Nigerian Wedding Culture

Written by danny djeljosevic
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Nigerian Wedding Culture
Nigeria has its own wedding customs. (Nigeria flag icon. (with clipping path) image by Andrey Zyk from Fotolia.com)

Nigerian weddings consist of much celebration and feasting, coupled with a respect for cultural traditions, even as new marriage practices make their way into the culture. Many aspects of Nigerian weddings vary according to region--such as whether the couple chooses to marry or if their marriage is arranged--but there are universal aspects to the process.

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Types

Generally, there are three types of marriages. The civil marriage takes place at a government registry office, and the religious marriage occurs according to what the couple's religion dictates. There's also the traditional Nigerian wedding ceremony. Couples may choose to do all three, if their financial situation allows for it.

Introduction

The marriage process begins with the introduction, which takes place several days prior to the wedding itself and often involves the families both wearing traditional Nigerian clothing. The ceremony involves groom's family visiting the bride's family and giving them a letter to ask the family permission to marry their daughter, often sweetening the deal with a dowry, which many Nigerians still practice today. The dowry can be money, livestock or yams.

Engagement

Taking place the night before the wedding ceremony, the engagement ceremony involves another visit to the bride's family from the groom's family. This is when the bride's family finally gives an answer to the letter of request from the groom's family, at which point both families meet their wedding guests. The families and their guests then celebrate with food and drink, including a customary drink of palm wine by the bride and groom, which a family elder administers.

Ceremony

At the ceremony itself, the bride wears fabric imported from India, as well as a headpiece and jewellery, such as necklaces and ankle bracelets. Often a bride will also wear henna tattoo designs on her body. The bride and the groom exchange vows and sometimes symbolic items, such as food, religious texts or rings. Everyone then celebrates at night with a party, where the families and their guests eat a large feast that's accompanied by music and dancing.

Western Influence

Although the traditions remain, Western ceremonies have become common in Nigeria, due to the presence of churches and missionaries. Thus, it is not uncommon for Nigerian couples to have their ceremony in a church with tuxedos and white dresses. However, at the wedding reception, the bride and groom wear traditional clothes and dine on traditional food. However, the music at the reception tends to be a mix of traditional music and Western music.

Polygamy

Polygamy is legal in Nigeria, thus allowing a man to have as many wives as he wants. However, polygamy has become somewhat uncommon for several reasons. First of all, despite how acceptable the practice is in traditional marriages, civil marriages don't allow the man to marry multiple women at once. On religious grounds, having multiple wives is forbidden in Christianity and limited to four wives in Islam. Additionally, due to economic conditions in Nigeria, many men cannot afford to support a family with multiple wives.

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