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Igba Nkwu Nwanyi: A Look At The Igbo Traditional Wedding

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The traditional wedding amongst the people from the Igbos in the south-eastern part of Nigeria is very festive.


The colourful event is divided into four main parts:

  1. Marriage inquiry (“Iku aka” or “Iju ese”)
  2. Seeking consent from the bride-to-be’s extended family, also known as the Umunna
  3. Bride price negotiation and payment (“Ime Ego”)
  4. Wine-carrying ceremony by the bride (“Igba Nkwu Nwanyi” and “Idu Uno”)


All these must be completed and the bride’s people must be satisfied before the groom can take his new wife home.


"Igba Nkwu Nwanyi"- A Look At The Igbo Traditional Wedding


1. Marriage inquiry (“Iku aka” or “Iju ese”)

The first step of the Igbo traditional wedding rites is the groom visiting the bride’s immediate family. Accompanied by his father or the eldest member of his family. if his dad is dead.


Usually, they are to show up empty-handed because “Iku aka” or “Iju ese” means coming to knock or inquire. But the groom and his family are free to go along with some hot drinks and kolanuts as goodwill offerings.


The groom’s father does the talking. He introduces himself to the bride’s parents or guardian and explains the purpose of his visit. Then he officially announces his son’s interest in marrying their daughter. The bride-to-be parents then call her out and ask her if she knows her suitor and would want to marry him. Her response then determines if they would proceed to tell the extended family and the bride price negotiation.


2. Seeking consent from the bride-to-be’s extended family (the “Umunna”)

After the first visit, the bride’s family begins an investigation on the groom’s family. They check their background and history, including hereditary illnesses, bad behaviours, divorce and fertility. This investigation also determines the progress of the next meeting between both families. After it, the bride’s people will then decide if the groom-to-be is good enough to take care of their daughter and their future children.


The next meeting will be between the groom’s family (they can be as much as 20 people) and the bride’s extended family popularly known as “Umunna”. This meeting is important because the groom’s people have to restate their interest in marrying from their family. They first have to give the groom their consent and then the bride gives the final consent. In Igboland, tradition states that the groom takes a few gifts along (such as kola nuts, palm wine, beer, soft drinks, tobacco, snuff and a goat).


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3. Bride price negotiation and payment (“Ime ego”)

After the second visit, the groom’s family may get consent from the bride’s extended family. The groom’s family can then proceed with the bride price negotiation and payment, known as “Ime ego”. The groom’s family asks for the engagement gifts list; this list differs from place to place in Igboland.


The money paid for the bride price is significantly small and can go for as low as ₦30. It isn’t an indication of the bride’s worth. The extra gifts brought make up the larger part of the bride price. The groom’s family then presents all they’ve bought to the bride’s family on an agreed date or on the day of the wine-carrying ceremony.


“Ime ego” can be a hectic process between both families with a lot of begging from the groom’s side and a lot of bragging from the bride’s side. The bride’s family starts to list their daughter’s accomplishments and what the groom-to-be stands to gain by marrying her.


4. Wine-carrying ceremony by the bride (“Igba Nkwu Nwanyi and Idu Uno”)

"Igba Nkwu Nwanyi"- A Look At The Igbo Traditional Wedding


This is the last and final rite done by the groom’s family. After the date for the official wine carrying has been set, the ceremony takes place at the bride’s home. Her family prepares a large feast for the groom’s family and other invited guests. They also hire a live band and traditional dancers to make the ceremony interesting. Usually, the bride-to-be wears a traditional Igbo wedding attire. This attire may include a blouse, a double wrapper, and a red coral bead necklace. She also wears a big head tie known as ‘Ichafu’ or a bead around her head. However, with modern fashion styles, this attire may differ from the norm.


The groom is accompanied by a larger party this time (friends included). Then he must present the list along with the required gifts to the “Umunna” before the ceremony begins.

Igba nkwu

The highlight of the Igbo traditional wedding is when the bride, in public, points out the man she wants to marry. The bride’s father or eldest uncle (if her dad is dead) then prays for the bride, blessing her future marriage. He gives her a cup of palm wine to find the man she intends to spend the rest of her life with. The bride, along with her maidens or friends, goes to find her groom who is hiding in the crowd. She searches for him with the wine in her hand. The groom’s friends and other men beckon on the bride to give them the wine. After searching him out, she offers him the drink in her hand, kneeling down. If he takes a sip, it signifies to the crowd that he is her husband. This acceptance means they are officially man and wife. The groom and bride dance to meet her parents who then pronounce blessings on them. The merriment begins and the couple is given gifts by friends and family.


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