Weddings in Nigeria are large, cheerful, and ample. But all that we see at many different weddings around the world. So, let’s find out what Nigerian wedding traditions are truly special and differ from the wedding customs of other countries. Just as a teaser, Nigerian dowry is not what you’d think, brides and grooms pick clothing for some of their wedding guests, and there is a specific person who heckles and taunts the groom and groomsmen during a Nigerian wedding. Want more? You’ll find it below.
Nigerian dowry – what price the groom pays?
When a Nigerian couple gets engaged, the fiancee gives her fiance a list of dowry she wants to get from him in order for the wedding to happen. Notice that in most countries, the bride’s parents give dowry to her husband, but not in Nigeria. Here, it’s vice versa – the groom pays to get his beloved woman as a wife.
On this list, can be any items, from the simplest (chocolate, fruits, groceries, etc) to costly things (jewelry, fabrics, gadgets, a car, and so on). And the wedding happens only after the fiance provides all of the items. If he doesn’t, the engagement can be broken. This is a way for the woman to find out her future husband’s financial capability. Of course, she needs to be smart about it and include only those desirable items he would be able to give her (not a private plane or a football team), otherwise, she would just lose her chance to marry the man she loves.
3 Types of wedding
There are 3 types of wedding in Nigeria: a church wedding, a traditional wedding, and a court wedding (civil marriage ceremony). Those couples who can afford it, choose all three. They go to court and sign the marriage papers, have a church wedding ceremony, and then celebrate the big day with their guests at a traditional wedding reception. But also, the couple can choose only one of two of these ceremonies. It’s up to them and their wedding budget.
No guest list for wedding reception
Nigerian weddings are large, cheerful, and ample. The couple doesn’t make a guest list. Instead, they invite the whole community and prepare for a lot of people to come. There should be enough food and drinks for everybody. Most dishes are traditional and served in large common pots rather than individual portions, so you don’t really have to count the number of guests. Very often, the bride’s family prepares the wedding meal at their own kitchen, but some couples hire a catering company that offers traditional Nigerian homemade food.
Aso-Ebi (literally “family clothing”) – couple chooses what guests wear
There is a curious tradition regarding the clothes of wedding guests, particularly the families of the bride and the groom. The couple picks a certain color for the bride’s family and another color for the groom’s relatives. And the guests are required to wear clothing in this shade. On the one hand, you have to wear this color even if it doesn’t suit you, but on the other hand, the closest relatives stand out among the crowd of other wedding guests. And the wedding photos always look wonderful.
Wedding officiant heckles the groom and groomsmen
There is a particular person at a Nigerian wedding, a woman called “alaga”, whose responsibility during the celebration is to heckle and provoke the groom and his groomsmen in order to entertain the guests. She taunts and jokes, but, of course, not in a cruel way – it’s just for fun.
Groom lies at the feet of bride’s family
The groom shows his respect for his bride’s family and tries to earn their love by prostrating. He lies on the ground at their feet face down. And his groomsmen do the same. It’s a way for them to honor the people who gave birth and raised the bride.
In general, there is plenty of food, laughing, singing, and dancing at any Nigerian wedding. Even the simplest and least expensive weddings are always full of cheerful guests and fun. And there are many wedding traditions still incorporated in modern Nigerian weddings.