HOW MY FIRST YORUBA TRADITIONAL WEDDING WAS ALMOST A DISASTER
The night before the wedding, I watched the second part of the Wedding Party. Not knowing the plot, I imagined it could at least give an insight into Yoruba Weddings because this was supposed to be my first Yoruba Traditional Wedding and I didn’t want to come out as a learner.
The movie provided no help at all, scratch that, it provided entertainment and all things considered, that was why it was produced in the first place. So, I went to bed thinking – what is appropriate? The next day came as quick as a bolt and before I knew it, I was at the location. I had promised a media coverage for the wedding for some lovers of the groom who were in Abuja and so I set up to do my best.
Soon, they were gathered at the entrance of the building, people who weren’t young, people who I later discovered were the family of the groom. They sang and danced to the beats of one drummer and very slowly they proceeded to another group who were seated comfortably at the front. There were empty chairs arranged opposite this group who were seated comfortably, so I thought this dancing group were going to be seated but No. As they got there, they fell prostrate before the group seated. I wondered, “What is going on here?” but then a stranger beckoned me. “Hello, are you here for the groom?” To this, I quickly responded “Yes, I am.” The stranger smiled and said, “We are converging outside.” This was a trap.
I didn’t want to miss any moment from the first group, so I stayed inside the building and kept asking what was going on until I was told that the tradition of the South Western Nigerians at weddings was that the family of the groom prostrated before the family of the bride and that was what was going on. After this explanation, I went out to meet the groom and then I saw that he had his nicely dressed groomsmen around him, singing and dancing. However, a few ladies would not let them enter until they dropped something into their basket, so they danced, sang and finally dropped something into their purple basket before they were granted access.
I didn’t join them. I guess I was too late but this, for me, was Yoruba Wedding 101 and they were my teachers so, I followed closely and made sure to ask “What is going on now?”. Just as they were granted access, the ladies stopped them again on the aisle, presenting another bowl to them to drop something. At this point, I started imagining how many times they were going to be stopped and asked to drop something and how I would have managed if I had joined them, seeing that they came prepared with various change to the big naira notes – all I had were the big naira notes.
Finally, they got to where both the bride and the groom’s parents were now seated. I should also mention both the bride and the groom’s parents sat like they had never seen the groom or his groomsmen – like they were strangers. The groom and his men danced into their midst and faced the bride’s family and danced even more, then the prostrating began.
These guys prostrated, left, right, center. Sometimes they stood and some words were spoken in Yoruba which I obviously did not understand and before I knew it they prostrated again!
Then when the bride’s parents were satisfied with all the acts of the young men, the groom was given seat between the parents of the bride and pictures were taken. Then, the whole process began again but this time around to his own parents – their little boy was now a man. Then the bride arrived with her train.
With the way the bride danced that day during her procession, I could understand why no one asked her to drop anything at any point. At the place where the elders were seated she turned to the groom’s family and danced her heart out. I want to believe that every Yoruba girl takes a dance training before the traditional wedding day because according to tradition you must impress the other side. That bride danced and you could see from the groom’s parents that they were very impressed so, she knelt down and they prayed for her. Oh! Did they pray and pray for the young maiden. She was then given a seat among them. Then, like her ‘husband-to-be’ did, she turned to her parents and began all over again– their little girl was now a woman.
Then the bride danced with her girls to where her husband sat. As she got before him she once again knelt before him and he removed his cap and prays for her – what prayer can be greater than his? Then when he is done, he then gives her money which she must be satisfied with. Like, she must say to everyone watching that she is satisfied and if she is not, I guess the groom must continue giving. He gave her some money and she said she was satisfied, then she put his cap back on his head with every one looking carefully to know if she knew how Yoruba’s wear their cap and I guess she did because everyone rejoiced as the groom stood up to help his bride up to his seat.
So, though fortunately for me, my unpreparedness averted the disaster of me joining the team of groomsmen, I think Nigerian weddings are probably the most beautiful events in the world.
That is just my humble opinion, what is yours?