Marriage in Igbo Land in Nigeria
The Bible confirmed that a man and a woman will be separated from their biological families, come together and become one flesh. This process is known as marriage.
Marriage among the Ighos
The Encarta dictionary defined marriage as a legally recognized relationship, established by a civil or religious ceremony, between two people who intend to live together as sexual partners and domestic partners. Before the advent of Christianity in Nigeria, marriages were always contracted in their customary ways which transcends their customs to the present day.
Marriage among the Ighos:
The Igbo or Ibo is one of the three major ethnic groups in Nigeria. They occupy the Colonial Eastern Region and presently are in: Anambra, Enugu, Ebonyi, Imo, Abia States and some part of Delta and Rivers States. Although there are slight variations in their cultures, there is similarity when it comes to some central issues in the culture and one of the central issues is marriage.
Many marriages in the Igbo land are still arranged although in recent years many young people are kicking against that system and refer to it as primitive. When two people meet and agree to marry, the families of each of the would-be spouses commence an investigation about the family backgrounds of each other. The standard of each clans pre-requisite differ from village to village but the likely findings that could nullify any arrangement for the marriage include; if any of the two families involved has a trace of lineage madness in their family, a trace of lineage robbery, a trace of lineage divorce and other serious societal mischiefs.
The traditional marriage:
If the research is concluded and both families approve each other, then the marriage process will begin. After due consultations from both sides, the ‘Introduction’ is done. During the introduction, the family of the man will officially notify the woman’s family with some wine (preferably gin), kola nuts, and other items as the tradition of the village stipulates, and the woman will be brought out from an inner room for the visitors to confirm her identity and this is being done with a mild fanfare. Consequently, the marriage negotiation which may take some weeks begins before the Traditional Wedding date is fixed.
The Traditional Wedding is a celebration of dancing and feasting which marks the woman’s acceptance into her husband’s clan or village. This celebration is preceded by negotiations between the two families on the bride price (paid to the bride’s family), which can be extremely high in addition to clothing, food stuffs, kitchen utensils and ornaments etc. Most of the items like the kitchen utensils and ornaments are giving back to the bride along with other items from the bride’s family. The purpose of this is to equip the bride’s kitchen because it is believed in the Igbo culture that the woman’s office is the kitchen, so her family wants to make sure her office is equipped. The marriage will be blessed by the Bride and the Groom’s families and the Bride will be led with great fanfare to the Groom’s home and the Traditional marriage is completed.
The church and court weddings:
After the advent of Christianity, it became mandatory as a Christian to be wedded in the Church. So, it has become a norm today that every Traditional marriage must be solemnized in a Church wedding and in fact most young Igbo ladies include Church wedding as a pre-requisite condition to their would be spouse before accepting any marriage. The ‘White wedding’ as it is being called, could be done in different ways: it can low tune –without costing much; it can be moderate; and it can be elaborate and expensive, depending on how rich you are.
Most people will go ahead to undertake the Court Oat of Wedding which is believed to be the most legal form of wedding especially these days when divorce is becoming rampant. The woman insists on the Court Wedding so that in the case of any problem, she could have legal rights on her husband.
It is important to also know that in the case where both parties are cohabiting without the official traditional marriage, any children born before the wedding technically belong to the woman’s family, but the man can take the children when he pays the bride price and formally marries the woman; and in the case of divorce, the bride price must be returned to the husband irrespective of the Courts judgment, but the Court could decide who keeps the custody of the children.