There’s a right and wrong way to go about asking to marry an Igbo girl or woman from the elders of her (extended family) and most men do it wrong and spend dearly for their mistakes – scroll down to find out. How many times is a would-be-groom expected to visit his future Igbo in-laws before getting their consent to marry their daughter? What are the things a groom expected to bring to the introduction, during his first official (introductory) visit and subsequent visits to the bride-to-be’s parents and extended family. Continue reading to find out everything the groom need to know about the igbo customary marriage introduction in this post, which is part 2 of the series “Stages & Process Involved in preparing for an Igbo Traditional Marriage Ceremony” – you can find the links to the other parts at the end of this article down below.
Stages & Process Involved in Igbo Traditional Marriage Ceremony
The igbo traditional marriage rites and process can be broken down into 4 main stages, and the groom-to-be with his family members are expected to visit the bride’s direct and extended family for the necessary discussions and bride price negotiations. First, I need to share with you a common mistake you should avoid (below) that could cause you to spend more money.
Common Mistakes Men Make When Trying to Marry an Igbo Girl/ Lady
In Igboland, your marriage proposal (with your fiance) is not enough to take her to the altar. You need to meet and ask her bigger family, her father’s family. Asking her father or Uncle (guardian) is not enough, although it’s the right first step. Note that the process is simple, friendly and not complex at all – although most men let hearsay keep them from taking the next bold step. Read on to know how to go about marrying an Igbo lady according to the Igbo custom.
Many grooms-to-be to igbo ladies make the mistake of wanting to jump this stage – some take their very first visit to the bride’s extended family as the ‘traditional marriage’ only to be told that they have to obtain the traditional marriage list and prepare to do the ‘ime ego’ (bride price payment) and ‘igba nkwu’ (traditional engagement/ wedding ceremony). Courtesy, and tradition, demands that you first meet-and-greet elders of her family, make your marriage intentions known to them, and them OFFICIALLY ask them how to proceed to marry their daughter. You should not take a marriage list unless the bride’s family officially presented you with ‘the list’, usually upon your request when you make your introductory visit. However, on the very first visit, do not go empty-handed, make a good first impression by taking some good quality gifts (usually some bottles of wines and hot drinks, and anything else) – again, courtesy demands that. That’s (almost) how it’s done everywhere in Nigeria. In Igboland, if a groom-to-be brings the engagement list on his very first visit, your intentions would be suspicious, the items you bring would be received (but not regarded as ‘traditional marriage list gifts’) and you will still be required to bring the bride’s village official/ customary engagement list gift items – meaning you will spend more. Read on for the customary way to go about asking to marry an igbo girl or woman.
Visit #1: The Introduction, Proposal/ Inquiry (Iku Aka or Iju Ese)
The igbo translation of iku aka is ‘to knock on the door’ and “Iju Ese” is translated as: ‘to ask about or inquire’. This is the very first visit of the groom-to-be to his prospective in-laws. Escorted by some members of his family, the would-be-groom makes an introductory visit and formally introduces himself and his family members to the bride-to-be’s family, officially makes known his intent to marry their daughter, and then ‘asks’ for the bride’s parents’ consent.
The Groom’s Escort Party: You (the groom) should not go alone for the ‘iku aka’ visit – you are expected to be accompanied with your father and elderly relatives, plus a few close friends (optional). Here, the groom-to-be, accompanied by his parents and a small group of close family members (one or two uncles and aunts) visit the bride’s parents to officially announce his interest in marrying their daughter, and also asking the girl’s hand in marry their daughter. His father or an elderly Uncle would be the spokesman at this visit.
Discretionary Gifts: When going for the ‘iku aka’, the groom is not expected to take any gift along, but you can use your discretion to take a few gifts – not good to go to your in-laws empty handed. We see some grooms taking some hot drinks (some kolanuts, a small gallon of palm wine, alcoholic drinks such as schnapps/ whisky, and/ or non-alcoholic wine), on this initial visit to his future inlaws.
The bride may not be present during the ‘Iku Aka’, if she does not live with her parents. If she lives with her parents, she would be called in and asked for her own consent, and if her answer is “yes”, the gifts (kolanuts and drinks) are accepted and shared there and then, and further visits would be scheduled. If not, the meeting would come to an end. If the bride-to-be lives far from her parents, her family will tell you that you will be contacted with the answer/ response, whether a ‘yes’ or ‘no’. If you receive a ‘yes’, you proceed to the ‘ime ego’ stage.
What happens after the groom embarked on the ‘iku aka’ (aka ‘iju ese’) visit? The bride’s family would usually send out an representatives to go check/ investigate the groom-to-be and his background, find out where he is from, what he does for a living, about his family (are they good people etc), any recurrences in his family history (such as diseases, sicknesses, negative characters, fertility, history of divorce, level of responsibility of the men in that family and commitment to their wife and children etc) and any other important thing. The essence of this type of investigation is for the bride’s family to determine whether the would-be-groom is “capable” and responsible enough to take care of their daughter and future grand-children.
It is assumed that the groom’s family should also be carrying out a similar investigation on the bride and her family, prior to the introductory visit. Based on this, the bride’s family would give an answer to the groom-to-be’s family.
If the “Iku Aka’ is positive, the groom with his family will receive a list of the other steps involved and an overview of the customary marriage requirements of the bride’s village (this varies slightly from one igbo town to another).
Visit #2: Consent From Bride’s Extended Family
During his first visit, the would-be-groom/ suitor visits the woman’s parents. Now, this visit is to the bride’s clan (her father’s people/ her extended family) – to inform her extended family that you are interested in marrying their daughter. This stage is very important because it is only when the groom-to-be receives the consent (of distinct members of the bride’s extended family) that dates for the traditional marriage rites and ceremony cannot be scheduled, and things would progress from there.
Here, the groom is expected to be accompanied with more people than your first visit (so, endure to not go alone to ask for her hand in marriage). You could have as many as 20 people accompany you. Igbo etiquette suggests that you don’t go empty-handed; take a few gifts along (such as include kola nuts, palm wine, beer, soft drinks, heads of tobacco and snuff and a goat).
Visit #3: The Igbo Bride Price Payment (Ime Ego)
After receiving the consent of the bride’s family as well as of her extended family, the groom can proceed to visit the bride’s family again, with his family members, to settle the bride price (ime ego). This money is totally a symbolic thing and not the real amount or value of the woman.
Before you make the “ime ego” visit, you need to ask your future in-laws for the customary engagement list of items to bring along – usually, ‘the engagement gifts list’. This is a customary list of things a groom should bring when asking to marry a bride, and the items in the list differs slightly from place to place in igboland.
During the ‘ime ego’, the groom’s father and family elders will present the bride price. They may also present the engagement gifts at this time if the igba-nkwu is on the same day. If not, the engagement gifts would be presented on the day of the igba-nkwu ceremony.
The ‘ime ego’ (bride price/ dowry) usually involves lengthy negotiations regarding the value of the wife-to-be, and sometimes there would be quarrels, disagreements and begging between both families – what do you expect, it’s money matters! Why is that? The bride’s family usually starts “pricing” their daughter high by amplifying her accomplishments and virtues, and then the groom’s family would present a counter offer – pricing back and forth until both parties come to an agreement of a final amount/ worth of the wife-to-be.
Once the dowry is paid, the groom’s family would discuss the date and plans for the traditional wedding (Igba Nkwu) ceremony day, before they depart.
The tradition of paying bride price dates back to thousands of years, and not only in Igbo-land or Nigeria. Wikepedia defines the bride price as “an amount of money or property or wealth paid by the groom or his family to the parents of a woman upon the marriage of their daughter to the groom“.
Visit #4: Wine-Carrying Ceremony (Igba Nkwu)
Including the Igba Nkwu (wine-carrying) ceremony process would make this post too long, so click here to read all about it.
Initially, I wanted to write about all stages of the groom’s visit here but I realized it would be too long, so I thought to make a separate post on the ‘igba nkwu’ stage of the igbo marriage introduction – click here to read about the process a groom goes through to plan an igbo marriage introduction.
Making that First Visit to Your Igbo Inlaws
You can see that the igbo traditional engagement process is not as impossible as non-igbo people think it is. Now that you know what it entails, it’s time for you to man-up and make that initial visit to your future inlaws, and take it from there. At least you now know the things to budget for, as per your visit to your bride’s village home.
So, that’s it from us on an introduction to expectations from the groom – how many times he needs to visit the bride-to-be’s family and what he is expected to bring. To fully understand the rest of the process before and up to the igbo traditional engagement, bride price and traditional marriage, be sure to read the rest of the articles in this series – look up and see the links to parts 1, 3 and 4..
This post is part 2 of a 4-post series on the Igbo traditional marriage process (a guide for grooms), and you can read the other articles here:
- See Part 1 – Overview of the entire Igbo traditional marriage ceremony
- See Part 3 – Igba Nkwu (Wine Carrying)
- Part 4 here – FAQs
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Now it’s your turn to talk back to me. Let me know if I missed any steps required in the igbo traditional marriage rites for the groom. Or, if you have a comment or feedback – let me hear it in the comment box down below.