Bride price is not a unique Nigerian tradition, but it has been honoured in Nigeria for centuries. For millions of Nigerian families, marriage is not considered real until a bride price is paid. Bride price is also a very controversial topic that has many vocal critics, but it is still followed by lots of Nigerian newlyweds and their families. Here is everything you need to know about it.
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1. What is bride price?
Bride price is a Nigerian wedding custom. Bride price is often confused with a dowry, but they are essentially the opposites of a single notion. A dowry is a property the bride invests in marriage, and a bride price is a collection of goods a husband-to-be brings to the bride’s family. This usually happens after the marriage proposal and for many families, the bride price is an essential step of the marriage process. Refusal of the groom to pay the bride price may result in a cancellation of the wedding or the bride’s family refusing to take any part in the ceremony and accepting the marriage at all.
The concept of bride price has existed in Nigeria for as long as the institution of marriage itself. Over the years, society’s attitude towards the bride price has changed repeatedly. Bride price has even made its way into the official legislation in Nigeria. However, since the 2000s, there has been a shift in society. Now more and more activists are advocating against the bride price as a degrading practice for women. Still, the bride price is alive and well in every Nigerian region and it’s usually up to the bride, the groom, and their respective families to settle this issue.
2. Bride price list
You probably won’t be surprised to find out that the bride price list can differ from region to region and even from family to family. Once the groom indicates his decision to marry a girl and she accepts the proposal, the bride’s family issues a bride price list that they expect to receive in order to grant permission to the marriage.
In some cases, the groom receives a bride price list divided into four categories: gifts for the grown daughters in the extended family, gifts for the male heads of the family, general gifts for the family, and symbolic cash gifts. The list of gifts in each category may differ, but these are the most common categories and goods included in a modern bride price list in Nigeria:
- Clothing, which is usually given to daughters or as general gifts and can include blouses, wrappers, shoes, accessories, jewelry, wristwatches, and other items women typically wear.
- Toiletries, which can be given under any category of gifts and usually include soap, shampoo, perfume, makeup, skin care products, body lotions, and even washing detergents.
- Food and drinks, which are a major part of gifts to the male members of the family and general gifts. This category can include dozens of types of products, from palm oil, rice, salt, dried fish, and kola nuts to Guinness beer, cigarettes, and soft drinks.
- Cash gifts, which you may need to give to any category of the gift recipients if they indicate their expectations in the price list.
3. Average bride price cost
It’s nearly impossible to calculate the average bride price cost in Nigeria for just one reason: the bride price lists can be so diverse that one family will gladly accept a bride price worth ₦1000 while other families can expect the groom to go all the way. In general, the bride price cost is recommended to be under ₦100,000 and can be as low as ₦20,000-30,000. The idea is to make the groom demonstrate his serious intentions of marrying the bride, not deprive him of his life savings.
Read more: How To Postpone Or Cancel Your Wedding
Featured! Katrina & Samson’s weddings (yes, that’s two!) are published on @thecut @nymag and I mean, I knew I was witnessing something special while I was photographing their traditional Nigerian/Ethiopian engagement ceremony in September, but to hear more about their love and their story through reading this feature, ugh–it’s all just so special and beautiful! They celebrated their cultures colorfully, authentically, and with their own unique touches. And after their traditional celebration, they took all of their favorite people down to Mexico in February to make it official. See and read it all at the link in my bio!
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