Gudu gudu méje, yàyà mefà- that is what any man who celebrates a marriage ceremony is said to accomplish. Now, while I do not know the English translation for gudu gudu méje, yàyà mefà, I do know of a crazy joke that tries to tell of how it originated. I don’t remember clearly all the details of the joke, but I remember that it had to do with Yoruba people asking a white man what he thought about something. The white man said, “Good” seven times and, when the people tried to confirm what he said, they asked him, “Gudu?” and he replied “Yeah” six times, and the people went about saying, “Oyinbo se gudu gudu méje, yàyà mefà” – seven goods and six yeahs. It is crazy, I know, but it made me and many other kids laugh when we were little. A suitable translation for the phrase would be “a great feat.”
Marriage anywhere in Nigeria is expensive; any Nigerian can attest to that. Some people choose to make their weddings as cheap and low-key as possible, but that is the exception, not the rule. Some people even have low-key weddings because they have been warned not to have an elaborate wedding as that will attract evil eyes; but that is another discussion entirely. The typical Nigerian wedding oozes of money and effort, regardless of the social status of the families involved, as everyone wants to have a wonderful wedding ceremony that will not leave the mouths of people for a long time. I do not mean that weddings of the middle class match those of the upper class in terms of splendour and class (pun intended) 😉 I mean that regardless of the social class, Nigerians put effort into their weddings, and this is always apparent in the way they go about during the party, greeting everybody present, and smiling with their entire mouths.
Before I commit the blunder of generalisation, i’ll narrow this down to my sphere of knowledge. Let’s talk about Yoruba weddings. Did I hear a yoohoo! 🙂 I have not been to many church weddings, and I have been to even fewer traditional weddings. In fact, I attended my first traditional wedding or engagement in January 2015; but I digress.
The typical Yoruba family wants to have a lovely wedding ceremony, at least by their standards. The bride’s and groom’s parents will want to wear matching clothes that no one else will wear, so that they can be identified as the ‘Bàbá and Ìyá ìyàwó’ and ‘Bàbá and Ìyá oko” respectively. The two families will want their family members and well-wishers to wear clothes of another fabric, and this is popularly called ‘Andco’ or ‘Aso ebí’. The bride’s and groom’s friends will also have their own unique fabric, so they can be identified as ‘Òré ìyàwó’ and ‘òré oko’. And of course, the oko and ìyàwó themselves will wear matching native attires of ‘big’ lace and ‘Aso òkè’ or Aso òfì. This is still the traditional wedding, not even the church wedding or the reception.
Of the few traditional weddings/ engagements that I have attended, only two have caught my fancy. The rest were just annoying, and I could not stop thinking of how soon we would be served our jollof rice. The reason behind my annoyance is that engagement ceremonies tend to be just a whole lot of extortion from the groom, his friends, his family, and the well wishers! A typical Yoruba traditional wedding is conducted by a woman, who is called the ‘Alága ìdúró’, and whose job it is to call in the two families turn by turn (if you’ve watched the movie The Wedding Party, you know how much fun this can be *winks*), introduce them to the guests, call in the groom and his friends, ask them to prostrate on mats before the bride’s family, and ask them to drop some money to prove their worth. Before this, the groom and his friends would have been met by the wives of the bride’s family, who are referred to as the ‘Obìnrin ilé’, at the gate to the house, and made to pay them some money. Heaven help any groom and his family that comes late to his engagement. He will be made to pay so much money that he will almost cry. The bride is also called to dance in with her friends. She is encouraged to dance well, and long, as it is her day of joy and honour, her ‘ojó èye’. The bride is never made to pay any money, láíláí.
While engagements can be fun to attend, the time spent collecting money can be really annoying. After collecting money from the groom and his friends, some alága ìdúrós go on to ask the groom’s parents to pay some money before the bride can dance in. When she dances in, they make everyone spray a young girl (usually from the bride’s family) who will read the letter of request for the hand of the bride in marriage; which has been brought by the groom’s family; then afterwards, the groom is made to pay to lift the brides veil; after they have been joined as man and wife, the alága ìdúró still goes on to make the guests pay some money and offer prayers for the couple. Argh! By the time the ceremony is over, some grooms and their friends will wear a frown, angry with the alága ìdúró over all the extortion.
I attended a cousin’s wedding at the end of 2016, and at a point, I got so tired of watching all the extortion. I asked my mum if it is even a part of Yoruba culture to extort a groom heavily on his wedding day. Surprisingly, she said no. The two engagements I mentioned earlier impressed me because no money-at all- was collected from the groom, his friends, or his family, and yet the event was fabulous. And don’t think they were not well to do; they’re in fact one of the very affluent families in Ibadan.
I have come to realise that some people actually enjoy the typical engagement ceremony that is full of extortion. Some grooms even look forward to it, so that they can defend their manliness and prove to the world that they have what it is a man needs to have a wife- money. A lot of alága ìdúrós pray for it because they will have additional cash apart from their agreed pay from the families, potential ‘letter readers’ pray for it, so that they can be sprayed a lot of money- I know of a girl who cried profusely when she was told that her younger sister would read the letter- but as for me, I have no fancy for it. I don’t think it is any way a measure of gudu gudu méje yàyà mefà. What do you think?
P.S: If you know the full version of the gudu gudu méje yàyà mefà joke, please share it in the comments, will you?
Thank you for reading!
Oh, and have a lovely February!
Image credit: Google Images
The wedding Party