Marriage in Onitsha is regarded as a family and clan affair. A girl reaches marriageable age at 15 years whereas the male counterpart becomes an eligible bachelor at 20.
Before marriage becomes contracted, certain steps have to be followed duly. Thus, it is not just enough for a man to bethroth a girl, the contracting parties have to embark on a series of investigations before approval can be given.
The first step is the customary engagement. Here, on the appointed day, the bridegroom together with his clan mostly elders head to the bride’s home where they are awaited by the bride’s clan.
They are welcomed with kolanuts which is broken with prayers by the Okpala of the bride’s clan wishing all God’s blessings and a successful discussion.
During this phase, the visitors clan also presents kolanuts, 2 pots of palmwine and 2 bottles of gin to the brides father as a formal act of engagement. This is called mmanya efifie (general drinks).
The second phase is the payment of bride price to the parents of the bride. Amount is usually fixed unlike other places where the price is subject to bargain. The bride price which is known as Ngo usually contains items such as
• Mmanya Nna- Father’s drink.
• Mmanya Nnne- Mother’s drink.
• Mmanya Umunna- Family drink.
• Oji Nna- Father’s kola.
• Oji Nnne- Mother’s kola.
• Ife Aru- Cost of wearing apparel.
• Ife Nruaro- Years of tribute to parents.
• Ozuzunwa- Training expenses.
• Oji Diokpa- Kola for the clans male head.
• Oji Ada- Kola for the clans female head.
• Igo Muo- Marriage ceremony.
• Okika Nnne na Nna- Notice to parents when bride will join the husband.
• Iduno- Ceremony of leading the bride to her new home.
These items are either paid for in cash or in kind.
The next phase usually used to be the Ibunabaite where the bride pays a visit to her fiance’s home. This visit usually lasts for one day. However it is no longer in practice in this contemporary era.
Prior to the Ida Uno, the Igo Muo is performed. Here, the contracting clans meet at the bride’s home. Prayers are offered to God by the okpala of both parties asking for good health and unity among both clans.
The next phase is the Ina Uno. Here, members of the bride’s family especially young folks meet at the bride’s home in the evening. Her trousseau are exhibited for people to see. The clans blessings are bestowed upon her and she is bade goodbye, and God’s blessings by her people.
From this phase, her journey to the bridegroom’s home begins. On arrival at the place, the trousseau are placed on the ground where they are exhibited for the admiration of onlookers. The visitors are welcomed while the bride is led into the house.
The trousseau are also inspected by the bridegroom’s clan as well. Afterwards, kolanuts, palmwine, and gin are presented. Prayers are said to ensure the marriage is a successful one.