Types of Marriage in Nigeria


One of the most celebrated and joyous occasion in the Nigerian culture is a wedding ceremony. It is a festive occasion featuring the display of an array of colour, wealth and glamour. It is an occasion where two people in love are officially joined together as husband and wife. For some people, their wedding could be regarded as the happiest day of their lives. This explains how loved and valued wedding ceremonies are.

The process of getting married in Nigeria is highly simplified. Couples have various options to choose from and decide on how the wedding ceremony will look like. They can decide to spend little or huge amount of money depending on their means. All they need to do is to seek their parents consent, ensure they are not related, pay every required fee and they are good to go.

Types of Marriage in Nigeria

In order to become husband and wife, a man and a woman must be united. A marriage needs to be legal, with the permission of both sets of parents and the persons involved, and with a prohibited level of family ties and affinity in order to qualify as statutory. Here are the four types of marriage in Nigeria:

1. Statutory or Civil Marriage

Also known as court or registry wedding, statutory wedding is a union of a couple according to the marriage acts or law governing marriage in Nigeria.

Most people prefer having this type of wedding because their marriage is recognized under the law, strictly monogamous, cheap and can only be dissolved at the high court. It is usually performed in a marriage registry and validated by a marriage registrar.

The Marriage Act’s formal definition of a marriage is the statutory or civil wedding (this document specifies all the requirements necessary for an official marriage celebration in Nigeria). This monogamous union is only conceivable between men and women. What does that imply? A statutory wedding is an unforced union of two individuals who have fallen in love and intend to remain so for the duration of the union’s legal existence.

Some significant information about marriage is outlined in the Marriage Act. First, there is a minimum age. Without the consent of their parents, only men and women who are 21 years old or older may get married. Underage citizens who choose to be married without their parents’ or guardians’ formal consent risk spending two years in prison.

The statutory marriage also specifies additional conditions and guidelines. By statute, a person who has already been married is prohibited from being married again unless they obtain a court-ordered divorce from their first spouse.

The Marriage Act occasionally takes extraordinary circumstances into consideration. All of these circumstances, however, can only be reviewed with and approved by the judge.

The legal wedding ceremony may be officiated by a minister from any recognized church. As long as the couple can present the marriage certificate or permission that authorizes their marriage, it may occur in lawful places of worship or in the Registry.

If you are seeking to travel outside or Nigeria or relocate on a permanent basis, you will require a statutory or civil wedding as it is the only legally recognized form of wedding.

2. Customary Wedding

Customary or traditional wedding is a type of wedding performed in accordance with native laws and customs of a particular tribe or ethnic group. It is the oldest type of wedding in Nigeria and has been in existence even before the advent of civilization. Customary or traditional marriage in Nigeria is also known as engagement.

It is often compulsory for every valid marriage to have a traditional marriage. In every Nigerian culture, it is impossible to get married to your spouse legally or statutorily without first observing the customary or traditional wedding. Some people do not even have any other wedding ceremony after an engagement wedding. This type of wedding ceremony usually involves the payment of bride price and other marriage requirements as demanded by the bride family. It also serves as a means by which the couple’s extended family can meet and know more about the family their children are getting married into.

Customary wedding usually take place in the bride’s family’s house although civilization has brought some changes and some customary weddings are held in event halls.

This form of wedding unites the family of the bride and groom as well as themselves. Even though her husband is not acknowledged as a member of her own family in the same way, the traditional woman becomes a legitimate member of her husband’s family. The two families still have a strong bond with one another.

The legal monogamy of a statutory marriage differs from the status of a customary wedding. The former does not acknowledge the polygamous marital system, but customary law does. In other words, a traditional husband is allowed to have multiple wives.

There is no restriction on the number of wives a husband may marry in marriages governed by Nigerian customary law. However, a lot of couples decide to wed under both statutory and customary rules, in order to restrict their relationship to a monogamous one.

For a traditional wedding ceremony to be valid, there must be mutual agreement between the couple and parental approval or consent.

In Nigeria, there are no age restrictions in the customary marriage law. This implies that a child might be married in accordance with the law. And up until 2003, this was a significant issue for the nation. The Child’s Right Act was formally passed that year. According to this significant document, only marriages between parties who are at least 18 years old are permitted in Nigeria.

3. Religious Marriage

The four types of marriage in Nigeria include religious marriage, which has several sub-forms depending on the religion. The marriage can be Christian, Islamic, etc. Each type has its own customs and regulations that are based only on religion and the law.

A. Islamic Wedding

Islamic wedding is a type of wedding in Nigeria performed according to Islamic customs and traditions contained in the Islamic law called sharia. It is also known as Nikah and expected to be performed by every Muslim. Traditionally, the Nikah takes place in a mosque and officiated by an Islamic religious leader called Imam. Although civilization has rubbed on it and some Muslims have their Nikah in an event hall. This religious type of marriage shares some characteristics with customary tradition. Islamic marriage permits polygamy, in which a husband may wed up to four wives. Such a right is not one that a wife has.

B. Christian Wedding

In contrast to an Islamic wedding, this ceremony is distinct. The Christian wedding is purely monogamous and adheres to some key principles like deep family ties, processions, and prayer, among others.

There are typically many attendees at the ceremony, including the couple’s parents, grandparents, and other family members and friends. The processional and a prayer that is recited aloud in front of everyone attending are the two main components of the custom. The priest performs the Christian wedding. The bride and groom exchange rings after making a commitment to stand by one another no matter what. The couple’s blessing and kissing are the concluding elements of the ceremony.

In Nigeria, Christian wedding ceremony is a glamorous occasion for anyone to attend. Starting from the bride’s sparkling white gown, colourful aso-ebi, wedding decorations to the abundant food, it is an occasion you never want to miss. It is usually officiated by the Pastor, Priest, Bishop or any other spiritual leader in the church.

4. Traditional Marriage

While there are certain differences between this type of marriage and the traditional wedding, there are also many similarities. For instance, the bride and groom must dress in their traditional garb. The couple’s wedding ceremony adheres to all the customs of their tribe, state, or ethnic group.

The introduction ceremony always involves the groom’s family visiting the bride’s home and receiving a long list of items known as bride price. This list may contain wedding attire, jewelry, shoes, catering, and beverages. The groom’s family is expected to bring all of these gifts to the engagement ceremony to show how much the bride means to her fiancé. Depending on the ethnic group or state, some bride prices are ridiculously expensive while some are unbelievably cheap. Here is a list of tribes with the most expensive bride prices in Nigeria and here is a list of tribes with the cheapest bride prices in Nigeria.

It’s intriguing that the women from the bride’s family have the ability to refuse all of these gifts. The engagement may be postponed if this occurs.

The traditional wedding ceremony frequently has a sizable attendance. The bride’s family chooses the location of the wedding, and the pair invites siblings, parents, and other loved ones.

The ritual may go on for a few hours or for seven days. Everything depends on the traditions upheld by the two families that wish to join their children in a joyful union founded on love. There is dancing, eating, and drinking included in the celebration. Additionally, the official church wedding typically occurs after the traditional wedding.

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