It is a long settled matter among theologians, historians, social scientists and other inquiring minds that the culture of every nationality is supposed to be older than Christian religion.

In our society, particularly in the Southern part ofNigeriawhere Christianity is seriously practiced, sometimes, there appears some doubts in some people’s minds as to how to place culture and religion.

Without doubt, most of the religious practices which we as Christian’s adore and practice are by and large Jewish religious practices. Even if we acquire it deeper, some of them are librarally related to Jewish culture and tradition. Even if we remember that Christianity came after Christ, the head of Christian religion, we can still identify some of our religious practices which have Jewish origin from the Old Testament longest before Christ was born.

To a Jewish national, he would identify several Jewish practices which modern Christianity has adopted and incorporated into its norms and ethos. When our religious authorities are confronted with this, many, not all would take a defensive stance that, “the Igbo are descendants of Jewish national.” Be that as it may, whether we like it or not, culture…. Our culture came first before Christianity. Because, before we embraced Christianity, our great great grand fathers and fore fathers were practicing their culture and tradition. There is no question about it. The existence of any nationality begins with its culture and tradition before any form of religion.

Thus, having rested that matter appropriately, it is now time to focus on the main topic of this analysis.

Several years ago, we were not giving traditional marriage the type of attention an almost an adoration it is been given today. Our marriage custom is well known Igbo wide. Although, there where some variations in terms of tangibility and procedures. But there are certain things that are common among Igbo nationality when it comes to marriage. One of such vital issue is the Igbo do not marry those with whom they have blood relations.

The Igbo nationality cherishes marriage, appreciate it and celebrate the coming of a new woman as a wife into another family. However, supprisily, in the last few years practically in the mid seventies, traditional marriage has taken a centre stage in our marriage tradition. In view of today’s economic and social circumstances, such processes could be compressed so as to make it easier for two families and for the two people involved.

No matter how such a process could be compressed, the final aspects must include haggling over marriage rites for the mother, father, and the kinsmen (Umunna). This, perhaps is the most expensive aspects of marriage process which in fact varies from communities to communities. The important and unavoidable aspect of this haggling stage would inevitably includes payment of dowry which in theory, in fact, does not involve much amount of money because dowry payment has long been abolished during the existence of Eastern region. This can be taken care of by contriving so much items and cash in other preliminaries. These include, first item which is “just to ask question.” Then, there begins chains of other processes-first wine carrying, second, third and ceremony for kinsmen Umunna and for the women. In some areas in Igbo          ethnic nationality, it is a well know fact that if a suitor is able to overcome the requirements for the women such a suitor must have got it made. Because, requirements in some community are too numerous and sincerely unattainable.  For example, If it is in Mbaise as generally known, The process may be more intractible but often ends in a very “ogorship” way with prolonged exchange of handshakes. Honestly, and erroneously too, marrying from Mbaise is just like the saying of Igwekala of Umunneoha, which says, “from afar, I may demand a man, a cow or even seven goats for sacrifice, but once you are in my environment, I may even demand just one cock or hen.” People sometimes exaggerate marriage processes and demands in Mbaise. Yes, it may be quite herculean and demanding but such processes and several items of demand are usually attainable. Beside, Mbaise people have a popular saying, “money can not stop any man from marrying an Mbaise daughter of his choice.” On the other hand, Mbaise people sometimes make “month” for about their daughters. For example, an Mbaise person was asked why is it simily difficult to marry an Mbaise girl? He simply uttered rather too sarcastically, “because our woman are hardworking, tough and hardly run away from husbands home no matter how difficult the marriage becomes.” he equally added equally  with air of confidence, “it is cheaper to marry in the rivers because their ladies more often than not don’t remain in marriage.”

Thus, whether one is married in Mbaise, Mbano, Obowo, Ikeduru, Mbaitoli, or elsewhere or any part of core Igbo community, today’s marriage demands have followed the economic and societal trends.

However that does not cause problem. What tend to cause some problem today is two dimensional. The first is if the two people concerned are of different religious faith. Ofcourse, there is a common saying that a lady does not have religious faith until she marries. Even at that, some conservative and fanatical parents particularly among the Roman Catholic may reluctantly acquires to a different faith marrying their daughter. But sometimes, they may put aCavitethat is, that the wedding should take place in there faith, then after wedding, both could revert to the faith of the husband. Modern men see this not only as dictatorial but also insult to their sensibilities. It is for this reason that such problem which used to be rampant in the past has greatly reduced.

The second problem today is more rampant is the issue of “traditional and church wedding.”

Today, it has become fashionable for suitors to embark on undertaking of both traditional and church wedding. This has been the pattern for quiet sometimes. But unfortunately, the trend is changing. In order to beat the economic consequence, both the traditional wedding and the church wedding are held at the same time.

Unfortunately, since traditional wedding must take place in the lady’s family house, sometimes, for convenience sake some people tend to turn our culture upside down. Sometimes, they reach a deal to hold the traditional marriage in the man’s father’s compound and the church wedding in the lady’s home church in other to appease a hard-line parent. This is absurd and untraditional, uncultural and is anti-Igbo culture and norm.

Traditional wedding must take place in the lady’s father’s compound and church wedding could take place where it is very convenient for all concerned, Parents, friends, colleagues etc.

However, it must be emphasized that it is absolutely wrong for the couple to subject themselves first to church wedding early, only to turn around to subject themselves to traditional wedding. Equally, this is condemnable. How could a couple who have taken a vow at the altar turn around to go and subject themselves to another masters of  ceremonies who often abuse the little privilege they have so as to market themselves?

Traditional wedding must take place before church wedding. Those who do otherwise because of economic imperative are abusing both their culture and their religion. The Church, the clergy and laity and other church authorities must make it condition for the couple to be wedded. that is if they plan for a traditional wedding, it must be done first otherwise, there should be no formal church wedding for them. It is time for us to different levels of authorities to exercise such authorities with clear knowledge and guidance. If these ugly sceneries continues, soon people will gradually begin to forget church wedding which is in fact the sanctity of marriage life for Christians. But for the traditionalists, and for those who cannot afford to have both, if they do traditional wedding, it is equally a traditional sanctity of the marriage, which is allowed under our tradition and cultural.

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Christian Voice