East meets West || Our Traditional 'Igba Nkwu' Wedding Ceremony!
It's our three year 'Tradiversary' today! That's new lingua for the anniversary of a traditional wedding ceremony. Time really does fly. I remember how we said we'd make a picture album of our traditional wedding photos shortly after the wedding. 3 years in and we still have no physical album. tsk tsk. Thank goodness for soft copy photos
I can't believe it's been three years. It seems just like yesterday I was debating what outfits to wear for the ceremony. While doing some cleaning over the weekend, I stumbled on the first outfit I wore on the day, and I realised I hadn't worn it again since that time.
As I haven't really shared photos, about the traditional ceremony as I have with the church wedding, I thought it's a good time to do so. Looking at the photos, I can see how much Tee and I seem to have changed! We look so young. More of Tee than me actually. I must be doing such a great job! Anyway, we're thankful for growth and all of God's graces.
As you probably know, I'm Igbo from the Eastern part of Nigeria and most Igbos are very attached to their home towns such that the traditional ceremony of their daughters have to be held there - in her father's house. So that was a no brainer for us. We lived in Lagos, but we were going to travel down to the eastern part of the country.
I actually really like the road trip, and I sort of prefer it to flying. If you leave really early from Lagos you should have crossed the Niger Bridge in under 5 hours. For both of our weddings, we really wanted small knit crowd. But for this one in particular, we didn't want to inconvenience people and have them travel down, so it was really a small (ish) crowd that came down from other parts of the country.
The ceremony in Igbo is called 'Igba Nkwu' which translated means 'Wine Carrying'. Before the 'Igba Nkwu' though there's usually two major ceremonies. The 'Iku Aka' and the 'Ime Ego'. The 'Iku Aka' (translated to knocking) is when the groom to be alongside his family visit the bride's family for introductions and to make known their intentions. The 'Ime Ego' is the bride price payment and that's part 2 of the ceremonies. These days the Ime Ego can be done with the Igba Nkwu on the same day - but the male elders go in to do it privately. Contrary to many beliefs, many families only collect a little sum of money usually as a token.
There's also 'the list' which states the items the groom has to provide for the Igba Nkwu ceremony. Some people have misconceptions about this list and getting married from the Eastern part of Nigeria. In many places, the list is really really affordable and only amounts to some cartons of drinks and a few other items. Tee himself wondered about the contents of the list, and was surprised when he saw it.
The Igba Nkwu is pretty important in my hometown, such that if a woman failed to do it, her daughter can't get married, until she (i.e the mom) does it!
Usually, at the beginning of the ceremony the bride comes out in the first outfit to welcome her in laws and greet her parents. A lot of people wear a traditional two piece outfit - similar to a bralet and a mini skirt, with beads on their head, waist, ankles and legs and usually with a horse tail in their hand. I knew I didn't want to wear this.
What did I want to wear? An Indian inspired outfit. And before you ask, no I have no relationship with India! But I just thought it'll be cool to wear something saree inspired. Anyway, I couldn't really bring my ideas to life, so I settled for a simple green dress - with the intention that i could re-rock it. I still haven't!
My second and third outfits weren't really an issue. The second outfit is worn at the point where the bride officially has to recognise her groom, This is the traditional two piece wrapper and 'george' blouse, with a scarf. For the first parts of the ceremony, the groom is also expected to wear an Igbo outfit, and this applies even if he isn't Igbo.
My third outfit was a Yoruba one, to be worn after the ceremony is over and I was now a Yoruba wife. At this point, Tee was also going to change to the traditional Yoruba Outfit.
My sisters and friends wore co-ordinated outfits made of orange lace fabric and mint scarves with matching necklaces! I was obsessed with the colour combination of orange and mint at the time of this wedding.
*i think we unknowingly replicated the above two photos at the white wedding. Check it out in this post - Unforgettable Wedding Memories - 5 Heartfelt Moments at Ours*
Everyone probably agrees that the highlight of the day is the bride finding the groom and giving him the glass of palm wine. Before this point, she's been indoors (after receiving the in laws in the first outfit). So at the right time when she is called, she comes out, receives the drink from her father who says some blessings over her and then dances around to find her groom. Some 'fake grooms' call her out and she pays them no attention until she finds her groom, kneels and hands him the cup. So that's essentially what I did - with my girls dancing behind me.
I wonder if there's been any incident of the bride giving the drink to another groom - because theoretically this means she gets married to that person! The groom is expected to drink it all up, place some money in the empty glass, hold her hand and return the glass to her father with the money. They both dance for a while, and then take their seats as man & wife!
The rest of the day is pretty much dancing, eating, presentation of gifts and words of advice and blessings from the elders.
At the end of the day, the girl is expected to follow her new husband home! I mean, they are man and wife. I guess this is where it dawns on every one that the marriage has happened. Obviously I felt a bit sad that I had to leave - especially as I wasn’t going to spend the night with my friends who were flying out the next morning.
Not sure what was going on with that final picture - it must have been the photographer asking for that pose!
All in all, it was a great day. I'm thankful for the memories.
Interestingly, other than mine, I think I've attended just one other Igba Nkwu Ceremony! How about you? Are you Igbo and had to do this? Or have you attended any? What did you think of it? What's the highlight of traditional wedding ceremonies where you come?