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Marriage

MARRIAGE

First Official Visit- Iku  Aka Ibeme Nwanya
Intending husband and/or his family representatives visit their prospective in-laws, and present 1 bottle Schnapps, 1 Carton Beer  (12 one-liter bottles), 1 Crate Mineral (Soda) (24 half-liter bottles), to inform the lady’s family of their intention..  The list of drinks and other requirements for the Main Marriage Ceremony may be released at this meeting.

 

Presentation of Marriage Drinks – Ibu Mmanya Nwanya
On the day of the marriage, the husband will be accompanied by his family, his villagers, his mother’s people, his friends and wellwishers and his Age Grade.  They will all assemble at the premises of the oldest man (okei uno) of the lady’s family.  The bride’s own Age Grade will also be there.

Marriage in Oguta is usually a night affair, starting about 6 p.m., but if the intending husband is coming from afar, the ceremony may start in the afternoon.

Formal Welcome

The family of the bride formally welcomes their in-laws and presents the following:

Kolanuts and anara (garden egg)
1 Bottle Local Gin
1 Bottle Schnapps
1 Jar of Palm Wine
1 Crate of Mineral (Soda)
1 Packet of Cigarettes.

Presentation of Marriage Drinks

The quantity of drinks to be presented by the groom’s people will depend on whether or not they are paying any bride price. The following list is usually accepted when bride price is paid:

Kolanuts and garden egg
Local Gin                                 12 bottles
Schnapps                                12 bottles
Beer                                        12 cartons
Mineral (soda)                         15 crates
Malt                                         3 cartons
Stout                                       2 cartons  (small)
Palm Wine                               4 jars (nkwu & ngwo)
Cigarettes                               2 Rolls
Tobacco                                   5  heads
Akawu (potash)                       to match the tobacco
The drinks are formally presented by the spokesman of the groom’s family.

The Okei Uno invites the bride to sit by him.  He tells her that some one who wants to marry her has brought the drinks.  If it is true that she has agreed to marry him, she should go and identify him and bring him to the traditional parlour (etiti obu).

The search

Accompanied by her entourage, the bride, gorgeously dressed, goes in search of her man, and brings him in front of the Okei Uno. The man bows and salutes the elders.

The Consent

The Okei Uno or his spokesman asks the bride whether it is her wish that they accept the drinks  If the lady says ‘yes’ the marriage ceremony will continue, but if she says ‘no’ that will be the end of the ceremony.

Examination of the Drinks

On the instruction of the Okei Uno, the drinks are cross-checked and confirmed complete.

The Marriage Ceremony

The presiding Okei Uno blesses and breaks the kolanut and gives one piece to the bridegroom to share with his bride. He blesses the couple and pours libation with the palm wine and gives the wine to the bridegroom who drinks some and hands it over to his bride. The bride sips the wine and gives it back to the groom to finish.  The bride bends down and salutes the groom, and both of them bow to salute the Okei Uno.  The bride and groom are now proclaimed husband and wife.  They now go out to their Age Grades to dance and celebrate.

Nni Izizi Ebe

This is food prepared by the host family for consumption by the in-laws and the villagers of the bride.  It is so called – Nni Izizi Ebe – Food which is not perched on by flies – because it is prepared at night when all flies have gone to bed.  The goat to be slaughtered for Nni Izizi Ebe must first be presented live to the in-laws for approval. The Nni Izizi Ebe is shared into two equal parts and each side of the marriage serves its own people.

The significance of Nni Izizi Ebe

The significance of Nni izizi ebe is that whenever the wife ages and dies, the husband’s family is expected to reciprocate the hospitality by cooking nni izizi ebe for the wife’s family during the wakekeeping.

In recent times, the scope of entertainment is not limited to the nni izizi ebe.  Every guest at the present day traditional marriage is invariably served with jellof rice, salad and a variety of other delicacies.

Ihu Onu Aku

Even though the actual bride price is settled in camera between the two families. Ihu Onu Aku provides a public forum whereby the bride price is deemed to be fixed.  It is an interesting dialogue that revives the ancient Oguta language and witnesses the aggressive and querulous manner in which the people settle bride price.

The following items are required for the Ihu Onu Aku ceremony, which is usually done at the house of the Village Head (Okpara) or the Family or Kindred Head:

Kolanuts and ego oji (money for breaking the kola)
1 Bottle Schnapps
1 Bottle Local Gin
1 Jar Palm Wine   – or cash in lieu
1 Packet Cigarettes
5 Heads of Tobacco and potash  – already mentioned.
One Pound Twelve Shillings equivalent to Three Naira Twenty Kobo for the youths.

Bride Price Bidding

The bidding starts after the presiding Okpara blesses the kolanut and pours libation.  They do not talk in
Pound Sterling; they do not talk in Naira, nor do they talk in Dollars.  Rather they talk in the ancient  monetary system of the COWRIES  – UGBUGBA   –  Ugbugba Iri meaning Three Pounds Five Shillings sterling   (£3.5/-) or Six Naira Fifty Kobo (N6.50) and Ogu Ugba Ise meaning Thirty Two Pounds Ten Shillings (£32.10/-) or Sixty Five Nairs (N 65.00).  Random and frivolous are made and rejected almost to the point of frustration on both sides. As the negotiation comes to a stalemate, the presiding Okpara or his spokesman furiously interrupts the proceedings as if he wants to start a new argument.  This is followed by a moment of silence. Suddenly, the spokesman mellows down and declares that the offer of bride price made by the in-laws, even though ridiculous, has been accepted..  There is a sigh of relief as the leader of the husband’s Village immediately jumps up on his feet and bows down to salute the Okpara, thanking him and his people for giving them their beautiful daughter in marriage at a reasonable price.

Other Marriage Requirements

Ego Oji

Money given to the presiding Family Head for blessing and breaking the kolanut.

Ego Ozogo

Money paid by the in-laws to redeem the empty palm wine jar. The money is payable even if the in-laws originally paid cash in lieu of the palm wine.

Ego Okei Uno

Money which the husband gives to the Okei Uno of the wife’s family.  Out of this money, the Okei Uno gives to the wife one piece of Akwa Ogugu that is, ‘George’ cloth, with which she will cover herself in her husband’s house.  The amount is negotiable.

Ego Umuada

Umuada, the daughters of the Village, constitute a formidable group in the traditional marriage system. They are capable of stalling the ceremony. An agreed amount will be given to them by the in-law,
and they add their own prayer and blessing for the well being of the husband and wife.

Aku Nne
Money given to the mother of the bride by the bridegroom. The amount is usually negotiated. Some grooms take advantage of this opportunity to show special appreciation to their prospective mothers-in-law.

Iji Ugbara

Usually 50 yams in number are given by the husband to the parents of the bride.  The ceremony is eye catching, as it involves up to 50 women from the husband’s village carrying these yams in procession to the in-laws’ house. The iji ugbara carriers are well entertained for their task.

Soon after the marriage, the parents of the bride will distribute these yams, first to the kindred daughters, and if possible, to the other Village daughters, to honour them and show appreciation for their good wishes.

Idu Nwanya

This is the climax of the marriage ceremony, a period of great emotion, a period of tears, when the presiding Family Head hands over the bride to the leader of the in-laws.

A member of the host family makes a short speech admonishing and advising the bride on how to behave in her husband’s house in order to make the marriage a success. The presiding Family Head now adorns the.
Bride with the Akwa Ogugu and hands her over to the leader of the guest family and enjoins them to look after the bride as they would look after their own daughter.  The in-laws all stand on their feet and bow down to thank the Okei Uno and the host family and villagers for giving them their beautiful daughter in marriage promising to look after and treat her well.  If the lacrimal glands of the bride are active, this is the time to let the tears flow.

Escorting the Bride

Two or three young men are usually appointed by the Okei Uno to escort the bride to her husband’s home.  The purpose of the escort is to ensure that their daughter is safely handed over to the husband’s Village Head, Okpara, or Okei Uno, as the case may be.

Reception by the Okpara

The procession to the Okpara’s house is usually led by the Age Grades.  No matter what time they arrive, the Okpara or his representative must wake up to welcome and receive the bride, who is invited to sit by him at his Ukpo.  The Okpara presents kolanut, blesses the couple, and pours libation.  He gives the husband and wife the blessed kolanut to eat together. This brief reception at the Okpara’s residence is a confirmation of the marriage by the entire Village.

Before their exit, one of the young men who escorted the bride offers his advice and enjoins her to live well with her husband and his people.  Custom makes it mandatory for the escorts to be given some money.  Custom also requires that the villagers who hosted the marriage will not disperse until the escorts return and report.  Their return could be as late as 5 o’clock the following morning.

The ceremony continues at the Okpara’s house where the villagers make donations to the newly married wife, in cash and kind, after which the couple are led to their own home by close friends and relations, including their Age Grades.

The First Food

The first food which the bride eats in her husband’s house in the morning is prepared by her own mother.  It is really good food – usually pounded yam with delicious fresh fish or chicken nsara soup, which has no antecedent anywhere and cannot be traded for the best fillet mignon or Chicken Alfredo.

First Outing

In the afternoon, after managing to take a nap, the couple engages in their first outing as the husband proudly shows his wife to his various relations.  This first outing usually accommodates a few visits to the wife’s own relations.