The inspiration for this piece came from my friend Emeka and his long-time bride-in-waiting Ngozi (not their real names) who have been planning to get married for some time now.

Emeka lives in the UK and hasn’t been to Nigeria in a long while, and so he wanted to find out from me how much weddings (traditional and white) cost these days in Nigeria. Obviously he wanted me to share some of my July 2005 experiences with him.

As a long time friend, I obliged him and started by telling him that wedding costs will vary amongst Nigeria’s many tribes, and that it was an entirely different matter in Igbo land, a special case if you like, being that Igbo native customs and traditions make traditional weddings and the associated events seem like a haggling affair in a typical Nkwo Nnewi motor parts shop. The impression one normally gets was as that the bride- to- be was being sold, hence many eligible brothers now walk down the aisle later than they would have wished, as time is usually required for the brother to get his act together, graduate from university (at the mercy of striking lecturers), get a job (at the mercy of banks, telecom and oil companies), build a house in the village (depending on the part of Igbo land the brother is from, and also on his socio-economic background).

Emeka however insisted that I give him a rough estimate which I eventually obliged him. On hearing this he screamed out aloud, I thought he was having a heart attack. I however reassured him that he didn’t have to spend that much, after all if those artisans, farmers and low income earners in Nigeria can do it, then he too could since he was living in the UK and acquiring the almighty pounds. I reminded him that he shouldn’t forget the saying about people cutting their coat according to their clothes (not their size) when it comes to weddings.

We briefly engaged each other in a lengthy banter over the double standards in most Igbo towns and villages, where it seems that different rules are applied in marriage matters to potential suitors, one set of rules (the flexible one) for the home-based and another (the more expensive one) for the akata suitor.

Emeka was troubled because he and his bride- to- be are Igbo, he is neither a 419er or a fraudster and earns his money the hard way doing you know what in the UK, and so he just couldn’t understand why he should spend all that money, (savings from months if not years of sweat) in what he termed a ‘ritualistic wedding ceremony’.

When he called me again a few days later, I knew that trouble was brewing, and that probably our conversations may have stirred up some troubles in his household, or should I say his heart.

‘I think I know what I’m gonna to do’, Emeka said, in his fake Britico accent

‘What then’? I enquired

‘I will simply go to Nigeria, and meet my in-laws, if they won’t come down to my level and accept me the way I am, then I will call the marriage off’.

‘It’s not that simple as you think, also the matter is beyond your in-laws, it is an umunna (kindred) matter’.

‘To hell with umunna’, he retorted. ‘I don’t care about them’

‘Anyway, take it easy’, I cautioned. ‘I understand your frustration but if you love your woman, you can’t simply walk away because of the demands of tradition, no matter how expensive they are. ‘And how does Ngozi feel about this whole matter’? I enquired

‘She feels sad but there is really nothing she can do. Anyway, we may just have to postpone the wedding’ Emeka said.

‘That’s not a good idea, anything can happen, you never know’ I pleaded.

‘But that is not to say that I should pay through my nose because I want to marry’ he replied. ‘You live in this country and you know how hard life here is’.

‘No one is forcing you to marry’ I almost told him, but felt that he wouldn’t find it funny.

‘Well, what more can I say, pray about it’? I finally advised him.

‘Unless my in-laws will be willing to accept credit card for the dowry and other expenses’.

When he said this, I burst out laughing; he joined me in the laughter as well.

Afterwards, I told Emeka what a brilliant idea it was and how it would actually make life easier for brothers and sisters living abroad who are used to the buy-now-pay-later arrangements, if potential in-laws can be made to accept credit cards for dowry and other bridal expenses. But at the same time, I knew that the idea will never fly in Nigeria, why?

Many suitors and potential sons-in-law may end up marrying people’s daughters with fake or stolen credit cards, a situation that may lead to the in-laws sending ‘repo’ men after them to repossess their daughters, as they would normally cars, houses and other items purchased on credit with default payments.

Back to Emeka and Ngozi, they should have been getting married this Christmas (2005), but have since postponed the date indefinitely for economic reasons.

Emeka is not alone though, this issue currently affects many young eligible Igbo men, the women are also not spared because they won’t leave their parents’ homes until they are well into their late 20s and 30s, maybe it is time for our elders to re-visit some of our customs and traditions to see how today’s singletons can be encouraged, and not discouraged from saying I do.

December 21st 2005.


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Re: .Charge The Dowry To Your Credit Card
Unregistered posted on 12-21-2005, 11:25:27 AM
uche tell your friend to be a man and get on with it, abi na for mcdonalds him dey work? how is he sure that if he waits till next year that the marriage costs won't skyrocket as a result of our galloping nflation?
Re: .Charge The Dowry To Your Credit Card
Picasso posted on 12-21-2005, 14:52:44 PM
I must say I'm in support of Emeka's decision to postpone or annul the wedding altogether if the inlaws refuses to cooperate. Nobody should go into debts simply because they want to get married. He should have a serious chat with his bride to be and if they are really serious about their relationship, all they need is pay a visit to the nearest registry or if they can afford it, plane tickets to Vegas - without both parents of course.
Re: .Charge The Dowry To Your Credit Card
Unregistered posted on 12-21-2005, 16:45:16 PM
Why must the dowry be so expensive in the first place? Ah-ha, na marriage person wan do not buy duplex for Park Lane now! Thank God that is not the case for all Naija tribes and cultures oh! If there is too much yahwah for bride price or no bride price, I beg tell your friend to look for someone else from somewhere else. Person never born pikin e don begin accrue debt just becos of bride price! By the time he born and the pikins begin university education nko?
Re: .Charge The Dowry To Your Credit Card
Nonyellum posted on 12-21-2005, 18:15:12 PM
Uche, what is the average dowry price? You did not specify.

Maybe it would be better if your elders stipulated a "fixed figure"; at the current rate only the rich can afford to marry. The slightly cash-stressed will resort to making illegitimate children, surely the elders wouldn't want that.

I won't call for total abolution, a downward review is definitely called for. I kinda like the idea that you men pay dowry on us.
I'd feel extra special if a man payed dowry on me, like it's more binding, as opposed to none. Something small. The no-dowry option is a bastard and loose tradition in my opinion.

PS: what happens with the dowry in the event of a divorce? Me thinks this should make it harder for couples to divorce.
Re: .Charge The Dowry To Your Credit Card
DeepThought posted on 12-21-2005, 18:21:42 PM
When couples start to elope, maybe the families will do something about bride prices.

On hearing this he screamed out aloud, I thought he was having a heart attack.

So Uche, did you cry when you first heard your own bride price?
Re: .Charge The Dowry To Your Credit Card
Nkire posted on 12-21-2005, 18:49:09 PM
To answer your question, in case of a divorce, in my part of Igbo land (Ngwa area), the groom gets thirty Naira (it used to be thirty pounds) back. However, being a divorcee is not picnic for the woman either. Most Igbo men do not like second 'new'.

On your other point, no, the girls know better not to have illegitimate children. Once a girl does this, she is deemed to be second 'new' and her best bet for a husband will be a man old enough to be her father, generally as wife number 2.

I can tell you, I married nine years ago and paid through the nose. Like Uche Nwanna opined, it is the Umunna (Kindred) that determines what happens.

The fictious Emeka has to be a man and pay for his wife. He can get a second job. I am an ardent supporter of bride-price. Does this wimp of Emeka know how hard his great-grand father, grand father and father had to work to come up with cowries shells, pound sterling, goat and in some cases oxen to marry his great grand mother, grand mother and mother. It has always been a mark of adulthood and accomplishment to be a married man in Igbo land. We treasure our women and you better be prepared if you want one. Believe me, there are many songs that promote this idea. It is ingrained in young Igbo boys to be industrious because no one is going to marry your woman for you. The underlying philosophy may sound odd to the uninitiated, but that's the way it is.

The problem is not the dowry per se, it is all the associated stuff old boy must buy for the in-laws and the Umunna and Umunne. In some places they now ask for ladies Honda motor-cycle for the mother in-law.

Whoever told you it was easy being a man!

Let me tell you all something else: We as Africans, especially the men, have lost the Steeliness it took to be a man. We have allowed ourselves to become soft and shameless. What manner of a man cries because he has to work to get what he wants. The future of the African man (an Igbo for that matter) is bleak in-deed.
Re: .Charge The Dowry To Your Credit Card
Anike posted on 12-21-2005, 18:57:14 PM
A coworker of mine, indian, was telling me about the dowry "she" had to pay. I had to look again to make sure she is indeed a lady as in from birth. She says it's the other way round. So while men pay dowry in Africa (or Nigeria), women pay dowry there.

Your friend wants to marry but he doesn't want to pay. What happens to all the money spent to educate the girl? Abeg, cash down! No credit and/or checks. hopefully, that would teach him to value his wife.

On your other point, no, the girls know better not to have illegitimate children. Once a girl does this, she is deemed to be second 'new' and her best bet for a husband will be a man old enough to be her father, generally as wife number 2.
Double standard! Men don't want second new but women do right?
Re: .Charge The Dowry To Your Credit Card
Odinaka posted on 12-21-2005, 19:47:33 PM
I don't understand why men have to pay through their nose to get wives. A wise In-law should be able to cut down the cost of marriage so that the couple won't start their life with a financial stress.

By the way Uche, you did not state the approximate cost. We wish to know
Re: .Charge The Dowry To Your Credit Card
Picasso posted on 12-21-2005, 20:11:00 PM
Personally, I think its extremely stupid for any parent (or family members - distant or near) to make unreasonable demands when it comes to dowry issues. The fact remains that no amount of money (not even billions of dollars) can replace whatever money spent (or values) instilled upon the bride from birth by the parents. So why deny your daughter the one in a lifetime chance at true love out of greed and stupidity?

Another thing I find preposterous is the way some people here are harping about the sustainment of this greedy culture and tradition. Newsflash! Culture is subject to changes as human beings become more knowledgeable; that essentially is what separates it from religion. It was once culturally acceptable to kill twins in Calabar, today those practices are history. Yes, it may sometimes be important to preserve and/or sustain culture and tradition but definitely not when it borders on barbarity and greed.
Re: .Charge The Dowry To Your Credit Card
Sabella Abidde posted on 12-21-2005, 22:20:47 PM
It is time we abolish this dowry thing. Look, women are claiming that we live in a modern era; that the world is globalizing, and that we have equal rights and all that; and that whatever a man can do, a woman can do. Ok...I agree and I am not doubting that.

Now that we are equal, why should men be made to pay "through the nose." Why? Back then it was assumed that men are superior and women needed to be taken care of. Today, it is no longer so. All those women claiming rights and asking their men to contribute to domestic shores should definately forgo bridewealth which is a cultural thing.

To all you Igbo fellow, if the money too much, if the thing pass una pocket, if them no allow you put am for your credit card, na beg I beg you...Yoruba girls full everywhere and so are Benin, Calabar, Ijaw, Tiv, Fulani, Nupe, and Hausa girls. They are everywhere. If Igbo girls boku and them no find me, them go lower or abolish the price. Otherwise, make you go find Oyinbo or Spanish babes...or one fine African-America sista.
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