Current Hightlights

Sign up for our newsletter

Our Supporters

Supporter Logo: Girls Power Initiative, Nigeria
Supporter Logo: Mary Kay

Nigerian Women World Logo: United we stand, divided we fall


Bookmark/Share this article!
Delicious icon Digg Icon Reddit Icon Stumble Upon Icon my Yahoo! Icon

Traditional Marriage in Nigeria

By Edidiong Akpan-Iquot

Posted: November 25, 2008


Nigeria has the largest population of any African country. According to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Nigeria's population is 138,283,240. Like any other country that is over-populated they have to deal with health, education, political, and economic problems.


The Nigerian flag is the country's main national symbol. The green stands for agriculture and the white stands for unity and peace. Nigeria's national motto is Peace and Unity, Strength, and Progress. The coat of arms comprises the following:

  • The black shield represents the good earth of Nigeria
  • The silver wavy bands represent the good earth of Nigeria
  • The white horses (the 2 supporters) represent dignity
  • The eagle represents strength
  • The wreath is in the colors of the Nigerian flag

The ground on which the bearings stand is Coctus Spectablis, which is a common wild flower found throughout Nigeria


Nigeria has been identified as the world's happiest country - Nigerians value family life, sharing unity and culture. Unlike other nations who place a higher value on profession, career, and financial security, Nigerians live a simpler lifestyle. They can remain optimistic at just about anything, while other countries' people need to beef up their savings and own security blankets, in order to have peace of mind. This allow them to focus on human relationships, which leads to them being more content with what they have. And because of this, this article will focus on Marriage in Nigeria in order to better help the reader understand Nigerian culture and what makes them happy.


There are 3 types of marriage that are practiced in Nigeria - Traditional, Religious (Church, etc) and Civil (Court) marriage.

A Nigerian couple can decide to take part in one or all of them, and the number usually boils down to culture and wealth. Having said that, the traditional marriage is very important to Nigerians. Civil marriages take place at a government registry office. A religious marriage is one performed according to the customs and traditions of that particular religion. Such marriage take place either in a Church or Mosque. Christian males aer only allowed 1 wife while Muslim men are allowed up to 4 wives. Civil marriages only allow 1 wife as well, regardless of religion.

In Nigerian society, there are proponents and opponents of polygamy. Opponents say that it is a disruptive force to the family, putting wives against each other while proponents argue that it can be a unifying factor by allowing wives work together. All this notwithstanding, you can see that Nigerians value marriage a lot.

Subscribe to our Discussion Forum


Western dating and courtship is not common in Nigeria. WHen it comes to dating and courtship, they follow their traditions and customs. There is a strong family involvement and arranged marriages are common though these are on the decline. It is also common for parents to marry their young daughters to older men.

The next stage of traditional marriage is the introduction to the bride's parents. This is where the male/groom tries to impress the bride's family. When the bride's parents accept to give out their daugther in marriage, there is a lot of jubilation.

In traditional marriage, the customs, traditions and events vary by location. Having said that, there are common themes regardless of location like dancing, music and food.

View the Traditional Marriage in Nigeria (About the costume/marriage ceremony) research paper (PDF - 46KB. Opens in a new window.)



Within marriage, women in Nigeria have an obligation to have children. Society blames the woman for marriage without children. Having many children in Nigeria is fashionable and a status symbol. Most families consist of 5 or more children. Female children are socialized to serve and be subordinate to males. Men are the most powerful members of Nigerian culture.


In polygamous marriages, women are more dependent on the other wives of their husbands more than the husband himself. The younger co-wives take on many of the household and financial responsibilities. Some households are headed by women due to polygamous marriages. The first wife is the one whom the husband lives with. The extra wives, which are called "outside wives", live in other homes. The men are mobile husbands, they move among their various wives and support them financially.

These women expect very little from men in terms of companionship, personal care, and fidelity. Polygamous marriages can be described as relationships without the emotional elements. But, polygamous marriages are becoming less popular due to the high financial responsibilities tha come with it.


The women in Nigeria take care of the children and all household duties, including cooking and cleaning. Many of the women do work and the children are usually taken care of by house maids. Farming and trading are very popular occupations for the women.

The men in Nigeria are the primary provider for the family.


Divorce in Nigeria is very uncommon. Divorced women are usually looked down upon and are condemned by society. Nigerian culture believes that the most important thing in life is family and thus, divorce should no be an option.

View the Traditional Marriage in Nigeria Power Point Presentation (3.5MB. Opens in a new window.)

Bookmark/Share this article!
Delicious icon Digg Icon Reddit Icon Stumble Upon Icon my Yahoo! Icon

© 2008 - 2010. All Rights Reserved. Site developed by Ace Web Solutions

Subscribe to our Discussion Forum

Back To Top