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The Igbo traditional marriage is in several stages, spanning from a betrothal (usually arranged by the parents) till the wine carrying ceremony that is a send off for the new bride. These days, couples find each other before going home to seek the approval of parents and relatives.
The Igbo traditional marriage is usually community-centered. There is a saying that a child belongs to the entire community. They are cared for, disciplined and loved by the community. Therefore the Igbo marriage rites are centered around not just the girl’s parents, but her entire family.
1. Ịkụ aka
The first stage of the Igbo traditional marriage rites is ịkụ aka, literally knocking on the door. It is when a man who has interest in a girl comes to officially signify that interest to her people. It can be done a few days to the actual wedding or months before, depending on the pace of the groom.
2. The proper way to “knock on the door”
It is not proper for a man to come for the ịkụ aka alone. He should be accompanied by a few elders of his nuclear family-his parents and an uncle, for example, and his friends. This is a sign of respect and regard for his potential in laws. It signifies that he has the approval of his family too. In the olden days, one of the people accompanying him must be known to the bride’s family as well, serving as a go-between.
The groom does not come empty handed, for that is rude. He presents simple gifts of garden eggs, kolanut, palm wine and hot drinks. He can bring more, according to his means and discretion.
3. The response
After the elder of his family has spoken of his intentions (usually without directly alluding to the girl, but using metaphor like flowers and precious stones), the parents of the girl indicate that they have heard their request. If the girl lives with her parents, she might be called upon to ask if she knows the man, and if she accepts his proposal. Then they can accept his gifts.
These days, the bride is usually aware of the coming proposal and is present at the meeting.
After this formality, the family of the bride will ask the man to go home and await their reply. This waiting period is necessary for her family to make enquiries about his family. They want to make sure that she marries into a good home.
Iku aka is the first necessary step of Igbo traditional marriage. As informal as it is, can set the tone for the rest of the wedding festivities.
For more on the Igbo marriage rites, .’s a list of what to expect.