Culture Trip | A Day at a Bini Traditional Wedding
Hi everyone, it’s Mr. Pratt and I’m going to school you on what you can expect from a typical Bini traditional wedding. I’m sure you’ll pick up a thing or two. 😊
As you arrive in a new city, whether stepping off a plane or peering through the glass of your automobile, you are immediately hit with the unique sights and sounds of the city. Benin City and the surrounding villages are starkly different from say a city like Lagos. In the villages, you find old women sitting at the front porch of their houses, children in their underwear running around the streets and clay houses in-between the newly constructed bungalows. You taste the local cuisine, you hear the music and immerse yourself in the culture.
There is no better way to experience culture than at a wedding; an intersection of food, dance, music, language and fashion. This was a solo trip, the old ball and chain had her plateful so it was just me, the road and a Bini wedding to attend.
Ugieghudu is a village that is roughly an hour from Benin City. The roads leading to the village are uncharacteristically good and made for a smooth ride. However, there is no cellular connection unless you are on the Etisalat network or climb a hill nearby. Burnt logs of firewood can also be seen; remnants of the cooking that must have taken place last night.
The couple getting married are both part of the Bini tribe hence making the wedding an authentic dance that both families know well. An introduction ceremony was conducted a few months prior and a bride-price list was handed to the groom. Depending on the bride’s family, that list can send shivers down the spine of any groom. Bini people aren’t exactly known for their outlandish bride-price list. This list as far as I know consisted of items like food stock, wine, an envelope of money for the bride’s mother and father etc. The concept of bride-price has taken different turns and interpretation over the years and I’ll probably stay clear of that before they come for me. We all know who they are 😊
The marriage ceremony started at about noon with representatives of both families seated opposite each other. I managed to squeeze myself into a tiny standing space available. I was eager to catch every aspect of the ceremony with my cellphone in hand to the irritation of the poor photographer trying to get his job done. Both bride and groom were dressed in their traditional attire adorned with coral beads.
They stayed in their quarters waiting for the time they would be summoned to participate in the ceremony. The waiting is obviously turned into a photo shoot session which I guess helps to calm the nerves.
The eldest male member of each family presides over the affairs of the families. A spokesman is chosen by both families, who acts as the mouth piece of the respective families. The more colorful the spokesman is, the more fun the ceremony and the spokesman for the bride’s family was a riot. He had the room laughing and smiling which was no small feat judging by the grumpy looking faces of the older gentlemen before the ceremony began.
Bride’s spokesman acting out that he was attacked on his way to bring the bride and if he’s not given money the bride cannot arrive. Catch the smile and tip he was given at the end lol.
Kolanuts from the bride’s family was broken and eaten by the families with the kola passed from the eldest to the youngest in the room and men were served before women (I feel your pain ladies). After this was done the groom’s spokesman started the proceeding with stating why the family was there and asked for the hand of their daughter in marriage. This was done with an elaborate storytelling and unfortunately my Bini isn’t good enough to catch it all.
Once the pleading was done, kolanuts and drinks was presented to the bride’s family. In this case, it was two cartoons of malt drink and a cartoon of beer. The bride’s spokesman responded that they have listened to their reasons for coming and they sent for who we believed to be the bride to come into room. A lady with a veil covering her face entered the room and they proceeded to ask the groom and his family if the woman in the veil is who he came to marry.
It was obviously not the bride, she was about a foot shorter than her. The room was filled with laughter as the groom vociferously shouted ‘No!’ and the lady was sent back. Typically, this is repeated four to five times with a different woman till the bride is finally sent out. However, this was only done once in this ceremony.
The bride finally emerged and was asked if she was familiar with the groom. She acknowledged the groom and was sent back to the maiden’s quarters.
At this point, the bride-price was presented to the bride’s family as requested in the list given at the introduction. Most of the items were in a separate room for example the tubers of yam requested. It didn’t make sense to bring the goods into the room we were all carefully fitted in. The spokesman therefore went to the room to crosscheck the items with the list and once ascertained complete, the bride was summoned.
The stage for the final marriage ritual is set. The father of the bride takes his daughter and gently places her on the father-in-law’s lap and then back up while counting loudly to seven. On the seventh time, he places his daughter finally on her father-in-law’s lap signifying that she has left her family and is now part of the new family. It is quite symbolic that she is handed to the father-in-law who then hands her to the groom. She has left her family and joined a new one. I think this emphasizes the popular African concept of when you marry a man you marry his family.
At this point, they have been joined as man and wife. The crowd encouraged them to kiss and embrace, which they did to the delight of the room. I must say, I expected a little bit more conservative disposition to the kissing but the room was all for it.
Next, honey and sugar was given to the couple with the blessing that their marriage will be as sweet as the sugar and honey that they were given.
Pounded yam and egusi soup with bush meat was served and the new couple presented themselves to the larger party awaiting them outside the house. Music was played, more food eaten and lots of dancing, then the journey back to Benin city began at the set of dusk.
So, fellas if it’s time to put a ring on that Bini queen, you should have a great time and it’s just one day out of the rest of your lives together. Please comment if you have attended a Bini traditional wedding or on the similarities with other tribe’s traditional wedding ceremonies.
*Reviews are based on opinions and personal experiences, and may differ from person to person