Bride price in Igbo marriage culture ~ by Charles Ogbu
Just before you allow yourself to be confused by social media confusion, know this:
In EVERY part of Igbo land, the only condition upon which a bride price will not be paid on a bride during a TRADITIONAL MARRIAGE ceremony is if the bride is discovered to be pregnant in which case, the bride price payment is postponed until she delivers.
This culture is ALMOST uniform amongst every Igbo people in every part of the world.
Aside the above condition, there can be no traditional marriage without bride price.
The bride and the groom have absolutely no say when it comes to the bride price stage. In most cases, the intending couple doesn’t even know when it’s paid.
If the bride is summoned, it is only to confirm from her that she is still interested in the groom for the family and Umunna to know whether to proceed with the bride price and subsequent ceremonies.
She has absolutely no opinion on whether or not her bride price will be paid or how much. The only thing she can do if she is smart is to LOBBY the Umunna and her family FROM BEHIND to reduce the MARRIAGE LIST, not bride price.
A lot of people confuse the two. Marriage list is where the problem lies because in some places, frivolous items are added to make the cost of the list items run into millions.
Bride price on its own is just a symbolic token (in my place it’s between N10 to N20) that signify that marriage has taken place traditionally.
I keep emphasizing traditionally because I recognize people’s right to marry in the court or Church and chose not to do traditional marriage.
But once you want to marry traditionally, bride price just be involved.
It is worthy to point out here that some families take as little as hundred naira, fifty naira or even less while some simply accept whatever amount the groom’s family presented as the bride price, touch the money before returning the entire bundle back to the intending in-laws with an instruction, ga jiri ya netara anyi Ada anyi nwanyi (use it to look after our daughter).
In this case, the bride price is deemed to have been paid. This is what some people misinterpret as “No bride price was paid” but they are wrong.
Once you touch any item someone presented before you before returning that item back to the presenter, traditionally, you are deemed to have accepted that item.
Please don’t argue. Just go to your village and ask the elders.
Another important point to note is that in every part of Ala-Igbo, you are not considered married traditionally until the bride price is paid.
Even the customary law and court recognises this.
In Igbo culture, if a man pays a bride price on a woman and somehow, they separate, the woman is still considered married to the man and every child she bears belongs to that man that paid bride price on her even if those kids are fathered by Uncle Lucifer.
A traditional marriage in Igbo land is not always dissolved through the court. It is dissolved through the returning of the bride price.
In cases where the groom’s family refuses to collect the bride price either to tie down the woman and stop her from moving on with her life or for any other unholy reason, the bride price is taken to the customary court or the in-laws village head or Igwe or any ranking member of the family and deemed to have been returned and the marriage deemed dissolved traditionally.