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Applied Worldwide guest contributor Bilqis Omolayomi Oseni writes about the traditions of a Yoruba wedding.

The Yoruba Traditional Wedding Experience

I woke up with severe body pains caused by the previous day’s activities. I had completed my exams two days before traveling to Ogun state to attend my best friend’s sister’s traditional wedding. As a friend of the family, my friend’s mom had made it compulsory for me to arrive a day before the wedding so as to help with the preparation, so I took off immediately after my last paper.

Wedding preparation was on topgear by the time I arrived their house, reception hall, venue decorations, food and drinks, everything has been placed in order and the look on everybody’s face was exceptionally gaiety especially the bride whom I fondly call “big sis.” So that night, that is, the eve of the wedding day also called spinster’s night, bride’s sisters, friends and colleagues all gathered around her, singing, dancing and clapping you know, making the night a memorable experience for her, we were there till daybreak.

The big day finally arrived and we were all dressed up for the venue. Big sis make up was done  by me, her traditional attire was a beautiful one, she wore a skyblue with nude aso-oke design, nude gele(headgear), silver earrings and traditional bead necklace, silver wrist band and complemented it with pink bag and shoe.

Aso-oke is a Yoruba traditional wedding attire and is held with high esteem because it symbolises and represents Yoruba culture whenever and wherever it is worn. So bride and groom are to wear the same aso-oke attire. Bride’s style will be iro and buba (a top and wrapper), while Groom’s will be trouser and a top complemented with agbada and made complete with a hat (fila), all with one beautiful design.  Everything got set so we headed for the venue where the groom and his family have been awaiting our arrival because, they can be fined for lateness if bride’s family got there first. Normally, traditional wedding is supposed to take place in the bride’s family house but, they can also choose a venue for it if they don’t want it done at their residence maybe because of large space.

Yoruba traditional wedding has eight steps which makes it unique and special from other tribes.

Step 1:  WELCOME

We got there and the wedding procession began formally with a welcome address by the two narrators representing both families. The Alaga Ijoko (sitting MC) for bride’s family and Alaga Iduro (standing MC) for groom’s family. Prior to the engagement, both families had met for the ‘introduction’ where amongst other things, engagement that is, traditional wedding date was made and both families got to know each other.

The arrival of the groom’s family to the stage signaled the start of the ceremony,  they were introduced by their Alaga and proceeded to kneeling and greeting the bride’s family.

Step 2: THE PROPOSAL AND ACCEPTANCE

An elaborate proposal ‘letter’ was presented by the groom’s family and read out loud by the youngest member of the bride’s family who happens to be my friend’s younger sister, after which an acceptance letter was giving by the bride’s family. This symbolises a mutual agreement between both families that they gladly accepted the union of their children.

Step 3: MEET THE GROOM

The group was escorted by his friends with dancing steps straight to his in-law’s place where they  prostrated  two times and he prostrated once alone to his new in-laws. During the third prostration, both families stretched out their arms and prayed for him. He then prostrated once to his family before heading to his seat. This act demonstrated the kind of respect the groom has for his in-laws.

Step 4: MEET THE BRIDE

The veiled bride made her appearance escorted by her friends and younger ones of which I was one of them with beautiful dancing steps. She knelt before her parents for prayers and blessings then  did the same thing with her husband’s parents after which she was unveiled and joined her husband where he was seated.

She was asked to remove her husband’s hat (fila) and rewear it on his heard. This act demonstrated her acceptance of the proposal.

Step 5: BLING PLEASE

On the instructions from the Alaga Ijoko, she was asked to pick the gift she wanted from the many dazzling selections brought by her in-laws. (In this case, a list from the required items would have been giving to the groom’s family prior to the engagement), she picked Qur’an (Muslim’s holy book) as expected to which her engagement ring was attached. She then gave her husband the ring which he inturn put on her beautiful finger and we all cheered up as she displayed the ring on her finger happily.

Step 6: BRIDE PRICE

Various envelope containing the bride price to money for the wives, children and elders in her family was handed over to the bride’s family. This is a very common traditional practice as it’s believed that both families have come together to become one as they are giving their daughter away.

Step 7: CUTTING OF CAKE

The engagement cake also known as akara oyinbo in Yoruba land was cut by the newly wedded couple. This cake cutting symbolises happiness due to its rich and sweet ingredients. Photography session was followed by the cake cutting and everyone took pictures with the happy couple.

Step 8: PARTY AND MERRIMENT

Final prayer was said by the bride’s father and the occasion was brought to an end with lots of love, greetings, eating, music and dancing.

Yoruba engagement lists varies from family to family but there are some things that are common to them, these are:

  • 42 Big tubbers of yams
  • 42 Big colanuts
  • 42 Big bitter cola (orogbo)
  • 42 Pieces of dry fish
  • 42 Pieces of alligator pepper (ata’re)
  • 2 Bottles of honey
  • 2 Pairs of shoes and bags
  • 2 Scarves
  • 1 Wrist watch
  • 1 Bible or Qur’an (depends on the bride’s religious belief)
  • 1 Engagement ring
  • 1  Big suitcase
  • 1 Traditional aso-oke
  • 1 Big dish of aadun
  • 1 Bag of salt
  • 1 Bag of sugar and
  • 1 Umbrella

Yoruba traditional wedding brings different kinds of people together in the society because, everyone who attended the wedding was well dressed in Yoruba attires.

It also brings love as varieties of Yoruba foods was served and everyone really enjoyed and appreciated the moment.

Yoruba traditional marriage ceremony to a serious affair is full of playfulness, rich contemporary Nigerian music, graceful colors and sumptuous meals, also the fun, merriments, love and lively discussions were always so fascinating and memorable. It is an occasion to show best outfits, handbags, jewelry and to cap it all, best dancing steps.

The bride was carried to her husband’s house at around evening with some wives who followed her. This was the normal practice as it was said that, they needed to know the kind of home and new environment their daughter was going to live. So they followed her and returned the following morning to give the bride’s family a feedback of what the environment looks like.

So, that was how big sis got wedded to her beloved husband and I returned to my house a day after.

Bilqis Omolayomi Oseni

Bilqis Omolayomi Oseni is a native of Oyo state Nigeria. She is a 300 level student of National Open University Nigeria. She is a writer, poet, copywriter and a potential sociologist. She is a member of Hilltops creative arts foundation, All Poets Network (APNET), Risingyouths19 and Creative Club Gombe state University (CCGU). She has received awards of excellence from Risingyouths19 and other foundations. She writes to correct the abnormalities in the society and to make the world a better place. You can connect with Bilqis Omolayomi Oseni on Instagram.