Welcome to the traditional marriage Masterclass-Viola Okolie

Welcome to the traditional marriage Masterclass-Viola Okolie

It is not strange these days to see cyber arguments break out over things that seem pretty substantial, but when you get close enough to prod and squeeze them, you find out the whole thing is just one huge ball of hot air.

Bride price seems to be the biggest culprit of them all.

Everywhere you turn, somebody’s actions and/or inactions are being blamed on bride price and the amount he paid to “own” another human being like him.

So an interesting conversation happened the other day.

Location: Social Media.
Topic: Bride Price.
Dramatis personnae: The Usual Suspects.

And in the middle of it, an (n)Einstein begins to wail about how the bride price is ruining marriages with the amount they expect the young man to spend on the event hoohoohoo. According to this (n)Einstein, bride price should be abolished because the money is usually too much and the items the man has to put together in envelopes and in kind is too much and in some places, he even has to buy household items just to pay brideprice blablabla.

Hol up, hol up.

See the problem with social media? Everyone is a genius. Most times, we all have people we idolise and “follow” on facebook, even if we dont know where we are following them to. We take their words as law and do not bother to do a little bit of research of our own to ensure we have at least a working knowledge of what we are arguing about.

So, since the tribe that comes under a lot of flak whenever bride price issues are concerned is the Igbo tribe, permit me to iron out the kinks in your angst against brideprice, by first taking you through a traditional marriage masterclass.

I am not saying that most of you warbling on and on about it are talking crap o, just saying that a little bit of additional information never hurt anybody; and if you must be angry at something, you need to be absolutely sure what you are angry at so that you don’t end up looking like an em em you squared, when reasonable people listen to you.

Okay na, *drumroll*, traditional marriage masterclass:

There are four basic stages in a typical Igbo traditional marriage.

1. The first is the knocking on doors (iku aka).

So young man meets young woman along the way or wherever (in today’s Nigeria, they have probably been “chopping mbroskay” in the township for at least two years), then comes home to his kinsmen to inform them he has found his missing rib.

Kinsmen escort him to the house of said missing rib.

It is during this visit that they use words like, “we found a pretty rose (ripe udara) in your compound and we seek your permission to pluck it”, or “a sprightly gazelle leaped into your compound and we ran here after it. Please permit us a second look at it”.

Yeah yeah, I know your pseudo feminist self is just itching to start yelling “but I am not a flower or a gazelle,” right off before you go and swoon over the Songs of Solomon; or praise poems that refer to partners using flora and fauna symbolism. So, this is our own poetry. Igbos play around with proverbs. There is hardly ever anything the Igbos tell you direct, proverbs are the oil with which we eat our yam. They flavor the words beautifully and make them appealing. The English man calls them “poetry”, ndi Igbo call it “proverbs”.

It doesn’t suit you? Sorry. Live with it. You will not even be there at this stage, so calm down your breast and let us move on.

At this stage, the groom’s family comes with wine and drinks, the bride’s family provides food and refreshment. If you ask me, I’d say the bride’s family spends more at this stage.

2. Ime ego otherwise known as the much vilified bride price.

Interestingly, most of the people wailing about this stage of the proceedings, are hardly ever allowed into the room where it occurs. It is a highly revered and private meeting between the groom and his father with their intermediary and one or two kinsmen, and a similar entourage on the bride’s side.

Here is how it goes:

Let us say for instance that you have been told to provide a bride price of say N100,000 because their daughter is a graduate, and you arrive with it, the bride’s family look at each other and nod their heads.

“This one na man. E get capacity. E go fit marry our pikin, even if e run into small hitch, hin people go rally round am to provide support. Na this kain husband and family we want.”

Then one of two things happen:

The father or representative of the bride’s family reaches out and takes the note on top of the bundle presented (some smart grooms work around this by making that note, a foreign currency note) and return the rest to you informing you that their child is not for sale or:

The very interesting bit happens: the family asks you to take back N10,000 from the money you presented, “for milk because their daughter likes to drink milk. Dont come and say it is due to lack of resources to buy her milk that she began to emaciate in your house”. “Take back N20,000 for her cream so that she can continue to look as ravishing as she was when you saw her”. Take back this and that, this continues until the groom’s family is left with a token to present as bride price. This is what the bride’s family collects as a symbol that an agreement has been reached for the merger of both families.

Now in some places, the entire money is accepted as bride price by the family but seriously, if you don’t feel like proferring that much to marry the one you love, please there are some tribes in Nigeria that accept N1.50 or stuff like that.

Let “love” lead you in that direction.

You no go die, afterall, there are people that fall in and out of love based on medical conditions or ethnicity or career or stuff like that. Your own must not be different. When village people want to set a stud for you by showing you a woman whose father has “opened a counter on her head,” show them say your odeshi pass their own, by looking for love with a more reasonable family.

Okay, in this scenario too, the groom’s family comes with drinks and the bride price; the bride’s family provides refreshment and entertainment.

Methinks that except where the actual bride price collected is in the upper five figures and above, the bride’s family spends more.

But what do I know?

3. Igba Nkwu or the Traditional marriage.

Now this here ???, is the part where the village people extract their pound of flesh. This is where all the lists come out and even the ancestors want to eat goat and wear shoe on the head of a living human being.

Now this, is the traditional wedding party.

And guess what, instead of you to be on social media wailing about lists, you should calm your chest down, and be sitting down one on one with your kinsmen, talking sense into them.

Most times, the woman is the bearer of the lists or is allowed to see the list when the man gets it from her people.

I got my list.

I sat down with my fiancee and I told him: this, this and this are the things we will do. Leave the rest to me.

The day before the traditional marriage, I asked for audience with my kinsmen and sat with them.

Uncle bikonu, we saw the list you all sent to my husband and I wanted to discuss it with you people. Please sirs, this young man is just starting out in life, the list is too much. Would you be happy if one month after our marriage we see you people on the roads and look the other way? Remembering you as those wicked uncles that wanted to use list to kill us? Or if after providing all the items on the list, you see me after one month and I have emaciated? Because my husband had used the money he would have used to feed me to provide items on the list for you people?

My uncles laughed: indeed, you are your father’s daughter. What do you want from us?

I whipped out our new reduced list, and they looked at it and nodded their heads. We had covered the basics, they were okay with it.


See ehn, you see these lists umunna produce, they are not cast in iron. Last last, you assure them that while they wait for the list, you are off to go and live blissfully with your spouse. They will adopt an “instead of my goat to escape fully from me, make I cut off the tail” stance, and ask him to do what he can.

Again, the list and igba nkwu is not compulsory, but the ime ego is. The reason why it seems like they all happen at the same time these days, is because people are pressed for time so rather than keep going and coming, all the events happen on one day.

But it is actually possible for a man to go and knock on the door and pay the bride price. Marriage has happened.

Like I said before, igba nkwu and the attendant lists, is a party mode.

Come and show yourself.

Some people want BellaNaija weddings and will beg, borrow or burgle to achieve it. Some others are perfectly okay with a little shindig involving just close family members.

Again, it is up to you.

Expenses at this stage are seriously either fifty/fifty depending on the capacity of the bride’s parents who will be the ones hosting the party; but if the man has to shoulder that responsibility too, then he bears a larger burden.

You know what? A lot of you ladies also take the side of your families in times like these and act like that list was handed down from God and therefore, can’t be tampered with. You do not even make an effort to protest about the list, let the man be the one assuring you that he can handle this.

That he has got this.

You make it an “us versus them”.

Your man feels like he is all alone in his “team” while you and your family have ganged up against him, even when you know that he cannot afford to provide all those items without running bankrupt. You do not even offer to take up some of the expenses if you have the capacity, you leave him to groan under the weight of the whole thing then start wailing when you see your name topping the list of his “enemies”.

See, this entire part of the traditional marriage process, is the part that places a financial burden on the prospective groom and can actually be suspended until you both have worked up the capacity (if ever at all), but #pepperdem will not let you be great.

It can actually be scrapped.

It is just like in the oyinbo marriages where the wedding ring (bride price), and two individuals still eager and willing to be married to each other, are the most important aspects of the traditional marriage.

Every other thing, is unto showing off levels.

4. The idu uno or the traditional send forth of the bride.

This is the stage at which the bride’s family sends her forth with a dowry ranging from modern to traditional household appliances and equipment.

Fridges, freezers, washing machines, mortar and pestle, blenders, kitchen implement basically.

The bride’s family provides all these items brand new, to help the young couple off to a good start.

Usually, the items in the dowry when monetised, makes the bride price requested for look like chicken change.

It is a no brainer who has spent more at this stage of the marriage.

Sooooooo, if we are to extrapolate from the idea that bride price conveys ownership and the man therefore brutalises the woman as a result of it (over chicken change that the family accepts as a token), then it is also reasonably safe to assume that a woman on whom bride price of say N10,000 was accepted, but who came home with a dowry of close to N1,000,000 can turn the husband to a kitchen stool.

Insurance covers her.


So epp us biko, before you jump into the middle of an argument and start yelling at bride price, ensure that (1) you know exactly what you are talking about and what places a strain on a young man going into a marriage relationship (2) you have not wilfully blinded yourself to the fact that a beast is a beast, whether he has paid bride price on anybody or not.

Leave the branches and gouge out the root or else with a little rain, the tree would still continue to sprout.


Mesef wey write this long epistle don tire. If you read up to the end, well done sir. More elbows to your grease ma, it didn’t easy.

photo credit

About The Author

Osigweh Lilian Oluchi is a graduate of the University of Lagos where she obtained a B.A (Hons) in English, Masters in Public and International affairs (MPIA). Currently works with 1stnews as a Database Manager / Writer. [email protected]

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