Tag Archives: wedding custom

Bride-price~Nigerian (Igbo) Marriage Traditions

Context: This is the second step that a man must take in order to get married. My mom learned these from her father and my dad learned the process from his own father. They value this tradition heavily and my dad underwent this process when he married my mom.

  • Bride-price
    • The bride price is a token for raising a wonderful young lady and paid by the parents of the prospective groom. Once the bride price is presented the money is divided to the father and his kingsmen[uncles, cousins…etc], the mother[sisters, cousins..etc], the uncle, and the auntie partake in the money. 
      • Thoughts: I found this step to be very interesting to me. When I was listening to my parents explain this my initial thoughts were that it appeared that I was going to be sold off and married when I was old enough, however, my perceptions changed when they told me why this payment was so significant. A bride-price is not a means for which a man pays to marry a person, instead, it is a symbolic gesture paid by the prospective groom to give thanks to the family of the woman he intends to marry. The bride price is an offering of thanks for raising such a well brought up a young woman who the man now wants to marry. It was really interesting learning about this marriage custom, and I hope to witness this process one day or possibly the day that I or a female member of my family will be approached by someone who wants to marry us.

Idu uno-Nigerian (Igbo) Marriage Traditions

Context: This is the last step that a man must take in order to get married. My mom learned these from her father and my dad learned the process from his own father. They value this tradition heavily and my dad underwent this process when he married my mom.

  • Idu uno
    • This process is where the father of the bride and his kingsman buy everything that the bride needs in her new household. They will buy her a fridge, stove, furniture, and anything else she will need in her new life as a wife. The father of the bride could also give them land to cultivate or provide them with a home and car to start their lives with. The mother of the bride and her fellow women will also give the bride things for her new life by buying all the things she will need for her kitchen.
    • Young men of the community will then play music and accompany the bride to the husband’s parent’s house. All of the items for the bride will be brought to her new inlaws home. The young men of the community will request compensation from their elders. The parents of the groom must present a specific amount of kola and tobacco before the young men move the items inside their home. The leader of the young men will then break kola for the new bride and will see her into her new home along with other young women of the community.
      • Thoughts: In this final step, family and community are especially highlighted in more elaborate gestures of care. It was really cool listening to this process because it’s not something I have witnessed in American weddings. While in American weddings the bride and groom do receive gifts, it’s not to the extent that a procession is undertaken to not only give the bride everything she needs but also help her move in. When I was in Nigeria last winter, I actually got to see this step of the marriage rights take place. The bride was ushered into the home of her husband’s parents and the men of the community would one by one carry gifts into the house. Gifts ranged from bags of rice to whole fridges and stoves, and even whole plots of land. This was amazing to hear because it highlights how united the family and community are in rallying behind the newlyweds. The community as a whole wants to make sure that the new union is prosperous and wants nothing but the best. I appreciate this gesture because I got to see how happy and warm the newlyweds were. Knowing that the community around them is all in support of them, it is a perfect way to kick off a happy union. 

Inyo uno-Nigerian (Igbo) Marriage Tradition

Context: This is the first step that a man must take in order to get married. My mom learned these from her father and my dad learned the process from his own father. They value this tradition heavily and my dad underwent this process when he married my mom.

  • Inyo uno
    • If a man wants to marry a maiden, he must go to the home of the maiden’s father accompanied by his kingsmen[family members]. With them, the man must bring hot drink [alcohol] and kola nuts[object of prayer and goodwill] to tell the parents of the maiden that he wants to marry their daughter. He must break the kola nut with the girl’s family and give them the kola nut and hot drink that he brought for the girl’s parents to keep. The parents of the girl then think over the marriage request and look into the man’s past and his family’s past to check for illness, health issues, and bad qualities like lying or theft. Once the parents are satisfied and they determine the man is good, they will call their family members and will break the kola and drink the hot drink brought by the man in question. Once this has been done, they will call the man’s family and start making arrangements.
      • Thoughts: I found this step interesting because of the process of asking for someone’s hand in marriage. The dialogue between the prospective groom and the parents of the family is very structured and there are specific steps that have to be followed[i.e. bringing your kingsman and bringing kola and hot drink as an offering]. In addition, the prospective groom really has no means of telling whether he has done enough to appease the parents. The man engages in this grand gesture, bringing kola nut and hot drink [symbols of his marriage request] and presenting them to the women’s parents as a sacred offering. What further intrigued me was the full background check undertaken by the parents of the prospective bride, in that they would extensively move through the family history of the man in question and make sure that he presented no bad traits that would make him unfit for marriage. If the prospective groom is found to be unfit for marriage, traditionally the parents will not support the union and their daughter will not be getting married. This a very interesting marriage custom and appears to be the most crucial before any real steps towards a union can take place.

Indian Wedding Custom: Stealing Shoes

Text:

BH: “So one of the wedding rituals that all, or like most, of the Indian weddings have, is the joota churai [shoe stealing] of the groom, so basically the [to-be] sister-in-law that uh, whenever, so Indian wedding require you to remove your shoes whenever you enter into that pandar [ceremonial area] where the groom and the bride [perform the official religious marriage rituals] – they have to remove their shoes because shoes are considered to be something dirty and they’re entering into a pure religious place and that’s why they are asked to remove the shoes. So, as soon as the groom removes his shoes, it a battle, or kind of like a battle, between the groom’s side and the bride’s side because the bride’s sides – the sister-in-laws – are supposed to steal the groom’s shoes and at the end of the wedding [ceremony], the sister-in-law will present the shoes back to the groom in exchange for some money. It is like a ritual which shows the relationship between a sister-in-law and – like a very friendly relationship – between the groom and his sister-in-law, it kind of helps them bond.”

MS: “Have you yourself ever been involved in the stealing?”

BH: “So basically what happened – there’s a varmala ceremony [bride and groom exchange “necklaces” made of flowers, similar to leis, similar to the exchange of rings] that happens in Indian weddings. So the groom was [lifted] by his brothers onto their shoulders so that he could put the varmala on his bride. And during that time, all the sister-in-laws – because he was at a height – they, uh, removed his shoes without him knowing and we ran away and we hid them in a car and the whole time when he had to pose for pictures, he was just barefoot and then he had to go for the ceremony [where he would have had to remove his shoes anyway] so it didn’t really matter. But it was a good ice-breaking session for us, that allowed us to bond. Because then we had to uh – so once the wedding ceremony was over, we came to him with his shoes and we were basically bargaining with him for how much he’d be willing to buy his shoes for. Since there were a lot of saliyans [sister-in-laws], we negotiated to a high amount and in the end, it depends on the groom and his family as to what uh amount they want to give and that is split equally among the sisters…It helped us make – uh, it was an ice-breaking thing for us, because the next time I met him [the groom], I was very comfortable because I had led the negotiation earlier because I was the closest sister-in-law so it was very easy for me to maintain a good rapport with him later as well.”

MS: “Does it matter where you hide the shoes?”

BH: “Not really. You just have to make sure you hide them well because if the groom’s side takes the shoes, then you will not get your money. So we usually hide them in the cars so we aren’t really bothered during the long ceremonies that we have in Indian wedding that the shoes might be stolen back by the groom’s side.”

[Talking more about the negotiation over the shoes]

BH: “It’s a very very hard negotiation, so all of the bride’s family and the groom’s family come in to support both of them, though the bride doesn’t say anything even though she is pressured to say something, she will not say anything because she does not want to take anyone’s side…In the end, we just take – as the sister-in-laws, we just take whatever the groom is willing to give and whatever his capacity is to give and that is equally – but it helps because we make jokes about it in the future. Because a sali’s [sister-in-law’s] relationship with her jija [brother-in-law] is very fun and relaxed – it’s like friend-cum-brother so they should be able to have open conversations and this is one of the ways to establish that.”

 

Context:

The informant is a college student from India. The conversation was in response to my question about any wedding traditions that the informant has been involved in or seen in the past. The informant is also bilingual so the conversation happened in a mix of English and Hindi. I have translated the relevant Hindi parts to English as per my own interpretation and in an attempt to retain the meaning as best as possible. Certain key terms have been Romanized and their translations or explanations are given in brackets. The content has been lightly edited, and the removed content is indicated by ellipses.

 

Interpretation:

This was a very culturally dense discussion that took for granted a basic understanding of how Indian weddings work. Focusing specifically on the one ritual of stealing the groom’s shoes, it seems to be, as the informant says, a means to establish a relationship between the groom and the sister-in-laws. But it is also notable that the entire family joins the discussion about how much the groom is going to pay for his shoes, whose side you support becomes an identifier of whether you belong to the groom’s side or the bride’s side. In the same vein, the bride is not supposed to partake in this discussion because she is now supposed to be a part of both the groom and the bride’s sides. The exchange of money itself is also interesting and may have some historical basis in the fact that traditionally the expenses of the wedding ceremonies were paid for entirely by the bride’s side of the family – this seems to be one of the place where the bride’s side can some monetary and symbolic compensation.

Also interesting is the change that the informant implicitly mentioned from the traditional “battle” like nature of the ritual, where each side is supposed to steal back and forth from each other, to the more modern “we just hide them in the car and forget about them till the end of the ceremony”. Even though the practice has changed, its social significance persists.