The marriage rite of passage of the Yoruba people is not just a period to unite the two persons getting married but an occasion that brings people together to catch up on current issues and reminisce on the memories (Oke, 2014). This ceremony of marriage is used to ease the toil of a normal life as friends and family greatly anticipate it. As a Yoruba, I remember vividly the way that the ceremonies used to be the talk of the town. I remember a lot about the marriage rite of passage through my sister's traditional wedding ceremony. The ceremony was supposed to mark the beginning of a new life and was expected to join the other community of the spouse. Just as the Yoruba culture dictates, the wedding should take place at the bride's father's home. This meant that the ceremony was taking place in our compound as my sister was the bride.
The bridegroom then arrived at the ceremony as is the norm with influential people of his family and close friends. My sister's husband, therefore, introduced himself stating his reasons for coming which is to take the bride. All the time my sister and I were not allowed to come out into the open until after the bridegroom had finished the introduction. I remember I had from the place where we were the way the groom got so much interrogated. The purpose of interrogation in such a ceremony is to act as a screening method to the bridegroom. My sister was then asked to come out and kneel before my parents as a sign of blessings. Kneeling for a lady first shows a sign of humility and submission according to the Yoruba culture. After that my sister then got blessings from the groom's family and later sit with the husband to be. Then a letter was read by a young lady who was probably the sister to the groom. She read clearly stating the reason why they needed her hand in marriage. The process that followed was the giving away of my sister into the new family. The ceremony was then followed by a large gifting section which also marked the last part of the wedding, and I can remember happy faces and dances all over at this point as a sign that the ceremony is a success. I now understand the essentiality of the whole ceremony that to me looked like mere eating and celebration with no unusual activities. I have far come to understand the significance of the large extended family of the Yoruba tribe.
As explained by Aknspe (2018) that in the life of the Yoruba, there is nothing more important than the dance. Dance in the marriage ritual is viewed in the Yoruba community as a way of thanksgiving and appreciation. Surprisingly as time passed by I came to realize that even though the Yoruba marriage as a rite passage was changing in meaning, there are still features of this rite of passage that remains the same. Attending another ceremony where my best friend back home in Yoruba was getting married, I remember the ceremony proceedings had changed slightly compared to those at my sister's wedding. However, some of the core ritual procedures had not stopped and neither do I see them fade in the future. For instance, the part which I recall is when the bride and the groom are given honey to share so that it can act as a symbol of the sweet love that they intend to share and also eating of peppercorn to show their togetherness even in times of pain (Aknspe, 2018).
Another ritual that I observed in my friend's modern wedding and am convinced will not end soon is the payment of dowry to the wife's parents and kin (Oke, 2014). The bride price was dictated by the bride's family in this community. In addition to the price, some of the demands that were done by my family on that day included a bag of rice, a bag of sugar, alligator pepper among others. The only thing about dowry that is changing with times is the mode of payment. The type of payment of dowry in the contemporary is the use of money in place of the gin and another non-monetary gifting. My friend's marriage ceremony was one big modern wedding where large payments of dowry were mostly money with a small fraction consisting of gin. Now, my sister's case involved a not so big party as compared to my friend's, and therefore the difference between the two types of marriage ritual is the inheritance. After my sister had been taken away from our family, the children allowed to trace their line of heritage through their mothers, brothers, and kin and they are allowed to stay at any place (Oke, 2014).
However, in the case of a big ceremony with huge dowry payment, the children belong to the father and do not trace their heritance from the mother's side. As in this case, a woman can now be accorded a lot of respect since she has a new surname. Additionally, my sister and friend after marriage gained a lot of privileges including those of land ownership (Oke, 2014). Marriage as a rite in the Yoruba family holds a lot of significance and ritual practices that have to be done.
The traditional marriage in the Yoruba culture entails different systematic stages that have to be followed to make it customized and in line with the culture. The first stage is the introduction stage whereby the two families from the man and the woman meet before the actual ceremony. The groom is then accompanied by some of his family members and the father while visiting the family of the bride. Such an occasion is characterized by a casual introduction and no ceremony involved, but a small atmosphere for the two groups to familiarize themselves. For the unofficial meeting, the bride family hosts their visitors and serves them an ordinary dish of their choice; much is not required except for some few wine bottles and yam tubers (Abimbola, 2017). Besides the informal introduction, the group can hereby also decide to discuss the preferable date to conduct the official ceremony, though such a proposal could happen later since it is not of any urgency.
The second stage after the introduction is the outfit for the bride, which implies to the reflection of the attire that would be put on by the ladies. The bride has the authority to make a selection here, and the choices available for her to choose from include the wax fabric, damask, lace, or any other fabrics that pleases her. The clothing is made up of a head tie known as gele, a blouse otherwise known as buba, and an extensive material tied around the waist referred to as an iro. The selected colors have to match the color theme chosen by the family while at the same time complementing and looking identical to the attire by the groom. The bride can also want to wear decorations such as gold earrings, gold necklace, bangles, and beads.
The third stage is the groom's outfit whereby he can choose to put on a material with two layers known as Agbada which is traditionally hand-woven. The material could be made of cotton or damask or still, the groom could opt to wear wax fabric or lace (Ankara). Just like the bride, the color chosen by the groom has to complement each other's color as well as that of the family.
The fourth stage is the traditional engagement. Such a commitment is conducted by a conventional master of ceremony who is officially contracted to perform such obligations professionally. Individuals specialized in such activities are referred to as the Alaga ijoko. The chances are that either the Alaga ijoko be from the family of the bride extreme stranger. Such professionals are usually women, and they should ensure that there is proper officiating and coordination of the ceremony in line with the tradition's provisions. The Alaga ijoko initiate several activities, and stages which include an assortment of various fines and cash, then the groom gets introduced with his age mates beside him, and then it is at this stage that the bride's family request that their daughter be married to the groom (Abimbola, 2017). From the groom's side, there must also be a standing master in ceremony otherwise known as the Alaga iduro whose function is to follow the man and the family is asking for their daughter's hand. It is at this stage that a young lady from the family of the groom reads a letter and the purpose of this letter is again to ask for the bride's hand in marriage. The family of the bride also read a letter in response to the one read by the man's family.
The fifth stage is where the family of the bride request for items from the groom and his family. These items as I mentioned in the case of my sister's wedding may include stuff such as kola nuts, a bag of rice, a bag of sugar, several bitter kola, alligator pepper. If the bride comes from a Christian family, the items could include a honey keg, a bible, and about forty large yam tubers. For the non-edible materials, expensive stuff such as some pairs of shoes, a gold ring for engagement, lace, wristwatch, and a head tie could be included.
The sixth stage is the bride price, and here, there is no specified amount to be paid as the bride price since the family of the bride is the one responsible for dictating the amount. Again, the price is bound to negotiations. Besides, the groom and or his family also have to pay specific fees which still are subject to negotiation. Such costs include the entrance fee, the elders from the groom's family also receives some payment, money rewarded to expose the bride - this is the amount given to the bride's father in asking for his daughter's hand in marriage. It is also through such payment the bride's father consent to the marriage of his daughter. All the male and female children in the bride's family also receive some amount of money. Al the wives in the bride's family also get some cash from the groom. Lastly, the elders in the bride's family also have some money on the reservation for them.
In the seventh stage, there are stages or protocols for which the bride goes through in the groom's absence. The representatives of the groom are taken through a Q&A session by the moderator in the groom's absence, and they are put over some circles. The same is done to the bride. However, unlike the groom, there is the rewarding of some money to the bride and such amount is not retrieved back. Before the bride can take her place beside the groom, she gets presented to the other family. The bride and the groom at that point are now worth considering themselves married (Al, 2018). She, as a wife, now has to showcase some responsive characters by giving wine and cake to the groom, and kissing the groom to amuse the guests.
In conclusion, as an individual from the Yoruba tribe, I believe that the many ethnic groups that comprise of the bigger community still hold marriage dearly as a rite of passage. The experiences I had in the two weddings have opened my mind to a broader understanding of the things that I saw taking place in those colorful ceremonies. Marriage as a rite symbolizes the crossing over from childhood to adulthood. This rite of passage also involved a lot of celebration that marked the ushering in of a new life. I can remember the main rituals that were not adding up for me in the past, but now I appreciate their existence in our ethnic group because they are a symbol of passage. The identity that we have as a Yoruba community is the special procedures that we use different celebrations in life as rites of passage. The Yoruba marriage culture will remain a rite of passage despite the many changes that are taking place in the modern world. Every unique way of celebration has a symbolic meaning. Despite the marriage ceremony in Yoruba being a serious affair, it comprises playful events elegant colors, modern Nigerian music, and sumptuous meals. In Yoruba land, weddings are the opportunities for people to showcase their best outfits, jewelry, handbags, and dancing styles. In the traditional wedding, this is an opportunity for lightening the u...
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