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The Marriage Rites i.e. Confirmation Of Marriage And Formal Proclamation (igberigue, iwanie-omo imie-omo) And Bridal Procession To Matrimonial Home

Last Update (July 9, 2020)

After settling the demands or any wrangling arising over the Bride Price, the leader of the proposed husband’s delegation would seek the confirmation of the marriage (IWANIE-OMO) i.e. the formal call-and-answer episode. The requirements for WANIE-OMO according to Jacob U. Egharevba are: two shillings (or current equivalent) four pieces of kola-nuts a KEG OF PALMWINE and Dry Gin. Before agreeing to confirm, the host, OKAEGBEE of the bride, would, through the spokesman, or by himself request to know from his household whether they have been satisfied with gifts and cash brought to them, by their in-law-to-be. These comprise:

Benin Traditional wedding

(¡)The male members or adolescents of the household or the youths known as IBIEGUA. They will be called upon to confirm to the audience that they are happy with their gifts. The amount charged is token and non-refundable, for their role in chaperoning the bride to maturity. Any excessive demand runs counter to the custom of the land

(¡¡) The mother of the bride ye-omo. She will also be called upon to present herself to the family publicly, to confirm or testify that she is satisfied with the cash gifts given to her. These are humble dues (fixed) which must be paid under the Benin Tradition or Customary system of Marriage. The amount given to the mother is a gift and not part of the bride price and so, it is non refundable.

The mother of the bride further gives an open affirmation or formal consent that her daughter could be given out for marriage In the absence of the mother of the bride, particularly in the event of her mother being deceased, the step mother OR ORUE i.e. father’s wife, cannot deputies in this case. It is forbidden for her “rival” to step into her shoes. Instead, the sister or relation performs this rite and stands in physically as the bride’s mother in her absence. This is the standard customary practice in Benin which forbids that a woman should give away a girl other than the biological daughters The Benn adage says “Okhuogha ho no ru emwin no gha loghoe oghi ye ovbi oruore N odo" meaning “if a woman wants to perform a duty that will bring her problems, let her give away her rival daughter in marriage”. After this process, the confirmation (Igbigue) is done by asking the husband-to-be, to go on his-knees .His father supports by placing his hands on his son’s shoulders. The bride sits majestically by, to witness the ceremony He (bridegroom) is then called by his popular or native name six times by the OKAEGBEE or nominee of the girls family. He is not expected to answer, but at the 7th call by his father-in-law, he answers “EEYO” that is “Here I am”. At this, the girl’s father pronounces the words “I give you my daughter (by name) in marriage” and takes her by the hand, and then, joining her hand to the bridegroom’s, prays for both of them. Then, dancing, jubilation and singing goes on particularly by the bridegroom’s family and friends to display pubic show of humility, gratitude and satisfaction which must include going on their knees to say “UWA-RUESE” meaning thank you for your benevolence and the gift of a wife.

As a token of gratitude, the son-in-law (and visiting party) provides the following standard requirements for thanksgiving

(¡) 20-40 kola-nuts (must be even number) in a beautiful bowl (for prayers and general intercessions).

(¡¡) 31 or more split coconuts (to be distributed to the audience) the number 31 (thirty one) is symbolic

(¡¡¡) A keg of palm-wine.

( iv) Dry Gin for prayers and libation (which accompanies breaking of kola-nuts).

(v) Dry bush meat, several tubers of yams and a bag of salt.

(vi) Other assorted drinks that may go for entertainment of the family members and invited guests. Some of the drinks are stored away for further use.

In recent times, there have been some strange additions like bottle of honey, cubes of sugar, suite cases or boxes of clothes, etc. This is. Superfluous to the requirement for marriage under the Benin culture and appears to be creeping in, or is a transplant, from the neighboring Yoruba culture with which the Binis have had long and chequered association. In accordance with Benin Custom and tradition, some of these extra items like honey are required only for the naming ceremony of a newborn child and not to be confused with those required for a marriage ceremony in accordance with the Benin native Law and Custom. Any free gift may however be accepted but not demanded.

In chapter three of the book “Benin Law and Custom” by Jacob U. Egharevba, (page 14 para. 4) it is stated as follows on “Marriage and Engagement:”“The father of the girl then invites the young man to his house where he is asked to kneel down and calls him by his name four times the fourth time, he replies “EEYO”. He then continues by saying “My daughter (named) is betrothed to you this day may you live to marry her.

Recent practices have shown that the bridegroom is called seventies rather than four. What can be the basis for this variation? This led the writer to put up questionnaires and to undertake other personal and oral enquiries to confirm the correct procedure and practice.

Undoubtedly, Jacob Egharevba as quoted above was specifically referring to an engagement or betrothal in INFANT or child marriage and treats the issue of actual marriage ceremonies later on page l6, para. 7 of his book. He states further “when the girl reaches the age of puberty she has to receive the tribal marks “IWU”° . . . Then follows the ceremony of wedding preparation “IMIOMO” . etc. So the practice of calling the son-in-law SEVEN TIMES appears to supersede the stated one of FOUR in as much as infant or child marriages have declined and marriage ceremonies now incorporate other preliminaries within a day, or some day’s interval, not several years interval for the infant to attain the age of puberty.

Besides, the figure SEVEN has deep-rooted significance and relevance in customary affairs-in naming ceremonies; burial ceremonies etc. and so have undoubtedly come to stay. All the answers and responses to the questionnaire except one, confirmed that the Bridegroom is called “seven times” extract below the questionnaire and some of the typical replies.

IGBIGUE AND IWANIE-0MO: How many times should the call be, FOUR or SEVEN TIMES? Are there variations from family to family?

CHIEF NOSAKHARE ISEKHURHE (The Isekhure Chief Priest of BENIN commented: “All incantation or calls in Benin Marriage is done seven (7) times. Seven has a spiritual connotation in Benin anyone who attempts variation is a deviant”.

Late Chief R.L Omoruyi:  Late Obarisiagbon of Benin made these comments: “It is SEVEN times. Families who vary it to FOUR do so out of ignorance or confused argument by some who regard themselves as cutes. The number Four is not traditional”.

Dr. O.S:B. Omoregie: Wrote: “Seven times with response only on the seventh”.

Mr. Dickson O. Uwagboe, Author/publisher asserted: “Seven times are standardized in the Benin tradition of Iwannie Omo”

Enogie A.A. Akeuzua, Enogie of Orogho wrote. -“Igbigue and Iwannie-Omo are usually seven times. Calling four times is associated with conferment of chieftaincy tiles.

The practice of calling FOUR times, from observations, could be restricted to the Benin Royal family giving out their daughters in marriage. The writer witnessed at least three of such marriages in recent times. The figure four can also be associated with chieftaincy matters. In Benin Culture, there are certain practices associated with Royalty as distinct from Common practice. One clear example is the Royal practice of adding a pillow to the gifts of a Royal Bride which she takes long to her matrimonial home. There is an injunction which goes with this practice that the husband must obey. This practice is restricted to the royal family members when Princesses are being given away for marriage.

The obvious and correct general procedure therefore is to call the bridegroom SEVEN times. He answers the call at the seventh -time, before his bride is presented to him with fanfare with appropriate solemn advice and prayers.

Formal Advice & Prayers by the Bride’s Father
Presenting his daughter to his new son-in-law, the bride’s father and/or the Okaegbee, (head of family) seizes the. Opportunity to offer formal advice, to the couple, highlighting the dos and don’ts of the family, He enjoins the bride (the daughter) not to disappoint her family by her comportment in her marital home, to respect her husband’s parents and extended family members and to adopt her husband’s family morning greetings (UKHU) thenceforth The bridegroom is also given some counseling as to how to treat his wife and her relatives with kindness and respect. Then prayers are said openly for the success of the marriage and for PROCREATION. -

The last and final stage of the marriage ceremony according to Benin Custom is the formal and- ceremonial procession of the bride to her matrimonial home. Jacob U. Egharevba gave much attention to this in his Book “Benin Law and Custom” ‘This ceremony is done in the cool of the evening around 8p.m, on an appropriate market day, separate from the actual day of the traditional marriage ceremony when the Bride Price is paid. The delegation made up principally of women, is usually led by a male relation of the bride’s father who represents the father of the bride The father of the bride is not expected to be present hence he seeks a close and trusted male relation to head the team and to undertake the assignment on his behalf While in the religious or civil (Registry) Marriage, the Bridal train comprises young brides maids, in Benin traditional setting they are dominated by married women who are expected to be a source of inspiration, counseling, and encouragement to the bride. As the bridal entourage approaches the husband’s house, they sing and chant melodious songs and the women dance to the tunes. The entourage cash-in, on the husband great expectations to delay the bride’s triumphant march to his house. Messages are then sent to the husband to indicate the cause of the delay or impediment known as UGHUGHUMWUN and request him to clear the obstacles, ranging from cutting of the fallen trees across the road, vehicle breakdown, or fuel shortage as in modern times etc. Money would be dispatch to the entourage by the husband as often as the requests are made or as much as he can afford, to facilitate their arrival. Some women do try to enact this erroneously on the day of the customary marriage ceremony, when the bride is to be identified, this is over-zealousness and outright error on the part of the organizers, which is not part of Benin custom for that day.

As the entourage enters the house, there is great jubilation. In a brief ceremony, the male leader sits the bride on the bridegroom’s laps or that of his father, or a chosen elderly relation of the groom, again, on the count of SEVEN’ The message from the bride’s father is delivered religiously by the leader of the delegation reiterating, inter alia, the prayers for successful, joyous, Land fruitful married life repeating the family injunction neither to maltreat their daughter (their new bride) nor turn her into a slave or servant. The feet and hands of the bride are WASHED, a kind of ablution clearly indicating a complete change in her status leaving the past behind her. She then goes into the inner chamber to put on the new attire bought for her by the husband. It is noteworthy that the gifts for the bride are presented to her when she is escorted to her, matrimonial home.

The bridegroom or husband then makes a presentation of kola-nuts, palm-wine, and other drinks. Pounded yam with Bush meat (antelope leg-soup) Ena-Oha is presented The kola-nuts are split while offering prayers to Almighty God. The rest of the gifts presented to the entourage are taken home by the delegates for sharing and consumption. This ceremony concludes vital aspects of the marriage ceremonies under Benin customary law and practice

The growing practice in some cases where bridal process takes place on the same day as the marriage rites though could be influenced by socio economic consideration is NOT the acceptable traditional procedure. It should be avoided.

General merriment is expected to continue for $EVEN days in the home of the bridegroom. During this period, the bride is lavishly honoured and entertained and she wears a shy lace Oha gha mianro”. She is not expected to cook or undertake any serious work within this period of her being groomed, honoured ad lavishly treated to her new home or environment, perhaps nearly approximating to the Western honeymoon period. She then gradually inducted on her new role and learns the dos and don’ts of her new family abode. Jacob U. Egharevba states that on the third day of the wedding celebration i.e. after the Bride Procession, the bridegroom or husband must pay a visit to the parents of the bride and offer thanksgiving, accompanied by friends and relations. The visit is reciprocated by the father of the bride on the fifth day by visiting the new home of his daughter. This could be on a convenient day, as dictated by the exigencies of the times. The aim is no doubt to cement the new relationships and emphasize reciprocity as well as to observe how the bride (Ovbioha) is settling down.

The husband on his visit is warmly welcomed, entertained and showered with gifts by his parents-in-law. The climax of the various visits is that of the bride’s mother on the seventh day when she could be privileged to take home, the blood-stained white cloth signifying that the daughter was a virgin before meeting her husband These aspects of the various visits have been played down in recent days, partly because of the economic trends, other social developments, and the demands of modern working lives mainly in the CITY. The exchange of visits nevertheless has deep—rooted significance for their continued observance even if on a token basis.

In the few cases of elopement being regularized, the marriage ceremonies end with the formal betrothal arid calling “Igberigue), and the aspect of formally escorting the bride to‘her (new) home can be skipped. The most important ingredients in regularizing such a marriage are payment of Bride Price, formal consent and “Igberigue” (formal betrothal) since the marriage was already a fait accompli or already in existence before formalization or legalization as provided by customary law and practice.

In all cases, for the marriage to be full-fledged, the wife must be initiated into the cooking habit of the husband’s family. She is introduced to the harem and the kitchen set-up where she had to provide her own cooking mud set of “tripod” on which firewood is used to provide the energy to do her cooking for the husband and the household when it is her turn to do so In modern times, cooking may be done on stoves, using cooking gas or paraffin oil (kerosene) or electricity. Any woman who gets married traditionally in Benin and fails to settle down to do the cooking for her husband with all the accompanying formalities and household chores will be lacking in very essential aspect of customary law marriage which will impact on her siblings, particularly if she produces the eldest son of the home. The elderly women consulted by the writer insist that if a woman is just a friend or lover, she cannot be recognized by tradition to be a wife. A wife, they insist, have appropriate duties in the home environment, and privileges, go “pari pasu” with responsibilities.

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