Traditional Marriage

Briefly, Widikum tradition requires that the following procedure relating to marriage should be respected:

1.Requests for acceptance (knock door)

When a young man falls in love with a girl, he intends to get married; he pays friendly visits to the girl’s parents. The objective is to introduce himself as a candidate to marry their daughter if he is accepted. Only a jug of palm wine is required at this stage. Note that the knock door is a private occasion/event.

A big crowd is not necessary. Before the girl’s family takes a decision on the request presented by the candidate for marriage, they carry out the following findings or investigations:

  1. a)Blood relationship between the suitor’s family and theirs.
  2. b)The morality of the suitor and his family
  3. c)The capacity of the suitor to care for their daughter
  4. d)The capacity of the suitor to assist them (farm clearing, harvesting of palm nuts, providing fire wood etc)
  5. e)Cases of witchcraft, terminal diseases etc

If the findings show that there is no impediment, then the candidate for marriage is informed to come prepared for the traditional marriage.

2.Traditional marriage.

We shall examine briefly what should be done before the day of the marriage, during the marriage and after the marriage.

a)Before the day of the marriage

Each family holds a meeting to prepare for the marriage proper. The following items are important:

The suitor’s family

  • Jugs of palm wine (minimum: 2).
  • Crates of bear (minimum: 2)
  • Fowls (minimum: 3)
  • A piece of expensive wrapper material
  • Dry meat
  • A “marriage” pig.
  • Cooked food.

The girl’s family

  • Cooked food.
  • Drinks (palm wine etc)
  • Marriage presents
  • Camwood.

Family members and friends on both sides are informed about the event and day. Traditional marriage usually takes place in the evening. Note that in Widikum tradition, marriage is not only the union between a boy and a girl but also a union of the two families.

b)Marriage day proper.

The following activities take place in the evening of marriage:

  • The assembly of the girl’s family to wait for their son-in-law and his delegation.
  • As soon as they arrive, they are welcomed with a jug of palm wine and some kola nuts. This is followed by the introduction of members of each delegation.
  • Each delegation is provided with accommodation to enable members to concert before the beginning of marriage discussions. Each delegation designates a messenger or spokes person who mediates between the two families.

Marriage Discussions

Marriage discussions take place between the two families. Friends and well-wishers are not involved at this stage. They are provided entertainment in different premises. The two spokespersons work together carrying questions and answers from one family to the other. The key questions are:

1. What is the objective of your visit here this evening?
Answer:  We have seen nice plantain suckers here. We have come to request for one of them, so that tomorrow we too can have plantains to eat.
2.  Which of our plantain suckers do you want?
Answer:  Describe the girl you want.
3.  Have you come fully prepared or you intend to fix another day?
Answer:  We have come prepared so that if our request is granted, we shall return home with our sucker
4.  Your response pleases us. We shall make things easy for you. Count these sticks. Each stick represents one bag (a bag =100 000 FCFA) your mother in-law will take – sticks, your father in-law – sticks, your wife’s uncles – sticks, and the other family member- sticks
5.  We have understood your message but as you know this union is not a one-day affair. It will last forever. So this is what we can afford now (give the number of sticks and the money to the spokesman). All of you count the amount before they return to your father-in-law.
6.  If the dowry is not accepted, the messengers or spokesmen may have to mediate over and over again, until the two parties agree. This may go on late into the night.
Note that to facilitate discussions on dowry, it is advisable for the suitor to discuss details with his father-in-law.

Presentation of suitor and fiancée to both families

Both families now sit in the same room (usually a big family parlour). Friends and well wishers are also invited to be present.
All the family daughters dressed in the same uniform are ushered in. they sit facing the suitor’s delegation. The head of the girls’ family takes the floor and asks the following questions:
Questions to the suitor’s family
Look at all these young suckers. Identify the sucker that you have chosen.
The head of the suitor’s family carefully and solemnly examines all the girls and identifies the one they have chosen for marriage. The house greets the choice with special marriage songs. The other girls return to their room while the one for marriage remains seated in front of her family head.
Questions to the girl
Look at all those important visitors who have traveled a long way to come and request for you to marry their son. Now, what is the name of the young man you are in love with? Where is he? Let him stand by your side.

The suitor’s family now presents their marriage palm wine. The girl is requested to open the jug of palm wine. She gives the cover to her father accompanied with 20 000 FCFA. Then the suitor covers his father-in-law’s chair with expensive wrapper material.
The two candidates for marriage keep standing while the girl’s father sits and orders the palm wine to be poured into the traditional pot.

Then he is served the first cup. He moves to the family shrine (aperi) accompanied by other key family members. Traditional rites are performed. He is again served for the second time. He drinks and gives some to his daughter to drink and give some to her suitor.

This solemn sharing is greeted with songs of joy. The traditional marriage has been celebrated. The bride + bridegroom now put on their special traditional marriage dresses. They now sit together with the husband’s family.

This leads to feasting, presentation of gifts, singing and dancing until the next day.

Activities After the marriage proper. Early, in the morning, the following activities take place:
1.The marriage pig is slaughtered and shared among family members.
2.The newly married girl is blessed at the family shrine (aperi). She is rubbed with camwood. The peace plant is given to her as a sign of love, good luck and fertility.
3.She leaves the family shrine without looking behind.
4.Two or more elderly family sisters accompany her to her new home. During their stay with the newly wedded, they give her useful advice on how to take good care of her husband and family. At the end of their stay, their son-in-law shows appreciation for their generosity.

Some other aspects of Widikum culture not presented in this brochure include: succession, the enthronement of a Fon, story telling, traditional titles, artistic works etc. Widikum Awareness Forum (Cultural Revival Committee) is still carrying out investigations and consultations.

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