Traditional engagement in Igbo land
Customs and traditions is an integral part of eastern Nigeria especially the Igbo ethnic group. Almost every aspect of their lives abides by deep-rooted customs like child naming, burial rites, and even weddings.
Traditional marriage and engagement is a very important aspect of Igbo unions and in some cases mandatory. Therefore, if you intend marring an Igbo woman prepare to fulfill the marriage rites and customs.
The marriage might be pricy or not depending on the geographical area and family, your sweetheart belongs. A groom thinking of marrying an Igbo woman should start early and go through the process in order to fulfill all requirements.
The engagement list covers the general list used in such occasions and is not indicative of different ethnic group’s preferences. Some areas have smaller lists than others do but many of the items listed are the same.
Traditional wedding picture
The Igbo marriage and engagement process
Everything follows a specified sequence before you can start on the marriage proper. First is the marriage introduction, then the presentation of the engagement list. The next process is the bride price, the gifts, general gifts, cash gifts, the dowry, and then the marriage ceremony.
Igbo engagement list items
The engagement list is divided into five categories that include the dowry, cash gifts (Ime-ego), and general gifts. Others are gifts for the men in the extended family and gifts for the women in the bride’s extended family.
The cost might add up when you consider all these gift items and the cash implication. However, engagement-lists differ form each region but maintain the same purpose.
Igbo marriage introduction
The marriage proposal to immediate family: The introduction comes in two phases one is the informal meeting between you/select group to meet your bride’s family. Meeting the parents of the woman and asking for the hand of their daughter is the first step.
The parents should be aware of your coming and would call their daughter and ask her if she consents to the union. If she declines NO SHOW but if she accepts the proposal then the process of getting marriage has just begun.
The marriage proposal in Igbo land is called (iku aka), which literally means Knocking on the door. Meeting the bride’s parent alone shows respect and honoring them with first hand knowledge your intentions
The marriage proposal to extended family: After the acceptance of your marriage proposal by the bride and immediate family, you return for another meeting. This time the intended groom comes with his people for the consent of the extended family.
The groom and his people receive an engagement list to follow to the letter. The engagement list encompasses several provisions like the dowry, bride price, list of items and cash sums payable.
The list contains various items that are required during the engagement ceremony so early preparation is important.
Items in the engagement list
Engagement list continued
18 Jewelry like necklace, wristwatches, rings
19 Shoes and bags
20 Large suitcase
22 3 umbrellas
23 25 loaves of bread
24 One basin of stock fish
25 A Big basin
26 Igbo scarf’s
27 Gallons of ground nut oil
28 Two Goat legs
29 Cartons of beer and stout drinks
30 Materials like hollandaise
31 Igbo styled blouses
32 Bride price- (always negotiable)
33 One gallon of kerosene
34 One carton of Tinned tomatoes
35 One carton of milk
36 Tubers of yam
A comprehensive Igbo engagement and marriage list
1 Gallons of Palm wine
2 Packets Cigarettes
3 One Goat
5 Cartons of soft drinks/Malt drinks
6 Lots of Beverages
7 Perfumes and deodorants
8 Toiletries like Soap, detergents, Body lotions, body creams
9 Kola nuts
10 Bottle of Hot drinks like whiskey, rum
11 Bags of rice
12 Bags of salt
13 One carton of soap
14 20 Talc powder
15 Large onions
16 Other assorted drinks
17 Cash sums
Igbo traditional wedding items
Igbo traditional marriage (Open the Door)
The engagement and marriage proper starts with the opening of the door ceremony. You have knocked on the door by informing the family of the bride, turned the key by her acceptance now you open the door.
The door opening ceremony called nmepe uzo is done via several protocols and some items on the list. Some of the items presented are two cartons of beer/stout, six crates of soft drinks, two cartons of malt, and three bottles of whisky.
More items include thirty tubers of yam, two bags of rice, and two bags of salt, thirty big onions. Others are three umbrellas, one lantern, one suitcase, two gold necklaces, two wristwatches, and five sets of high quality material.
The list continues with two basins, twenty heads of tobacco snuff, and ten packets of cigarettes. Two goat legs, twenty five loaves of bread, one carton of tinned tomatoes, one carton of milk, and one carton of soap/liquid soap.
Do not forget the Igbo styled lace blouses/scarf, one basin of stockfish, kerosene, groundnut oil, and ten liters of palm oil.
Items for the female relatives
Items presented to female and male relatives of the bride
Items for the male relatives: Items shared amongst the male heads of the family as gifts include kola nuts, which is of great importance in such ceremonies. Other Items include cash sums, a goat, cigarettes, tobacco snuff, cartons of beer/stout, soft, and malt drinks, jerry cans of palm wine and bottles of hot drinks.
Items for the female relatives: The items given to the female members of the bride’s family include high quality material like Abada, George, Hollandaise, and Wax. More items are shoes and bags, jewelry, toiletries, beverages, cartons of soft drinks and various cash sums.
Fees and monetary sums
There are several cash gifts during the bridal ceremony, which are purely symbolic. The cash is used during the ceremony to bring down the pot, open the keg, maternity money, village head money, in-laws money, and lump sum.
Cash sums paid during engagement ceremonies
1 The entrance or admittance fee ( open the door)
2 Money for the male and female relatives of the brides family
3 Money for the elders of the family
4 Money for the father and mother of the bride to consent to the union
5 Money maternity
6 The dowry
7 Fee to open the pot
8 Fee paid to unveil the bride
9 Lump cash sums
Apart from the extensive list of items, the cumulative cash sums are low, negotiable, and just symbolic.
|Local provisions||Cash payouts||Luxury items|
Cash for in-laws
cash for maternity
cash as dowry
various cash sums
In Igbo traditional engagement ceremonies, the amount paid as dowry is subject to the extended family’s request. The Dowry could be a paltry sum or a heavy amount depending on the bride’s family.
A large amount is negotiable and a fixed consensus amount agreed to by both families. Some ethic groups do not ask for dowries or may request a small symbolic sum or objects like cowries.
List of engagement items
The groom should buy all the items listed and present them on the occasion. Before presenting, the items make sure all the listed items have been bought.
Bellow is an engagement list that covers the basic requirements.
1 Fashion items include wrappers like Nigerian wax print, George, Hollandaise and Abada. Others are Igbo Scarf’s, blouses, handbags, gold wristwatch for the bride, and a large suitcase.
2 Traditional items are palm wine, bottles of hot drink, tobacco, goat, cigarettes, palm oil, and Kola nuts.
3 Food items involve 30 tubers of yam, groundnut oil, tin tomatoes, a bag of salt, bag of rice, carton of milk, large onions, stock fish, and a few other items.
4 Other items are umbrellas, cartons of beer/stout, soft drinks, kerosene, big basin, and lamp.
Igbo marriages and engagement concerns both families and the entire community. The tradition is beautiful fun and lively and carries great significance.
Traditional institutions in Igbo land are very important and a serious occasions. Intended grooms should prepare adequately before taking the all-important steps.
Igbo engagement ceremony
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femi (author) from Nigeria on July 06, 2015:
Hello Iyonessq13(Wendi), the list looks extensive but each item has some cultural interpretation. The weird ones are even more significant than the bags, shoes and wrappers.
Thanks a lot for your comment.
Summer LeBlanc from USA on July 05, 2015:
I found your article fascinating! I think that Canadian men and American men should have to abide by a list too! ;) If I weren't already married, I'd suggest it to my husband.
That's a lot of stuff, and some of it's kind of odd- but probably not so odd to them!
Voted up, interesting, beautiful!