Okay, so today we would look at marriage and family because my friend introduction that is coming up has added flames to my love for marriages and have caused a spark in my interest on how Nigeria before colonial rule carried out their marriages.


a beautiful bride

Marriage is an activity that takes place not only in Nigeria but Worldwide. For the course of this post I will look at the pattern of marriage and family in pre-colonial Nigeria and this is because marriage and family are closely interrelated especially in the pre-colonial Nigeria society and also because pre-colonial Nigeria marriage practices have shaped how the present marriages are done in Nigeria.

From inception even in the bible, marriage was and is still seen as step towards family formation whereby man and woman comes together in form of a contract or an agreement to live together in holy matrimony. This post will consist of the prerequisites of marriage in pre-colonial Nigeria society that is the involvement of family and the bride price been paid also the number and kind of Women and  men involved in marriage e t c

To begin with, most family in the pre-colonial society of Nigeria could either be formed by marriage or formed without marriage. This means that the type of marriage contracted determine the type of family.

The concept of family refer to different levels of social organization in different cultures, most family consist of a man, his wife and children this type of family is called a nuclear family, which was not too seen in the pre-colonial society. The most practiced family in the pre-colonial society was the extended family which consisted of two or more nuclear family. For example man conjugal family, and some extended family. So it involved a man, his wife and children as well as his father and mother and other children. Also the family could also be described as monogamous and polygamous family.

Before marriage took place pre-colonial Nigeria, series of events took place such as the introduction whereby the families come together to introduce and know each other. In This Event the man had the overall authority; he directs the affair unit and takes vital decision after consulting with the wife and children. He also administered and protected his family. While the woman takes change of domestic affairs, and the children is to contribute whatever function their parent assigns to them.

In the pre-colonial Nigeria society it was  said that family is an important institution in a society because it is a means of proving the social capital needed for society and its organization. Thus the man expects respect and obedience from his Wife and children.

Additionally, Marriage was and is still not easy to define and explain because of the diversity in the systems of marriage throughout pre-colonial Nigeria which is such that every culture has different practices. Notwithstanding there was some common qualities such as the Bride wealth which can be called the Bride price, also before marriage can occur there must involvement of spouses families .all this is still present in today’s marriage activities.

In pre-colonial society of the Yoruba’s and most indigenous societies it is customary for the parents of the man or women to have an overriding say in deciding Whom( their son or daughter marries. The parent in most cases, decide the marriage of their children while the relations have a social duty to ensure that the person is eligible before they approved marriage. The age which spouses are regarded as a mature person vary from society to society.

Also Marriage and any m sexual relationship involving a father and daughter or mother in similar position or brother and sister in the same is incestuous and highly disapproved and detestable in most societies such as Urhobo’s and Yoruba’s.

Before the contract of marriage is complete, one of the essential steps in pre-colonial Nigeria was the payment made to the girl and her parents, this is called the brides Wealth or bride price. The money or property which a daughter carries from her parents to her marital home is usually called a dowry, Both Bride Wealth and dowry is significant in marriage. Both vary from society to society and from one family to another. It was paid in various forms in the pre-colonial Nigeria some places gave cows or paid dowries or other forms of money as in many societies. Bride s Wealth may be provided solely by the father of the man or his-family members. it may be consumed by categories of kinsmen in the girls family. In present day, The Bride price and dowry still varies according to society and cowries have been exchanged with Naira and foreign currency.  The man and not is father is the one who provides the Brides wealth. The Brides wealth is still consumed by categories of kinsmen in the girl’s family

More so, pre-colonial Nigeria society had different forms of marriage that is the number and kinds of women or men involved marriage. Firstly there was the monogamy, in this marriage the man can only marry one woman, and the monogamy was imported and now exists along with other forms of marriage. The next was the polygamy marriage which was popular then but it is more complicated because it involved one man and many women. This was practiced in pre-colonial society in Yoruba land and Igbo society. In present time all this practices is still visible.

Also Levirate was practiced in the pre-colonial Igbo society. Levirate occurs when a man marries the widow of his dead older brother. It also implies that the relationship created through, the original marriage remains, the children of the deceased remains in the family. No new marriage is contracted since the old one is not dissolved.


In all marriage ceremony ,food is always present and ends up been a feast for those invited and those not invited because most time than not it is a day of joy.

To conclude with marriage is an essential step towards family formation and is very important in both the pre-colonial and present day Nigeria. The pattern of marriage varies between

different culture and societies in Nigeria. despite the differences, the are some similarities such as the man is the head of all the activities that takes place in a marriage ceremony, Bride wealth which is also Bride price and dowry is a norm in all society. Food is the order of the day. There are other activities that take place during marriage and I hope when you attend any Nigerian wedding you will take note.

Link to a related post: https://nokview.wordpress.com/2018/02/28/an-overview-of-stages-of-traditional-marriage-in-nigeria-since-pre-colonial-time-a-case-study-of-introduction-stage/


Onigu Otite .W.O., An Introduction to Sociological Studies, Heinemann education books (Nigeria) ply Ibadan, I979

Ifedayo Daramola, Mass Media and Society Rothan Press Limited)Lagos, 2003

Samovar Porter and Stefan, 1998

Firth. Studies in Kinship and Marriage edited by Schapera and Evans Pritchard 1963 page

Pictures gotten for Streetshots Photography

Thanks to MR and Mrs Avul for their wedding contribution