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Venue Of Marriage Ceremonies Under Customary Law

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17/09/2017

The venue for the celebration of the marriage under the Benin Native Law and Custom is important in the system. Not subject to variation, it is the home of the parents of the bride the IGIOGBE (family Headquarters), or where they live, .even if on temporary basis. Where the parents of the bride are separated or divorced the ceremony takes place in the bride’s father’s home. It will be wrong and unacceptable for the ceremony to hold in the bride’s mother’s ancestral home however highly placed the mother’s family maybe. It cannot also be anywhere else like a public place, Village Square, Town Hall, Hotel or hired Hall. It CANNOT be performed in the bridegroom’s family residence as the Muslim rites provide for the performance at the Mosque or the bridegroom’s residence, where the “Sunna” can be recited and the Bride price paid to the family.
Celebration of the marriage

The over-riding customary principle is to meet the parents, IN SITU, with relations and family, friends and others in attendance, to solicit for the important favour. For ENIGIE, titled Chiefs, and princes, the venue in their expensive building is Ikun N’Odore or Ikun- N’aruerha i.e the first Lounge, or sitting chamber where the ancestors are usually dedicated and worshipped. The deep-seated beliefs is ancestral spirits would be at the background to witness the goings-on, even where there is no formal installation of UKHURHE (family lineage staff of office). For the daughter’s of His Majesty, the Oba of Benin, the venue for such an important socio-cultural event has always been at Ugha-Erhoba a spacious outer court in the PALACE of the OBA dedicated to the Royal forefathers. Here, Princess Egbebalakhamen the Oba Akenzua‘s eldest daughter was betrothed to Engineer Lawrence Ogbeide in 1956  by Omon N’ Oba Akenzua II and Princess Evbakhavbokun, the Oba Erediauwa’s eldest daughter also given out in marriage to  Prince Gregory Ogiogwa by Omo N’Oba EREDIAUWA in 1993.

The question arises must the ceremonies always be performed indoors with the increasing crowd-pull, is there anything culturally. Wrong with the performance of the ceremonies under modern canopies within the premises of the bride’s parents.

From several enquires made, the questionnaires sent out, some opinions point to the fact that people have to make use of the humble accommodation they have Others assert that conducting the ceremonies in the open air wears the garb of an artificial or modern creation, whereas the ceremonies depict deep-rooted and time-honoured  observances of the people in their habitat. It would be appropriate, as some suggested that while the ceremonies go on in the inner chambers, the guests and families from various cultures that spill-over, need to be kept in the picture through loudspeakers or closed circuit television so as to follow the ceremony and appreciate the richness of the local culture. Other opinions hold that there is nothing sacrosanct about the ceremonies being indoors, so long as fetish rituals do not form an integral and essential part of the ceremonies indoors. If such rituals must be performed, they could be reserved for another day exclusively to those who might be interested or likely to participate.

In the views of such therefore, appropriate arrangements can be made for canopies and tarpaulin covers so that the ceremonies could be performed and witnessed by all persons invited and present, if the apartment of the parents of the bride, modern times, is no spacious enough for the size of the crowd usually invited to such ceremonies.

The writer witnessed the impressive marriage ceremony under the Bini Native Law and custom conducted on Thursday 5th December, 1991 at the residence of Dr.Ekhaguosa Aisien, author of “IWU - The Body .Markings of the ‘Edo people” which was done n the open air with beautiful canopies neatly arranged to suit the occasion in his modest residence in the Government Reservation Area in Benin. Everyone present got a feeling of satisfaction having witnessed all the stages of the events satisfactorily from the beginning to the end The author has, since then, taken that ceremony as a model, particularly for those whose living rooms cannot accommodate such a large crowd as expected on such occasions and who may not find it convenient to provide loud speakers and television sets for those outside the main arena to follow the event. The cultural group in attendance on that occasion added glamour as they rendered appropriate interlude of traditional tunes and dances that suited the occasion instead of un-coordinated, un-rehearsed tunes which could sometimes be provided by the women of both families.

Three specimen programms to suit the occasion of a marriage under Native Law and Custom are provided as appendices.. One of them is culled and modified by courtesy of Dr Ekhaguosa Aisien from the programmes used in his daughter’s marriage in 1991 revised and adapted for his 2nd daughter’s marriage in 2001. The other (with songs) has been specially compiled by the author from various sources and the third specimen with sub-headings in the programme can go for a Booklet, courtesy. Of idahosa Ero.’s daughter ISOKENYS weeding up dated by the author.

The song support in the AISlEN programme was provided by “Edo Cultural Group International”, the pioneering cultural entertainment group in Benin City that set the modern pace at State, National and International cultural displays.

Chief Nosakhare Isekhure, the ISEKHURE of Benin drew the author’s attention to the appropriate and inappropriate SONGS during such ceremonies. One particular error is to sing OYBIOHA-ZOWE RE during the identification parade. At that stage there is no bride (Ovbioha) yet, hence such a SONG is inappropriate. When the betrothal ceremonies are completed and the Bride Price paid, then and then only, the bride can assume the name “Ovbioha”. So, the song “Ovbioha-Zowe Re” should properly be reserved to the occasion of the escort (procession) of the bride to her matrimonial home as discussed in Chapter Seven. OVBIOHA in Benin language means “young wife” or “Bride” OHA- MI-ARO means, the bride is shy

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