Igbo Marriage: the Betrothal and Bride Price

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The Igbo people of Southeastern Nigeria practice a very intricate ritual of pre-marriage. The process includes a great deal of participation from others, including much of the extended family, not just the bride and groom. It also utilizes strict rules of progression throughout the engagement process. Tying into this is a sort of business like practice of exchanging a bride for many things of value. With all of these components coming together they form the Igbo engagement process (“Igbo Information.” Uiowa ed. November 1998). Marriage in Igbo Land is not just an affair between the future husband and wife; it also involves the parents, the extended family and villages of each individual (Widjaja, Michael. "Igbo insight guide to Enugu and Igboland’s Culture and Language." 2007). Marriage can be decided on by the parents before birth; however this was usually only done in highly successful families. The relatives could also decide during childhood that their children would marry when older. The final way is for the man and woman to choose each other (Wilgenbusch. “Ibo Marriage and Courtship.” 2007). Relationships, exchanges, and alliances between the prospective couple also form the main points of the marriage decision for both families (Schwimmer¸Brian. “Igbo Marriage Patterns.” University of Manitoba, May 2002). The place the bride-to-be is from also plays a factor when choosing who to marry. Wives are often found outside the male’s village to ensure there was no inter-family marriage taking place (Wilgenbusch 2007). The reason for this is that Men and women are forbidden to marry within their own patrilineage or those of their mother and their father's mother. This regulation eliminates not only parallel cousin marriage but also rules out cross cousins. As a result, basic lineage groups do not become placed into paired or circular exchange systems as they do in many other societies with basic unilineal descent structures similar to the Igbo one (Schwimmer...
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