Twirly Tuesday: Yoruba Traditional Engagements (Part 2)

Happy Tuesday Twirl Peeps!!! Hope your week is going well so far. Are you excited for part 2 of this post or what?!! If you haven’t read the prequel to this post yet, please read it here so you’re not kept out of the loop! 🙂

As promised, Adepeju Adeyanju aka Peju, (a young Nigerian woman and professional project manager based in Lagos whose most favourite thing in the world to do is attend weddings!), has written this part with extra pics!! Follow her on twitter @Pjobaby. Watch and learn:

“On the day of the traditional engagement, usually a Thursday, Friday, Saturday or Sunday; the venue of the event (a hall or under a marquee) is well decorated. Family, friends, guests and of course the couple are looking forward to a happy day. Each family usually pick uniform clothes called “aso-ebi” to distinguish each side, to create a level dress sense and add colour to the event. The “aso-ebi” could range from traditional Yoruba fabric called “aso-oke” as head ties, shawls and caps. It could also be another type of fabric, Damask like fabric as head ties, shawls and caps. The head ties and caps could also be paired with laces. The head tie is called “gele”, the shawl called “ipele” and the cap called “fila”. It is often to see bride’s side adorn particular colour(s) and groom’s side complementary colour(s). Of recent, both sides have been seen wearing same aso-ebi.


A Groom awaiting his Bride’s arrival

The venue arrangement is split into two with both sides facing each other or a stage. The two sides are for bride’s family and friends; and then groom’s family and friends. Couple’s parents and immediate family members arrive venue early to welcome their guests, other family members arrive and seat accordingly. Traditional drummers or a live band may be playing at the back ground. The anchors of the day are called “alagas”, they are not usually family members but are professionals who anchor traditional engagements. There will be two “alagas”, as spokesperson for each side.


Bride being escorted in

The spokesperson for bride’s side is called “alaga ijoko” meaning seated spokesperson; while that of the groom’s side is called “alaga iduro” meaning standing spokesperson. Standing spokesperson because he or she is representing the groom’s family to beg for bride’s hand in marriage. Both “alagas” come with their own traditional drummers, voice overs and back-up singers. I will also add that though the event is an official one, the “alagas” make it interesting with their approach of drumming, singing, praises, prayers and coordination. The ceremony begins with the “alaga ijoko” and his or her drummers and back up singers singing praises to God. The groom’s parents, family and friends are asked by the “alaga” to step out of the venue and they are led into the venue by their “alaga” with singing, drumming and dancing.


Bride’s parents pray for her

The groom’s side dance straight to where the bride’s parents and family are seated and greet them. The men prostrate or squat while the women kneel on both knees chorusing “ekaasan ma, ekaasan sa, ekaasan gbogbo ebi” good afternoon sis, good afternoon madams, good afternoon all family members. The groom’s side hereby go back to their seats. The “alaga ijoko” then recites the opening prayer or calls upon a bride’s family member to do so.


Groom prays for his bride as bride wears his cap for him well (awwww…)

The “alaga ijoko” now asks the “alaga iduro” what the mission of the groom’s family is in a jovial way and in the same jovial way response is given. For example the “alaga iduro” may say they have come to beg for the hand of a beautiful damsel, who is well mannered, well learned, from a good home. The “alaga ijoko” then responds asking for air fare to bring the bride they are looking for.


Yoruba couple in traditional aso-oke outfits

Stainless bowls are at centre stage for collecting money from groom’s family. Aside all the engagement items listed, the groom, his family and friends should be at the venue with money to spend freely and impress bride’s family. The “alaga iduro” presents their letter of proposal, which is read by a young lady from bride’s family. The lady who reads the letter is sprayed with money after reading while she dances to drummers singing. The bride’s mother presents the letter of proposal to bride’s father and may dance round with it. The groom’s parents are then given a letter of acceptance by bride’s parents.


Beautiful Yoruba couple

I also have to add that the ceremony is a happy one for the bride’s mother. It shows she has trained her daughter enough to be good enough for a man to come for her hand in marriage and not end up a single mother or live in lover/mistress. The bride’s mother’s friends and family also share in the joy of the day.

The groom’s parents are likewise happy to see their son marry the right way. It’s time for groom’s entrance, he’s led in by his friends and female family members. Music is sung for him and his convoy to dance in and he dances straight to where the bride’s parents are seated. He and his friends prostrate to greet them, he is prayed for, he sits between bride’s parents to show full acceptance. Money is collected by the “alaga ijoko” from groom and his friends for wealth, health and children. The groom then walks to his parents for prayers and then to the his seat on stage awaiting his bride.


Beautiful Yoruba Couple

The bride’s entrance is usually more grand than that of the grooms with more music, drumming, dancing and family and friends watching. The bride veiled and is accompanied by female family members and her friends; she dances to where her parents are seated. She kneels to greet them, she is prayed for and that is the most emotional moment for the bride and her mother.

The bride is then led to where groom’s parents are seated where she is unveiled, prayed for and sits between groom’s parents to show acceptance. She is asked to walk or dance majestically to stage to meet her groom waiting.


Yoruba bride with her in-laws

On stage, her groom prays for her, gives her money. Then she walks to where the engagement items are to pick her favourite item. The favourite item she must pick is the Bible or Quran with the engagement ring on it.


Well packaged traditional engagement items


Well packaged traditional engagement items


Well packaged traditional engagement items (love this!)

The groom gives her the ring, more prayers are said with music interludes and jokes. The other engagement items are used in praying for the couple by the “alagas”. Cake is cut and the bride’s parents hand over the bride to the groom and his parents.


Couple in Yoruba traditional outfits called aso-oke

The couple can now step down to dance, go round to greet guests. The merry making continues. The outfit of a Yoruba couple is aso-oke gele and ipele for the bride and aso-oke “agbada” big Kaftan for the groom. They can pair it with aso-oke or lace “iro and buba” blouse and wrapper; and lace “buba and sokoto” blouse and trouser accordingly. This ceremony is often called an engagement but it is a Yoruba traditional wedding!”


Couple cutting traditional engagement cake

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