WHITE WEDDING : A MOCKERY OF OUR CUSTOMARY MARRIAGE. -Okoli Stephen writes

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The importance of white wedding, its values and practices in Africa are manifold. Resulting to, clash with pre-existing traditional beliefs and practices. This has necessitated the need to ask; at what point can a young man and a woman who has agreed to marry, be socially described as a married couple? In Nigeria, some people do not allow the bride to immediately go home with the groom and his people after the customary marriage rite has been performed. Some Africans argue they are not husband and wife until white wedding has been performed. Hence, there is need to probe why? Findings reveal this clash as recent and unnecessary, individual choice should prevail and not the Western tenets. Sexual consummation should begin immediately after customary marriage rites but this is unacceptable to some people. The white wedding no doubt, makes mockery of our customary marriage. 

White wedding is a cultural way of getting married in the western world. Why do Africans now see it as superior to the normal African cultural marriage where two families meet and dowry is paid? Of what sense does it make to do African customary marriage and still crown it all with this so-called “white wedding” ? Must we Africans wear those ill-fitting suits and gowns to prove that we have now been married? I personally think Africans are relegating their culture to the background and promoting the white man’s culture! Are we saying that our cultural marriage is not sufficient? That it must be completed by white wedding? We need to promote our culture because the whites do not marry in our own way.

White wedding, over the years, has been erroneously seen by many Africans as a Christian practice. If truth be told, white wedding has nothing to do with Christianity. All the marriages that are recorded in the Bible were done in the traditional way. From Genesis to Revelation. Even the one Jesus attended and performed His first miracle was done in the Jewish traditional way. Jesus never went there as a bishop, pastor, etc to officiate the marriage. He went as every other guests.

In reality, is it necessary to have a white wedding? Is it a biblical or a cultural requirement? Is it a sin not to have a white wedding? 

The term ‘white wedding’ originates from the white colour of the bride’s gown. This white gown became popular in the Victorian Era, when Queen Victoria wore a white lace dress at her wedding to Prince Albert in 1840.

Howbeit, the term now also encapsulates the entire Western wedding routine, especially in Christian religion. This practice emanated from the western culture and was brought to Africa through imperialism.Many churches today have adopted it as a biblical concept, a Christian prerequisite. 

The Europeans who came to Africa seem to have demonised the African traditional methods of getting married. Typical African customary weddings were a spiritual and family affair. They were centred on combining the two lives, the two families and also the two communities. For instance, in Nigeria, ‘Igba Nkwu’ meaning Wine carrying is the official customary wedding ceremony practised by the Igbos. Before getting to this stage, the groom-to-be’s family pays a visit to the Bride’s family in an act called ‘door knocking’. This is done as an act of asking the parent of the bride for her hand in marriage. The groom-to-be’s family presents Kolanut, Palmwine (local brew), dry gin and soft drinks to the bride’s family. After the purpose of visit and gifts are accepted, some families go-ahead to investigate each other for their good standing and moral standing in the society.

The ceremony for the Yoruba traditional wedding is not just a time to unite two individuals but also an occasion for family members to unite. Vibrant colours, rich food, playful banter and much more accompanies this event. Following the formal introduction, a date is set for the engagement. The celebration moderated by two women Alaga Ijoko (representing the brides family) and Alaga Iduro (groom’s family). Traditional weddings by the Yorubas begin with the arrival of the groom’s family. The grooms family must come early or pay a fine. The groom dances in with his friends and proceeds to prostrate twice with his friends and once alone. The families stretch forth their hands to pray for the groom who prostrates once more with his friends before heading to his seat.

Not as time-consuming and expensive as the Igbo and Yoruba traditional wedding the Hausa wedding is simple yet elegant. The Hausas reside in the Northern part of Nigeria and are mostly Muslims. Like other culture, the grooms family goes to ask for the bride’s hands in marriage with Kolanut, fruits and sweets. Gaisuwa is the formal approval of the bride’s family. The groom is expected to pay a minimum amount of bride price Rubu Dinar meaning ‘quarter kilogram of gold’ to the highest amount he can afford. After Sadaki (payment of bride price), the families proceed to set a date (Sarana) for the occasion.

All these methods were commonly accepted and recognised by the society prior to the colonial inception of the white wedding phenomenon, African marriages entered into through the commonly accepted methods were recognised as complete and legitimate. 

In the absence of a white gown and a pastor’s blessing, should marriages be regarded as sinful unions? When does the marriage become a legitimate union, soon after dowry payment or when the bride walks down the aisle in white? Is the white wedding a Biblical doctrine or rather an imperialistic one? There is a significant number of people who believe that the white wedding is a Biblical prerequisite, in the same way they take any Western practice as Christian tradition or gospel truth.

In our own African culture by accepting dowry, a bride’s father gives his daughter’s hand away in marriage, and that’s a defining procedure that legitimises the marriage.

Must we copy the whites’ man way of life? Why can’t our Reverends and pastors attend our cultural marriages and sanctify the marriage soon after the payment of the dowry? Can’t they also bless the union and issue the marriage certificate?

Many youths today are under pressure to have the white wedding and readily go into huge debts to have one. Apart from believing that a white wedding is the legitimate marriage, the couples also think to wed is to spend money. Fleet of cars hired to ferry couples on their wedding days serve as visible testimony that many couples are willing to go out of their way to have an extravagant wedding.

Sadly. the flashy white weddings do not seem to remedy the devastating increase in divorce rates in Africa

Perhaps it’s time to take a walk back into our history as a people and revisit our African wedding, our own cultural methods of getting married and jettison the so called white wedding!

Bio

ÓKÓLÍ STEPHEN NÓNSÓ is a poet and an essayist fromNigeria. He is the winner of 2014 SOASA AIFCE creativewriting competition in poetry. He believes in the power of penand the positive difference it can make in our world. His poemshave appeared in Tuck magazine, Praxis magazine, Adelaideliterary magazine New York and other journals.  He writes fromLagos, Nigeria.His poems come from the heart and a desire toshare words of joy and happiness. He believes that poetry can beused as a tools to solving societal ills. He writes from Lagos. Phone contact:08168497280

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