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Nigerian Marriage Customs, Traditions: How Many Wives Can A Nigerian Man Have

nigerian marriage customs traditions

Nigerian Marriage Customs, Traditions: How Many Wives Is A Nigerian Man Allowed To Have

Nigeria is one of the nations in Africa rich in diverse cultures and traditions. People of various cultural beliefs and practices have somehow found a way to co-habit in this nation called Nigeria.

There are perhaps over 350 tribes in existence in Nigeria; each one of these tribes has its belief system and unique marriage customs and traditions. Despite external influence over the years, most tribes in Nigeria have been able to successfully sustain their culture to a large extent; some cultures have even found a means to creatively incorporate some styles of the western world to make marriage occasions more lively and interesting.

Nigerian Marriage Customs, Traditions

Weddings are usually a loud and grand affair in the Nigerian society. A few of these occasions take place during the week however the most common days for weddings in Nigeria are weekends. Every weekend thousands of wedding ceremonies take place in various parts of the country.

Stages Of Marriages In Nigeria

Marriage is often grouped into three categories which most Nigerian couple participates in. These include the marriage according to the act (court marriage), traditional marriage and religious marriage.

Court Marriage

Usually this marriage comes first; it takes place in the marriage registry. It signifies the couple’s legal joining in the eyes of the law. It is an affair which involves the couple and witnesses. A legal marriage certificate is issued to the couple as evidence of this union.

Traditional Marriage

As implied it signifies the couple’s marriage in the eyes of tradition. These ceremonies differ depending on the culture and tradition of the tribes of the couple in question. When all traditional marriage rites are fully fulfilled, the couple is traditionally considered to be legally married.

This is perhaps the oldest form of marriage in Nigeria which dates back to the pre-colonial period of the Nigerian society; when this kind of marriage was the only form of marriage recognized as at that time. It is still placed in high esteem till date as a lot of people still consider it the most important type of marriage in Nigeria.

Religious Marriage

This marriage falls under the two most common religions practiced in Nigeria which is the Islamic and the Christian religion, depending on the religion of the couple. Here, marriage rites according to the Christian and Islamic religion are fulfilled based on the laws of the Bible or the Quran before the couple can be considered married in the religious sense.

Each of these forms of marriage most often takes place back to back and also takes on their own ceremonies and organizations. To fulfill these areas most Nigerian couples undergo all these different forms of marriages. The traditional and religious marriages have grand receptions attached to it.

Yoruba Marriage Customs

The Yoruba’s are one of the largest tribes in Nigeria. Weddings in this tribe are a glamorous and social affair which attracts a lot of crowd of family members and well wishers. The marriage customs of the Yoruba take the form of the introduction ceremony and the engagement ceremony.

The introduction involves the intending couple as well as members of both families coming together, meeting each other; officially for the first time. They come bearing a few gifts and make their intentions known.

Plans towards setting a date for the proper traditional marriage ceremony otherwise called the engagement ceremony are discussed and most often concluded at this time.

The Engagement Ceremony

This is the traditional marriage proper. The groom and his family come along with certain required items as tradition demands. The Yoruba request for a specific number of yams, Palm oil, wine, fruits, kola nuts, clothes and jewelries etc. These items requested for often have traditional significances.

The wedding is presided over by two women called the Alaja Iduro and Alaja Ijoko. The groom pays various forms of fines and also prostrates several times alongside his family and friends before finally being allowed to see his bride. In some cases the groom is also required to bodily carry his bride to prove his capability. When this ceremony is finalized, by tradition the couple is regarded to be married.

The Igbo Marriage Customs

The budget for this traditional marriage is said to be on the high side in most Igbo communities. The speed in which the marriage will take place depends on the groom and his financial ability to provide the gifts which the traditional marriage rites require.

When an Igbo lady accepts your proposal you are still bound to go before her family as well as her kindred to also ask her hand in marriage. Her family and kindred also have a say, as they have to approve of the intended union.


The introduction sees the man and his family visiting the ladies house to make a request for her hand in marriage. It usually takes on two forms; first the groom comes along with his parents and a few elders to express his interest in their daughter. Going along with gifts is not a necessity but to make a good impression, it is preferable you do so.

If the lady is present, she could be called out and asked if she agrees to this decision. The man and his family are expected to come back at a later date after research into the background of the groom has been carried out by the lady’s family.

He is given a list by the woman’s family detailing the items he is expected to provide in line with customs and traditions. When performing the Igbo traditional marriage rites, the engagement list and payment of dowry is usually a cause of concern to most men as the amount spent is often very high.

Failure to fulfill the demands of the traditional marriage rites only delays the date of the ceremony as proceedings cannot move forward without these demands being met.

The wine carrying is the main ceremony; it is at this time that the bride and groom traditionally commit to each other. At the close of this occasion, the bride can officially move in with her husband.

The Hausa Marriage Custom

The customs of the Hausa are interwoven with their religious practices as well. This tribe believes in marriages being very affordable for the man to discourage immorality.

When a man sees the woman he likes, he goes along with his family to the family of the lady and his intentions are publicly made known. The couple then begins a courtship which as the name implies is a period where they get to know each other and discover if they both make a good match.

They are to meet publicly and not have any private business together before the wedding is finalized; any physical contact is greatly frowned upon in the traditional Hausa society.

The negotiation for the amount to be paid as bride price and the date of the wedding is put in place the moment the couple is ready to move along and seal their courtship in marriage.

For the Hausa, the traditional as well as the religious marriage rites have to be equally fulfilled. The Hausa people of Nigeria are mostly Muslims therefore the Muslim marriage ceremony known as the Nikkhai is also performed for the couple to be fully married.

Polygamy In The Nigerian Society

The custom of polygamy in the Nigerian society is not as common as it once was. Previously, the idea of one man one wife for life was solely the laws of the Christian religion.

Islamic laws with respect to marriage reportedly has nothing against a man marrying more than one wife, he is permitted to have as many as four wives which is said to be his limit. He is also free to divorce any of his wives should he wish to and replace her with another.

How Many Wives Can A Nigerian Man Have

Traditional marriage in the Nigerian society has nothing against a man being joined to more than one woman.  Most cultures permit a man to marry as many wives as he wishes. He may not necessarily have the ability to carter for these children, he is however free to marry as many women as he pleases. The traditional marriage customs of the tribes in Nigeria are not opposed to second wives.

The law of the church forbids a man from being joined in matrimony to more than one woman. In accordance to the dictates of the bible polygamy and divorce is bad.

The court marriage considers it a crime to be married to more than one person at a time. The option of divorce is made available by the law should either party wish to terminate the contract of marriage for any reason.

Previously you could commonly find Nigerian men who after fulfilling the marriage rites to one woman still step out and traditionally take a second wife. Often both women are aware of each other’s existence.

Due to external influence and awareness, the practice of Nigerian men marrying more than one wife at a time is gradually being phased out. The option of divorce and mutual separation is now being embraced. Nigerian men seem to have come to the realization that being married to more than one woman at a time is an unhealthy venture.

Presently, you find a Nigerian man getting married for a second time to another woman; meaning he would rather divorce one wife in favor of marrying another lady rather than take a second wife. In the rare cases where taking a second wife occurs, he does not keep both women in the same vicinity.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Linda whitehead

    March 25, 2020 at 6:29 PM

    This culture of. Bride price. Seems very similar to. The British government. Supporting the purchase of enslaved africa n women as well as. The. Polygamist practices in. The. Mormon culture, it. Seems as if. Woman are. Pawns to be traded bought, & sold.

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