. The groom is from the Yoruba tribe of Nigeria, while the bride is a blend of both the Ibo (bride's father) and Yoruba (bride's mother) tribes. Thus, you will be schooled in the wedding attire and practices of both tribes.

The wedding was a success, and I am pleased to share with my reading audience some excerpts, images, and videos of the wedding.

The Introduction Before the Engagement

We've all seen it in movies: Boy meets girl, and both decide to go show each other off to their parents. This is where the couple makes their wish to get married known to their families.

Well, that's kind of what happens in the Nigerian culture, too. The only difference is that the visits to the groom's parents and family are not nearly as nerve-wracking as the visit to the bride's family. It's a family affair. Both sides sit across from each other, with the groom's family bearing gifts—more like a peace offering.

The Introduction Ceremony

Both members of the immediate families of the groom and bride are introduced. The couples are given the clearance to continue on into courtship. Once the ice is broken and the two families give their consent, what usually follows is an engagement ceremony. It is at this time (the Introduction Ceremony) that the groom's family is presented with a list of gifts (dowry) to bring along for the engagement.

The Dowry

The dowry/list usually consists of items of clothing, drinks, yam tubers, and a whole lot of items that can easily cause the groom to go bankrupt in some cases. The point behind the list/dowry is to convey the message that the bride is not cheap; she's of great value, and she can only be given to one who is worthy of her.

The contents/items on the list are sometimes negotiable. That is, a monetary equivalent can be accepted in situations where the items cannot easily be gotten or if the groom's family—or even the groom and the bride-to-be—could not present certain gift items that violate their religious beliefs. Examples of such gifts are alcoholic drinks, tobacco products, or certain items that are believed to have ties to idol worship.

Possible Items on a Bride's Dowry List

The lists do vary from tribe to tribe within the Nigerian culture and are usually longer and more extensive.

Items of clothing for the bride

Shoes for the bride

Jewelry for the bride

Alcoholic drinks (for the men in the bride's family)

Non-alcoholic drinks (for the women in the bride's family)

Items specifically for the bride's mother

Yam tubers (as many as 100 tubers or more)

Alligator pepper

Salt (symbolic of flavor in the marriage)

Sugar/honey (symbolic of sweetness in the marriage)

Fresh fruit

A suitcase (an indication that the groom's family welcomes the bride)

The formidable women in the bride's family. They decide whether the engagement will take place or not.

The formidable women in the bride's family. They decide whether the engagement will take place or not.

Examining the Dowry Before Proceeding With the Engagement

The decision to proceed with the engagement is actually done on the very day the engagement is scheduled to take place. What usually transpires before the engagement commences is that the groom's family presents all the gifts as required on the dowry/list. In the Ibo culture, certain women (those who married into the bride's family) are then called upon to examine the gifts.

If it is deemed that the gifts match the lists, they take their findings to the men in the bride's family. Once cleared, the bride is handed over to the groom and his family, and the engagement proceeds.

On the other hand, if the women (the formidable wives on the sides of the bride's family) find that the groom has not met the requirement as set forth on the dowry list, then the recommendation is made that the engagement be postponed unless the groom and his family can come up with the monetary equivalent of the items in question.

The Wedding Engagement Ceremony

A marriage engagement in the Nigerian culture is an event that involves the parents, siblings, and other members of the couple's family. There has to be an agreement between the two families—more like an acknowledgment that a marriage will be taking place. Much of the decision lies in the court of the bride's family.

The bride and groom in their traditional attire. The attire depicted here in this traditional wedding picture is the Yoruba attire.

The bride and groom in their traditional attire. The attire depicted here in this traditional wedding picture is the Yoruba attire.

Let the Engagement Begin!

Once it is deemed that the dowry has been met, the bride, who is usually wearing a veil as a covering, is escorted out and handed over to the groom and his parents. The ceremony begins with the removal of the veil by the groom. Following this, the groom presents the bride with a ring. There could also be the gift of money from the groom to the bride.

Sometimes, prayer is pronounced by both the groom and the bride on each other, which is followed by the cutting of the cake, or in some cases, the groom and bride feed each other fresh fruit.

The engagement ceremony can be as elaborate and prolonged as can be. It can take a whole day or even days in some cultures. In the case of my sister's wedding, it was a whole day affair. First, there was the Ibo segment of the engagement, which was later followed by the Yoruba segment.

There was plenty of food, so there was much to eat and drink. But most of all, there was the dancing.

An engagement is a joyous occasion. And everyone present at the event showed that through all their dancing. Everybody danced. Families on both sides of the family came from far and near to celebrate the joyous event together.

The groom and bride praying for one another and their marriage. This was the best I could get this picture without distracting from their praying moment.

The groom and bride praying for one another and their marriage. This was the best I could get this picture without distracting from their praying moment.

The Groom's Prayer for the Bride

Due to the Christian beliefs of the groom and the bride and their faith that their marriage could only be made strong through the power and grace of God, it was fitting for the groom to make this gesture of praying for his bride-to-be on the engagement day.

The truth is, they both prayed for each other. What was the content of their prayer?

  • That they will both have lasting and enduring love for one another – amen!
  • That their marriage will be blessed with all the blessings that God intended for them – amen!
  • That they will be fruitful in their body, on their job, and in the service of the Lord – amen!
  • That they will be there for each other, for better, for worse – amen!
  • That no weapon fashioned against them shall prosper – amen!
  • That they will be a helper and an encouragement to one another – amen!

The Ibo Traditional Wedding/Engagement Theme

The theme for the engagement is red, white, or silver for the Ibo segment. The outfits were custom-made in these colors, and so were some of the matching accessories (the beaded jewelry).

The shoes were my responsibility. And after much going back and forth on the styles and heel height, we settled on one gorgeous pair that I found on eBay. It was a good pick as it matched perfectly with the bride's outfit.

The glitters from the rhinestones at the toe of the shoe helped to enhance the overall appearance of the bride's outfit. After all, it was her day, and she should look her best for the occasion. The groom is usually just glad to be there. See images of the shoes used in this wedding below.

The Yoruba Traditional Wedding/Engagement Theme

The Yoruba segment of the engagement features a Gold, Orange or Red Theme. The outfit for both the groom and the bride, though not exactly gold, had some elements of gold in the threading.

These outfits, too, were custom-made to fit the bride and groom. The groom donned his in a simple Agbada-style or dashiki with the doggy-style cap to complete the look, while the bride opted for the popular Yoruba Buba and Iro with matching gele.

To complete the look of the bride is a pair of Gianni Bini Geneva Glitter Jeweled Dress Sandals purchased at Dillard's here in Georgia. The shoes sparkle, and I especially love the beaded back heel. I also got her a Pleated Snakeskin Ladies Evening Clutch that was purchased via eBay.

After the Traditional Wedding/Engagement

What usually follows after the traditional engagement weddings is the church wedding. In today's world, it is not uncommon for some to opt out of church weddings and only have traditional weddings or engagements. For such, it could be due to the cost of doing both weddings, while for some, it could be because the bride is already pregnant and there may not be enough time to plan both weddings.

The idea behind a church wedding after the traditional wedding engagement is to "fulfill all righteousness." It is symbolic of a public announcement of the coming together of the couple. Oftentimes, traditional weddings take place in the village of the bride's father, where many family members, friends, and colleagues of the bride may not be privy to attend.

In such cases, the church wedding, which is more liberal as far as who attends, serves as the "tell all" venue. Church wedding ceremonies are mostly popular among Nigerians who profess to be Christians. That is not to say that those of the other religious sects can't have or do not have church weddings. They can and do have them. It's all a matter of preference.

The Church Wedding

As mentioned above, church weddings usually follow the traditional engagement. My sister's church's wedding was the Saturday following the traditional engagement wedding. It took place in the church body where she's a member.

The bride wore the traditional white wedding gown, while the maid-of-honor wore a teal-green dress with gold accents. The groom and best man both wore khaki-colored suits with gold accents. There were no bridesmaids, just two flower girls, a little bride, a ring bearer, and a ring-bearer buddy.

It was a beautiful church wedding and was immediately followed by the reception at a different venue. You can read more about it in my article titled, "Teal-Green, Yellow & Gold Wedding Theme."

Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. All Images used here are personal images of the writer and should only be used by permission.

Update: Babies Make Five!

It has been over five years since the wedding of my sister and her husband, and the family has grown from the two love birds to a Brady bunch.

The mom, the dad, and their three boys (that includes one set of twins) pictured below are doing great.

A happy family!

A happy family!

Questions & Answers

Question: What does the palm wine represent?

Answer: Some says that palm wine is a symbol of loyalty and merriment. While others believe it's a symbol of fertility and fruitfulness in a marriage (Palm Wine being the juice of a palm tree that yields fruit).

© 2014 Comfort Babatola


Kokoro on September 17, 2019:

Which position the groom family are to be sited? Left or right? And the groom himself?

femi on March 17, 2018:

Hello deedee rosenthal. Some Yoruba people take the engagement ceremony more than the actual marriage.The ring ceremony is done in a church or register.

However once engaged they can decide to go to the registry or church marriage. some even go through all three civil, church and tradition.

deedee rosenthal on March 04, 2018:

i would like to know if the ring ceremony is same as engagement ceremony. if it is then the couple aren't truly married until church wedding takes place. correct?

Amaka on December 10, 2016:

Beautiful! I also married a yoruba man. Feel free to check out my traditonal wedding video :)

femi from Nigeria on July 06, 2015:

Nice to meet a fellow Nigerian on hubpages, your hub is beautiful and interesting. keep up the good work, voted up.

Comfort Babatola (author) from Bonaire, GA, USA on March 01, 2015:

Thanks sis. for stopping by to read. And, you are welcome.

EstherAni on February 26, 2015:

Thank you for making us a part of your post. Lovely piece.

Comfort Babatola (author) from Bonaire, GA, USA on October 07, 2014:

Yes teaches12345, she is beautiful. And truly blessed to have that young man in her life. Thank you.

The wedding was last December, and I am overjoyed to announce that, just this past week, they welcomed an addition to their family. A healthy, handsome little guy named David. God's special gift.

Comfort Babatola (author) from Bonaire, GA, USA on October 07, 2014:

Thank you pstraubie48 for taking the time to visit and comment - I must have missed your comments. And, look out, as angels are on the way to you today.

@billybuc - Thank you friend for checking in again. Have a blessed day!

Dianna Mendez on October 06, 2014:

I love this share on Nigerian Wedding traditions. Your sister is beautiful! She is blessed to have such a wonderful husband. Sharing this post with others!

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on August 27, 2014:

I just stopped by to see if you had written anything new....well, have a great day my friend.

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on August 21, 2014:

What a lovely bride and how interesting this article is. It is always fascinating to me to read of traditions and customs of other countries.

Angels are on the way to you today ps

Comfort Babatola (author) from Bonaire, GA, USA on March 22, 2014:

@Sharkye11 - Indeed, the colors are always carefully selected as an integral part of the wedding to convey the culture that both couple belongs to. Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment.

Jayme Kinsey from Oklahoma on March 22, 2014:

Beautiful hub! I enjoy reading about different ceremonies around the world. I love how color is such a vibrant part of this wedding. It seems to shout at the world how happy everyone is! Thanks for writing this, and sharing the gorgeous pictures!

Comfort Babatola (author) from Bonaire, GA, USA on January 31, 2014:

Indeed Fred Mucai. The traditional weddings helps keep our cultural heritages intact and alive. Thanks for your comment and votes.

Fred Mucai from nairobi on January 30, 2014:

This is great cultural heritage. We should never forget our traditions. In fact i think that traditional weddings help to keep our traditions alive

Comfort Babatola (author) from Bonaire, GA, USA on January 29, 2014:

Thank you MsDora for your comment and vote.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on January 29, 2014:

Exquisitely beautiful! Thank you for sharing the details of this rich cultural event. I love the involvement of the family. The outfits are gorgeous. Voted Up!

Comfort Babatola (author) from Bonaire, GA, USA on January 29, 2014:

You are so very welcome. Thank you for taking the time to read and commenting.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on January 29, 2014:

Fascinating! I love learning about different cultures. Thank you for teaching this old teacher. :)