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Yoruba Families

Steps That Lead To Marriage

Six important steps lead to the traditional Yoruba marriage:

  • The time for seeking a potential spouse (Igba ifojusode);
  • The approval of the oracle-divinity (Ifa f'ore);
  • The release of the voice of the young woman (Isihun);
  • The request for the young woman's hand in marriage (Itoro);
  • The creation of the affinal bond (Idana); and
  • The transfer of the wife to the husband's lineage (Igbeyawo).

When the young adult male is between twenty three and twenty-eight years of age and the female is between eighteen and twenty-five, they are both expected to be identifying potential spouses. At this time, the male is expected to have acquired skills that will allow him to provide for his family. The Yoruba socialization ensures that the daughter learns, from the age of seven, to serve as a little mother and child-caregiver to her younger siblings. By the time she is preparing for marriage, the Yoruba female would have learned some of the preliminary skills she will need to be a wife and mother from watching her mother and other women in her family.

Because Yoruba society in male-oriented, it is structured in favor of men taking initiative in the steps that lead to marriage. Thus, it is the man who formalizes his desire to proceed to the next level of courtship by visiting the house of the spouse-to-be. It is the man who pays his prospective to Isihun—payment to release the voice of the female so that the couple can talk with one another (eesee Ishihun). It is the suitor's male relations who take the initiative to institutionalize the marriage by first going to ask for the hand of the spouse. The suitor's male relations plan for the ceremony that creates affinal bond between the two families. Finally, the spouse is transferred from one group of patrilineal kin to another.

Additional topics

Marriage and Family EncyclopediaMarriage: Cultural AspectsYoruba Families - Yoruba Culture And The Meaning Of Marriage, Steps That Lead To Marriage, Oja Ale, Co-wife And Sibling Rivalry