You just have to say the title of this post with the same verve and gusto as Reptavia (sp?) in the movie Fiddler on the Roof, or else it will lose its oomph.

Thought I’d share with you a tradition from the Yoruba tribe (from whence I cometh). The traditional wedding ceremony, which has since come to be referred to as the engagement ceremony is considered the marriage of families. When a couple decides to get married, it is not simply two individuals that are joined, but two families. So you can imagine just how extended the extended family is! In my older sister’s case, she and her fiance were not even present at their own engagement ceremony, as they both lived abroad at the time. Yeah, really and truly!

At the appointed time, on the appointed day, the groom arrives at the bride’s father’s house bearing gifts, with his family and friends in tow, and a designated spokeswoman from the family (whom we will call Rep. A). They approach the bride’s family (who is gathered in the front yard) and state their intent, which is to ask for the hand of a daughter of the family in marriage. There is a whole drama that ensues and this back-and-forth dialog is the fun part of the ceremony. The bride’s family also has a designated spokeswoman (whom we will call Rep. B) and there is usually a lot of humor employed in this scenario. Rep. B’s job is to determine, via communication through Rep. A, the sincerity of the groom’s intentions and establish that he is worthy of the bride he seeks. After demonstrating that this is, indeed, the case, the bride is summoned from inside the house and she comes out veiled, escorted by her friends. She is unveiled and there is much jubilation as the groom confirms that this is indeed the object of his affection. Gifts are exchanged between the families and the elders of both families speak blessings over the couple and the celebration continues with plenty of food and drink.

Back in the day and even still today, in certain circles, this was/is a ceremony recognized by the government as a legally binding marriage contract. However, for Christians, the marriage is not yet considered complete until the church ceremony, which is why it is sometimes referred to as the “engagement ceremony.”

So, consider yourself educated in some manner regarding a Nigerian custom and tradition!

Bride & Groom (Baby Sis Funmi & Tayo) at yoruba traditional wedding/engagement ceremony


Joseph and me at our engagement ceremony 20 years ago


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. ash
    Feb 19, 2009 @ 16:08:24

    sweet! i love it.


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