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The Igbo Traditional Wedding-Igba Nkwu, Igbo Traditional Marriage ceremonies

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The visit and informal introduction

The visit

When a man sees a good woman he intends to marry, he pays the brides family a visit. In most first visits they inform the bride’s family of their intended visit. The groom’s father accompanies the son or intended husband alongside one or two kinsmen.

They are usually welcomed by the father and the mother of the bride then the father of the bride esquires the reason for their visit.

The first formal introduction

The first contact between both families is the knocking on the door referred to as ikwu aka and in my opinion the most important stage of the three stage processes.

The groom is accompanied by two elders and his father, the father explains the purpose of their visit by first introducing himself to the bride’s father.

The father may state his chieftain title if he has one, occupation, family linage and the village he comes from then he introduces his kinsmen and his son. He explains the intentions of the son which is a proposal for marriage to the daughter.

At this stage the bride’s father invites the daughter who has the right to accept or reject a proposal. If she rejects the proposal there would be no marriage but if she accepts the man then the next stage would commence.

Traditional wedding

The Igbo people of Eastern Nigeria are an enterprising ethnic group, and are noted for their culture and traditions, high business acumen and industrious savvy. In Nigeria they dominate the commercial hub running upwards of thirty five percent (35%) of small business enterprise in the country.

Courtship depends on the individuals concerned sometime the groom is familiar with the intended bride or his family might call his attention to a blossoming flower they feel would make a good wife. Sometimes they are total strangers but must times they are friends.

When the man decides to take an Igbo woman as his wife several stages of consent must be strictly adhered to, the process although lengthy is never devoid of drama excitement, rich cultural establishments, fun and laughter. Unlike western cultures were a man and a woman can walk into a registry and within five minutes become husband and wife, the taking of a bride in most African cultures can be a complex affair.

In Igbo land though each region has its own practices, the mechanics is still the same. Taking a wife in Igboland is a family affair every member of the two families and the villagers are involved in the process.

Edo traditional wedding

Edo Traditional wedding

Edo Traditional wedding

second introduction and the Wedding

The Second formal introduction

The second introduction is more extensive because the groom would be accompanied by some relations, father and some elders from his household; they formally introduce themselves restating their intentions.

The brides family if favorable would accept their introduction, the grooms people would then present a few gifts which does not include cash but traditionally acceptable items. Items like expensive wrapper such as lace, hollandaise material, George material, wine, kola nuts, goat, chicken and other small items.

Food and drinks are given to the guest as a show of hospitality, after a closed door meeting between elders of both families. A list is given to the family of the groom and a bride price settlement which should be fully adhere to on the day of the traditional Igbo marriage ceremony.

The traditional marriage is regarded as the most important marriage rites any Igbo couple should perform. The ceremony is placed higher than contemporary weddings like church or registry weddings.

In most cases the couple after going through the traditional marriage might decide to follow through with a church wedding or a government registry wedding. A large number of easterners are catholic so having a catholic wedding after the traditional marriage is very important.

Traditional wedding

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The traditional wedding called the Igba Nkwu is hosted in the compound or venue hired by the bride’s family,.The marriage is an entire communal affair involving friend’s acquaintances, business partners, relations and village members.

The entire marriage festivities have been divided into various sections were specific items that are listed would be presented at the appropriate time.

The list of gifts consists of items for the maidens of the house, village elders, extended family and parents of the bride. Igbo traditional marriage can be pricey because items listed are sacrosanct and incontestable any deviation from the list could jeopardize the union so adequate preparation on the part of the groom’s family is important.

Ibo Traditional Wedding

Ibo Traditional Wedding

Ibo Traditional Wedding

Edo bride

Edo bride from Nigeria

Edo bride from Nigeria

Traditional dress code

Dress code

The theme of the traditional marriage (Igba Nkwu) in regards to dress code is important since it should complement the traditional ceremony, the bride and groom usually chooses the same fabric which is usually combined with heavy embroidery, beads and bangles.

The family of the bride and groom may choose different outfits but they are easy identified by the different color schemes adapted by each group, the guest are expected to be decked in finery that rivals that rivals the important occasion.

Brides outfit.

The brides outfit complements the grooms because they are sown from the same material; they complement each other and signify the union of two people who become one. The fabric favored for such occasions could be a Ghana wax fabric, Ankara, Abada, hollandaise which is sown into a top blouse and a large wrapper referred to as Akwete.

The body is adorned with beautiful sandals, ear rings, necklace, wrist lets, waist beads (jigida), bangles, feet and wrist chains, gold, coral beads and body covered in white clay. She may wear brass leg rings and the toes are not left out and are painted in traditional hue depending on the color scheme, and her hair could be braided or woven with a beaded crown beautifying the head or she might opt to covered her head in a head tie.

The brides outfit can be worn in two ways she could decide wearing a Nigerian wax fabric tank top, matching skirt, bold wrist bangle, large necklaces and beads around the waist beads-jigida, leg beads and hair wearing an elegant bead crown. The second outfit could be a blouse and wrappers ensemble complete with similar adornments around the neck, waist, ankles and wrists.

The grooms outfit.

The grooms outfit could be brocade material, top quality lace, a fabric called jacquard or silk, it should complement the fabric chosen by his bride, and the groom usually has on large shirts which could be sown having elaborate embroidery and animal symbolism.

The trousers could follow the same theme or not, if he’s a titled chief he wears a head hat that identifies him as a chief, he can wear beads around his neck if he so chooses.

Rural community as venue

Igbo rural communities are sometimes used as wedding venues

Igbo rural communities are sometimes used as wedding venues

Venue and marriage items

The venue

The venue is always for the bride’s family to decide, it could be in the brides family compound, a selected hall, towns hall or an open space covered with a large canopy tents. The venue usually has a theme color, simple decorations and several tables and chairs arranged opposite each other with the high table making up the u shape loaded with wine and choice drinks.

This is not a hard and fast rule and regular ceremonial setting would suffice, once there is a high table to officiate the proceeding. As the ceremony proceeds and the list are adhered to, each item is presented to the gathering so they know the groom’s people have fulfilled the traditional requirements.

The traditional marriage items

The festivities in the earlier stages of the Igba Nkwu begins on a low tempo with native songs and chants by the women, the guests are entertained while the elders of both families get on with the marriage formalities.

If the lady to be married had attained high academic qualifications, the cash gifts payout might be higher than someone who never attended college, this is not punitive but a measure of the training the brides family put into their children.

Sometimes the father of the bride waivers the right to collect any cash gifts for himself since his daughter is not for sale.

Kola nuts

Kola nuts play an integral part in ibo traditional weddings

Kola nuts play an integral part in ibo traditional weddings

Igbo traditional Wedding

Igbo traditional wedding gifts

Igbo traditional wedding gifts

Igbo traditional wedding gifts

Beautiful gift items,Jewels of a Continent

Gifts and the occasion

Young maiden’s gift

The presentation of items allocated to the daughters or young maidens in the bride’s family could include some items such as gold plated jewelry, gold earrings, various head ties, and wrappers of hollandaise, wax fabric, bangles, rings and leather handbags.

The extensive list include beverage drinks such cartoons of mineral water, malt drinks, beverages, food items, toiletries such as bathing soaps, body creams, shampoos, detergents and the Ogwe ego which is a cash gift.

Gifts for the head of the extended family

The list of gifts to be presented to the representative of the heads of the extended family include the traditional kola nuts, potash and heads of tobacco, kegs of palm wine, one or two goats, packets of cigarette, assorted drinks and several cartoons of beer and cash gifts of an agree lump sum in cash placed in an envelop.

The list is incomplete without the traditional favorite a few bottles of seaman’s schnapps a kind of gin, the cash gift is referred to as Ego Umu Nna and is of great importance, it also symbolizes the fact that the bride was raised by the entire family.

During the entire ceremony several cash gifts presentations are made which include money for the in-laws (Ego ogo cherem) which could be as much as three hundred ($300). A smaller cash gifts payouts like something to do with the fertility of the bride(Ego maternity)around ten dollars ($10). Ego nfotu ite cash gift around $10 .

A symbolic pot presentation indicating that she would be a good wife and take proper care of the groom and Ego onye cash presentation that recognizes and includes the villagers in the marriage.

Ibo Traditional gift items

perishablesobjectsgift animals

yam tubers



bag of rice

shoes and bags


kola nut

expensive materials



head ties

cow for party

Gift items presented by the groom

1 One or two goats

2 Cartoons of beer, malt drinks

3 Wrappers, head ties, Nigerian wax fabric

4 Jewelry, earrings, chains bangles

5 Shoes, leather bags

6 Beverages

7 Kegs of palm wine

8 Toiletries like soap sponge, detergents, shampoos, body cream 9 Kola nut

10 Heads of tobacco

11 Cartoons of cigarette

12 Various cash gifts

13 Farm produce like tubers of yam, plantain, bag of rice

The brides appearance

The bride’s appearance

Once all presentation have been done as custom demands the bride makes an entrance led by her maidens, she approaches her father who gives her a symbolic wooden cup filled with palm wine, the purpose is for the bride to seek out her suitor among the teeming crowd.

The groom might choose to seat at the back with friends or within the crowd, she seeks him out and offers him the wine which he drinks expressing his love, affection and agreement with the bonding, they then present themselves to their individual parents and the gathering.

The festivity now becomes a full f ledge party with lovely native drums and music which could be through age group songs , a live band playing ethnic music, native drums and scintillating dances performed by young unmarried ladies.

Lots of food and drinks are consumed even extending it to members of the community and villagers.


Igbo traditional wedding although a little pricey is a rich representation of a peoples culture traditions, music, ethnic fashion, native meals, communal love and unity.

Family is important in many African countries especially pertaining to marriage, the bonding of two individual means the bonding of the entire families and extended families.

Cultures in Nigeria although slightly different have great respect and acceptance for traditional marriage rites. In some areas if the woman gets married without going through the tradition ceremony then the people regard her as unmarried and God forbid she dies, the fake husband might have to jump through some rites before the spouse gets buried.

Traditional marriage is serious business in most African cultures.

Learn more about Igbo culture

© 2014 femi


femi (author) from Nigeria on June 29, 2020:

Thanks for the comment

Farrah Young from Lagos, Nigeria on June 28, 2020:

You give a clear description of weddings in most major tribes in Nigeria.

My exact tribe, Urhobo shares very similar cultures with the Edos and I could see a lot of similarities in our wedding processions and style.

favour ujunwa on December 31, 2014:

indeed I like this

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