In many non-Western cultures, weddings go far beyond the white dress and vows as various traditions, rites, and ceremonies truly define the beginning of a marriage. Since I am from the Igbo (Chinua, Chiwetel, and Chimamanda’s folks) people of Nigeria, and my fiance is from the Luo (Obama and Lupita’s folks!) people of Kenya, we attempted to combine some of our pre-marital cultural traditions into one event this past weekend in a celebration full of spicy foods, family, and African fashion!
While my fiance’s family doesn’t do “traditional” (aka non-religious) marriages, they do typically hold an ayie ceremony, where the family visits the bride’s home and asks her mother permission to marry her daughter – pretty much by bribing the family with gifts!
In Igbo culture – since we do the most – we do traditional weddings that occur in several stages:
- iku aka n’uzo (m. to knock on the door) – asking for permission from the parents
- asking permission from the extended family
- ime ego (m. to settle the money) – paying the dowry (hereafter referred to as “the list”)
- igba nkwu nwanyi (m. to carry wine for a wife) – traditional wedding & party!
*Steps 3 and 4 are often combined together, and step 2 is sometimes omitted. But steps 1 & 4 are pretty standard and necessary*
Another caveat: Igbos don’t actually set a monetary bride price or dowry for a woman. Instead, there is a list of gifts, some of which is monetary, that goes to the community as a whole.
What happened last Saturday was both an ayie and step 2 of 4 of the Igbo ceremonies. J’s family came and presented my extended family, mom, dad, and brothers with gifts to seek their permission to present a final “gift”. My parents then asked me if they should accept the gifts, and I agreed (of course!). Then J came and presented himself as well as a few more gifts for me, including a beautiful necklace that he put on right then and there!
The Decor & Food
Although this event didn’t need much decor since it was at my parent’s house and not at an event hall, I still picked up some table runners, banners, signs, and table confetti from Minted to spruce things up. In addition to my bilingual welcome signs at the front door, my favorite decor piece was the Spicy label I created to help the Kenyan crew make informed decisions while getting their food!
Speaking of food, there was no shortage of Igbo foods: white rice and stew, fried rice and moi moi, goat meat (!), chicken, fish, suya, and the (official? unofficial?) soup of Olokoro (the part of Nigeria where I’m from) – okazi soup. Even though J and I have been vegetarian and pescetarian for two months, we couldn’t help but stuff our faces with all the delicious meat!
The Modern African Fashion
I think my fiance will be the first to tell you that he’s not at all stylish, but I really liked his outfit! He wore a custom made shirt with a subtle print details and a modern collarless cut. Since we held the introduction at my house, I didn’t want a too tight or elaborate dress, but opted to wear an off the shoulder (so on trend right now!) ankara top and a matching headwrap by Grass Fields, with shoes by Sam Edelman.
Next Step: Igba Nkwu!
Now that the immediate and extended family has given their permission for their daughter to be taken away, the next steps are for J’s family to present all the items on the list and with our parent’s blessing, we will be married in the eyes of Nigerian tradition!