The indispensable bride-maker of Igbo land: palm wine


It is a must-know for an African, a Nigerian, especially of the Igbo origin, what it means when people establish marriage intent and what symbolic rite can act upon it.

The indispensable bride-maker of Igbo land: palm wine:
palm wine pot/ Photo credit: Buzznigeria

The Igbos is a case study:  the commencement of a traditional marriage rite is symbolically and customarily indispensable in their culture context. They are about the best marriage makers, they are so hard-working, care and support their marriages, seeing it as a life-time commitment.

To choose not to marry is frowned at in Igbo land, but to marry, it must be endorsed by the families of the bride and groom whether they live at home, in town or abroad.

A marriage is a vow to a common life-long lasting love transaction between two individuals and their families and communities. As soon as any form of marriage is reached, the Igbo think of home custom as the basis of direction, and what could that be? The law of palm wine and cola-nut carrying, presentation and sharing sets in.

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In Igbo land, paying of bride-price is a process unavoidable, although, for those who insist, it does not stop marriage from proceeding and being lived out. Here, traditional rulers (the Igwes and Ezes) take bold steps through palace orders and legislation to control the cost of marriage in Igbo, yet, one can only but dispense what one has and move on including a token fee of symbolize bride-price to secure final blessings and moving into the home of the bridegroom where the bride is expected to live for the rest of her life.

The indispensable bride-maker of Igbo land: palm wine:
Unique Igbo bride carrying palm wine/ Photo credit:Pulse

Also, marriage in Igbo land means following the rules of participating kin communities as wife-givers and wife-takers to ensure social order. When the cultural obligations are met, it is prayed to have good health, procreation alongside wealth, as well as live good and a long life. At this point, marriage is adored and celebrated with pomp and pageantry.

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But one may ask: What social exchange constitutes legitimate marriage in Igbo land?

There are different symbolic social versions that constitutes marriages in Igbo land, but the bottom line is that in Igbo land, account is recorded and narrated in form of social stories about what happened and who is involved in marriage transactions that customarily accord hope and comfort to marriage givers and takers. Until certain social ceremonies that promise order and relevance are carried out, marriage in Igbo land can be termed unfinished.

Upon accepting each other by two individuals who was either matched to each other by friends, kinsmen/women, or on a nature’s touch discovered each other, and upon agreeing to marry with love and interest, they will contact their respective families and kinsmen and share their proposals including seeking for advice and support.

Next, both families sends delegates to make investigations on the suitability by both families. Once investigations to show that the intended marriage will be valid and successful for the bride and groom to proceed, they will traditionally and genuinely visit each other’s home to fulfill marriage agreement rite. At this point, both families will connect and enact the tradition of in-lawship, that is, an officially planned or arranged visitation will be carried out.

The family of the groom will carry palm wine and other related items of social exchange to the family of the bride on an appointed market day to socialize, agree and endorse the marriage or not. This is usually very important as the above process begins the initial and powerful starting point to carry the marriage forward to an endorsed marital state.

The significance of this ceremony of awareness, especially that which is done with palm wine is culturally deep and powerful. It confers the obligation for dignity, respect, security, safety and protection of one another. In other words, with just a keg(s) of palm wine, marriage has been declared and recognized and the two individuals can start acting as husband and wife with full rights and responsibilities.

To fully garnish this process as the Igbos adopt the beginning stage of recognized marriage with palm wine carrying, they also recognize the presence and sharing of cola-nuts and hot drinks, including good meals of commensality and blessing ceremony. The payment of bride-price and the larger feasting by the community, youths and in-laws is done accordingly.

These social exchange transaction ceremonies are expected to be fulfilled as long as suitor can afford them. Traditional food items namely: kola-nuts, palm wine, snuff and dry gin must be presented and consumed to grace the event. Once the couple is pronounced husband and wife by their families, they can start relating, visiting and living as husband and wife henceforth.

The journey has been accomplished. It all started with a visitation with a keg of palm wine, the bride maker.

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