The wedding ceremony is the climax of a process that starts with courtship. The young man identifies a young woman that he loves. He and his friends seek her out through various means. The young man sends messages of interest to the young woman until such a time that they are close enough to avoid a go-between (alarina). Then once they both express mutual love, they let their parents know about their feelings for each other. The man’s parents arrange to pay a visit to the prospective bride’s parents. Once their consent is secured, the wedding day may be set. Prior to the wedding day, the payment of bride price is arranged. This secures the final consent of the bride’s parents, and the wedding day is fixed. Once the day has been fixed through either consultation of the Orishas by a babalawo (in the case of followers of the Yoruba religion) or the decision of a man of God (in the case of the Christians or Muslims), the bride and bridegroom are warned to avoid travelling out of town, including to the farm. This is to prevent any mishap.
The wedding day is a day of celebration, eating, drinking and dancing for parents, relations, the new husband and wife and their friends and, often, even foes. Marriage is not considered to be only a union of the husband and wife, it is also seen among the Yoruba as the union of the families on both sides. But before the bride goes to her husbands house, she is escorted by different people i.e. family and friends to the door step of her new home in a ritual called Ekun Iyawo meaning ‘The cry of the new bride’, this is to show that she is sad leaving her parents’ home and signify her presence in the new home. There she is prayed for and her legs are washed. It is believed that she is washing every bad-luck that she might have brought into her husband’s house away. Before she is finally ushered into her house, if she is an adherent of the Yoruba faith, she is given a calabash (igba) and is then asked to break it. When it breaks, the amount of pieces it is broken into is believed to be the number of children she will give birth to. On the wedding night she and her husband have their first meeting and he is ordinarily expected to find her to be a virgin. If he doesn’t, she and her parents are disgraced and may be banished from the village where they live.
While this is the only marital ceremony that is practiced by the more traditional members of the tribe, Christian and Muslim members generally blend it with a church wedding and registry wedding (in the case of Christians) or a nikkah and registry wedding (in the case of Muslims). In their communities, the Yoruba ceremony described above is commonly seen as more of an engagement party than a proper wedding rite.