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How To Pay Dowry In Yoruba Land

Dowry, Eru Iyawo

In Yoruba culture, weddings are a vibrant celebration of love, family, and tradition. One of the most distinctive aspects of a Yoruba wedding is the presentation of the Eru Iyawo, also known as the bride price or dowry. This isn’t a simple financial transaction; it’s a symbolic gesture that signifies the groom’s respect for the bride’s family and his commitment to building a future together.

This guide delves into the intricacies of the Eru Iyawo, navigating you through the process from understanding its significance to preparing for the presentation ceremony.

The Meaning Behind the Eru Iyawo

Imagine a handshake – a physical confirmation of an agreement. The Eru Iyawo serves a similar purpose. It’s a formal acknowledgment of the bride’s value and upbringing. By presenting the Eru Iyawo, the groom expresses his gratitude to the bride’s family for raising her and his willingness to take on the responsibility of her well-being. It’s a sign of respect and a pledge to honor the bond between the two families.

There’s a misconception that the Eru Iyawo is a price tag on the bride. In reality, the monetary value is usually symbolic. The true significance lies in the act of presentation itself and the items included in the Eru Iyawo.

The Eru Iyawo List: A Breakdown of Expected Items

Dowry Eru Iyawo
Dowry Eru Iyawo

The Eru Iyawo list, traditionally prepared by the bride’s family, outlines the specific items the groom’s family is expected to present. This list can vary depending on family traditions, social status, and location within Yorubaland. However, some common elements are almost always included:

Kolanuts (Obi):These bitter nuts symbolize opening communication channels and blessings for the union.

Alligator Pepper (Ataare): Representing protection and warding off evil, alligator pepper signifies the groom’s commitment to safeguarding his bride.

Honey (Oyin): A symbol of sweetness and a prosperous future for the couple.

Drinks (Drinks vary): Often including local favorites like palm wine or schnapps, drinks signify celebration and merriment.

Cloth (Aso Ebi): Traditionally, specific fabrics are chosen for the bride’s family members to wear during the ceremony, fostering a sense of unity.

Additional elements might include:

Jewelry: A token of appreciation for the bride’s upbringing.

Yams (Isu): A symbol of abundance and prosperity for the new couple.

Holy book (Bible/Quran): Depending on the religious background, a holy book signifies blessings upon the union.

Note: The specific items and quantities are subject to negotiation between the families. Open communication and mutual respect are key throughout this process.

Location and Family Traditions

As vast as Yorubaland itself, variations exist in Eru Iyawo practices. Here’s a glimpse into some regional differences:

Southwest Yoruba: In regions like Oyo and Ogun, the Eru Iyawo might include symbolic sums of money, traditionally returned to the groom’s family after the ceremony.

Eastern Yoruba: Areas like Ekiti and Osun might present a more elaborate Eru Iyawo with a larger focus on various types of cloth (Aso Ebi).

Diaspora Traditions: Yoruba families abroad might adapt the Eru Iyawo to their local context, incorporating symbolic elements from their new environment.

It’s always best to consult with elders within the families to understand their specific traditions and expectations.

The Presentation Ceremony

The presentation of the Eru Iyawo is a festive occasion steeped in tradition. Here’s a breakdown of what to expect:

The Introduction: The groom’s family arrives at the bride’s family home, bearing gifts and dressed in their finest attire. Elders from both families exchange pleasantries and blessings.

The Eru: The Eru Iyawo is presented on a tray or beautifully wrapped packages. A family spokesperson explains the significance of each item, expressing the groom’s respect and gratitude.

Negotiations (Optional): In some families, a friendly negotiation regarding the Eru Iyawo might take place. This is a symbolic dance, not a rigid exchange, and ultimately reinforces the bond between the families.

Acceptance and Celebration: Once the Eru Iyawo is accepted, both families erupt in cheers and celebratory music. This signifies the official blessing of the union.

Moving Forward: The presentation of the Eru Iyawo paves the way for further discussions about the wedding ceremony and solidifies the bond between the two families.

Who Pays for the Eru Iyawo?

Traditionally, the groom’s family bears the responsibility of financing the Eru Iyawo. However, with the changing dynamics of family structures, some couples choose to contribute financially or source certain items themselves. Open communication and mutual understanding are key in determining who pays for the Eru Iyawo.

The Significance of Elders’ Blessings

The involvement of elders, particularly from the bride’s family, holds immense importance in the Eru Iyawo ceremony. Their presence signifies the passing of tradition, blessings upon the couple, and ensures adherence to customary practices.

Eru Iyawo vs. Western Dowry: Key Distinctions

The Eru Iyawo differs significantly from the concept of a dowry in Western cultures. Here’s a quick comparison:

Purpose: In the West, a dowry might be seen as a financial contribution towards the bride’s family. The Eru Iyawo, however, is a symbolic gesture of respect and gratitude.

Monetary Value: Western dowries can be substantial sums. The Eru Iyawo’s monetary value is usually symbolic.

Focus: While dowries might focus on financial security, the Eru Iyawo emphasizes cultural significance, blessings, and the union of families.


The Eru Iyawo is a cornerstone of Yoruba traditional weddings, symbolizing respect, gratitude, and the beginning of a new chapter for two families. Understanding its intricacies and cultural significance paves the way for a smooth and harmonious experience for both families and the soon-to-be married couple. As Yoruba traditions evolve, the Eru Iyawo adapts, retaining its essence while embracing modern sensibilities.

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