AFRICAN TRADITIONAL MARRIAGE
Most African traditions require some necessary obligations that must be fulfilled even before getting wedded in the court, church or mosque.
Once a young man and woman, who fund love in each other and have been in relationship for some time, decide to take their relationship to another level if they feel are compatible, the young man informs his parents about his intention first. He will be asked series of questions about his relationship with the young lady, if he feels that she is a good fit and if she will make a good wife to the man and the family at large; questions regarding her family will be asked also, such as where they come from and their family name etc. and then give a go ahead.
FAMILY/PARENTAL APPROVAL STAGE
After they’ve heard family talk, he brings the wife to-be to visit his family, this is always a good avenue to ask her some questions as regards herself and background, even if they know about her relationship with their son and has been visiting before now, it was not on marriage ground but just friendship level.
They study the way she talks and behaves, if she’s courteous, has good charisma, well behaved, will respect the family members and have good characters; in summary, they want to have a general overview of who she is.
After all the above, the family decides to give consent as to whether or not they’ll like her for a wife in their family or not.
NOTE: This may bring some sorts of disagreement in the family as sometimes, the family could decline the approval of the marriage.
The young woman also relates her intention to get married to her parents, her parents or family, also follow the same procedure the man’s family took, to ensure that he is a good man, come from a reputable family and if he is going to make a good husband (finding out if their daughter will be in good hands). They also make their decision and give their consent as to whether the marriage can go ahead.
Once both parties are satisfied with the decision, the man’s family sends a message to the woman’s family to let them know the date they’re willing to accept them on a visit to openly ask for their consent and daughter’s hand in marriage.
The wife’s family gives them the date, and sometimes, couples-to-be are usually given the leverage to choose this date and get back to both parties on their chosen date.
In Africa, the extended family is very important as they are also seen as part and parcel of an immediate family, and also join in decision-making (they are from one father; this is one of the reasons why family name is so important and to this day most family uses their ancestral or generations past paternal names as their surname and not their immediate father’s name.
At this stage, brides family accepts the man as their daughter’s husband officially. At this stage, both families get to know each other. The parents, if they still living, and some chosen members of the extended family go for the visit known as “introduction”; and when one parents or both are dead, the extended family picks up the obligation to represent the father or mother as it is mandatory for the man and woman to present their parents.
During the Introduction, this is when the parents, on behalf of their son, as for the hand of their daughter in marriage, if everything turns out well, the brides family accepts their son as their son-in-law.
A date for traditional marriage, religious, and court marriage are set on the same day after the acceptance of the man and woman as husband and wife by both families, and could also be set at a later date, most time, the wife’s family are obligated to selected a date most convenient for them, the bride and groom could also be given the mandate to choose a date day would prefer for their convenience. In this modern era, due to religious obligation, most couples combine both traditional and religious or court marriage right, in fact, some go for all types of marriage to make sure they fulfill all obligations according to traditional and religion to which couples belong to. Invitations are distributed to friends, group members, and all well-wishers to join in the joining of couples into matrimony. Some families celebrate the union really big with lots of foods to eat and drink, fun activities such as musician coming to sing at the wedding, lots of dancing and presentation of gifts, it always a lifetime event; some couples or family decide to do it on a low level and celebration is done just between both families only, which are always due to some reasons among which may be for spiritual or security reasons.
A NEW FAMILY BEGINS
The coming together of both family, marks a new family extension as one big family through their children (the couples). The husband to-be’s family introduce themselves and ask the wife-to-be family’s approval and her hand (consent) in marriage, if accepted, a proper date for the traditional marriage (which most people today refer to as engagement today) is fixed and this is where the dowry and bride price come in to play, the husband’s family are given the list of items needed for the dowry, they will also include the bride price in the list. All these must be ready on the introduction or traditional wedding day as these items will be used as part of the traditional wedding, without the dowry, the husband and his family are still owing the wife and her family, and the wife may not be presented to them, in fact the wedding rite may not take place, and will be assumed that the man does not have their daughter as a wife yet.
The dowry items include; kola-nut, tubers of yam, bridal boxes filled with clothes, underwear, shoes, bags and makeup kits; drinks, umbrella, palm, cereals, oil and fruits and lots more.
Meanwhile some family may decide not to take the bride price but the dowry is very important as a significant part of the wedding. It is after this that most couple decide to go for court, church or Islamic wedding to fulfill their religious wedding obligation.
It’s always a big celebration as people will be invited, after the wedding rites according to their culture demands (the has procedures) the new husband and wife are blessed and prayed for, there’s always lots to eat and drink.