Yoruba engagement aso oke, etcetera – Tola Adenle

Nigerian States where Yoruba is spoken.

Nigerian States where Yoruba is spoken. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you’ve read this before and find that it is a bit different, it’s because I’ve tried to combine related material in one place.  For example, I’ve removed the picture of Lagos, Nigeria governor, Babatunde Fashola with the Alaari cap.  It now sits where it belongs

  TOLA, December 15, 2012.]


Over and over again, questions about Yoruba wedding, Yoruba engagement and the clothes: who pays for what, which aso oke is meant for Yoruba traditional marriage, etcetera pop up on this blog’s statistical data almost daily.  Sometimes, on a single day, more than half a dozen questions pop up.

I will attempt to answer a few here today.

While traditionalists abound and have stuck to the old ways of doing things to a great extent, younger people, demands of the times and those open to influences from other Nigerian cultures and even foreign ones have ensured Yoruba cultural practices do not remain stagnant.

Traditionally, the family of the groom goes with extended family members to the bride’s family with a container – no, not the shipping type! – of clothes and jewelry at betrothal.  These containers could be a trunk made of brass, a bowl-like container with fitted cover made of brass or wood or even calabash in bye-gone days.  There would be other gifts.  The groom’s family received no gifts in exchange nor would the bride and groom be dressed in same outfits as happen these days when there are exchanges of gifts.

Today, and for many years, things have become more pragmatic.  While the groom, aided by his family in most cases, goes to the bride with suitcases filled with various items including Yoruba cloths, lace sewn into Yoruba’s traditional iro & buba [wrapper & blouse], jewelry, including corals – depending on how well-heeled the groom’s family is – and other items, one item stands out in Yoruba homes that are Christian:  the Holy Bible.  This is the gift the bride usually chooses and is expected to choose when the time comes for the alaga ijoko to ask her to choose which of the many gifts she really wants! Please check out the following if you haven’t: http://emotanafricana.com/2012/08/22/fanciful-reality-and-colourful-fiction-the-yoruba-wedding-engagement-ceremonies-revisited-tola-adenle/

and much earlier, this:  http://emotanafricana.com/2012/05/14/yoruba-betrothal-and-accompanying-bizarre-bazaar-tola-adenle/

to understand the place of the alaga ijoko/alaga iduro in Yoruba traditional wedding ceremonies.

I have heard of many families jointly financing these items just as cost of reception:  the hall, the decoration, etcetera are generally shared these days.  Shared or not, however, the answer to these questions basically remains that the groom buys the aso oke which are worn by the couple at the ceremony.


American wedding

This picture is NOT out-of-place here simply because it was not taken at an engagement ceremony!

It belongs in several categories of the Yoruba aso oke of which classic & modern aso oke may seem the most apparent but it IS a Yoruba wedding – the girl and her parents.

The bride’s father may wear a Yoruba attire made from Western fabrics but the fila tops the outfit and, grandly to the right in this family picture, is the bride’s uncle resplendent in classic Yoruba Sanyan while the older ladies: bride’s mother, grand aunt, aunt (blogger) and a few covered members of the family wear modern silk aso oke.   New York 2002.


 Which aso oke is meant for Yoruba traditional marriage

The bride and/or the mother may decide this but generally, there are no set aso oke for the traditional wedding.  It is unusual, though, to have young people these days in the classics:  sanyan, etu& alaari.   They generally go for the modern playful weaves which intersperse stripes and solids or other combinations.

 A bride at Yoruba Traditional Engagement Ceremony_NEW 1998ENGAGEMENTasoOKEjk


Bride and Groom in Engagement Aso Oke

The groom is wearing the abbreviated version of complete Aso Oke, and he’s never worn fila in his life!  The Gbariye, as we’ve seen over and over in the Yoruba History and Culture, is a more informal outfit and while it can and is worn as an outfit, it is generally an Awotele – an undergarment.

This groom is not bothered nor held on by such and since It’s no  taboo to dress like this, he feels great and so should we all EXCEPT the cover- less head!

The couple does look smashing in their blue his-and-hers Aso Oke.

[Photo Credits:  Biodun Ogunmola, Ibadan, Nigeria, December 1998.]

Yoruba Traditional Engagement ceremony is a combination of traditional ceremony plus Western traditions, e.g. the ring.  Here, the bride shows off the ring which is often tied on top of  a Bible in Christian ceremonies.  When asked to choose one of the many gifts brought by the groom’s family, she goes for the Bible – all the time – and after the groom places on her ring finger, she goes around the crowd showing it off!

The aso oke for iro, gele & iborun match while the buba is woven in plain cream silk thread to complement the blue, the bride’s chosen color.


(Picture Credit:  Biodun Ogunmola, Ibadan, December 1998)

The Sunday after the church wedding, usually, though not all the time, there is held a “Thanksgiving” at the groom’s family church.  Here, the couple poses with groom’s dad and bride’s parents at the University of Ibadan Chapel of Resurrection. Bride and groom wore white for the Christian service and this coordinated modern aso oke for the service.  Bride’s mother wears aso oke Etu; the bride’s father wears fila Etu. [Photo Credit: Biodun Ogunmola, December 1998.]

 Aso oke for weddings

Generally, young Yoruba Christians would wear aso oke for the traditional wedding and Western outfits for the church wedding but there are no rules.  In my younger days, young women who wore the traditional outfits for church weddings were believed to be pregnant!  At least that’s the idea I picked up back then.  It may be more convenient since the iro [wrapper] would hide the bump but 270 days make a pregnancy cycle!

I cannot believe the popularity the aso oke series has become; ditto the Oje Market Days.  Oje [at Ibadan and Ede] market days are also very popular.  These two market places for aso oke are about 2 hours drive apart and are the best sources in terms of prices and varieties for these traditional fabrics.

On September 1 last year, the sanyan was the first of the four posted which ran from that day to September 29 when the Ondo Alaari was used. A little over six months ago, I had the following stats for the aso oke series:  Etu 336; Ondo alaari 213; Sanyan – 202; Alaari – 174.

Today, October 28, 2012, here are the stats:  Etu-552; Ondo Alaari – 455; Sanyan – 332;  Alaari – 302;

This was at another traditional Yoruba engagement ceremony showing bride and groom in matching aso oke: 


[Photo Credit: Rufus, for Serious Matters]

Bride and Groom in matching beautiful brown aso oke at a Traditional Yoruba Engagement

The aso oke fabrics are modern and the interplay of weaves on the bride’s gele [head wrap] and iborun [shawl], and the groom’ matching fila [cap] make these new designs particularly attractive to young people.

The bride wore white Western outfit for the Church ceremony in December 2003.  Please note that they are not wearing alaari but the parents wore it for the wedding.  That’s the reason for the title:  http://emotanafricana.com/2011/09/29/alaari-ondo-variation/

Ceremony. Ibadan, December 2003.



Dallas, Texas, November 2012.

Thoroughly-modern Yoruba aso oke for traditional Yoruba wedding worn by bride and groom.  The thread is silk and the circular embroidery on the groom’s agbada is gold color to complement the yellows.  The same circular embroidery is also on the bride’s iborun/ipele – shawl.  What an elaborate and eye-catching gele!  The iro is woven in the same broad stripe design.

THE THREE BRIDES – 1998, 2003 & 2012 – all wore Western-style white for the church wedding services.


2013 Weddings

I’ve avoided including white wedding dresses but this lovely couple’s engagement outfits have not been sent.  So, how ’bout these two for a start?

couple and mothers

Mothers of the bride and groom at candle-lighting part of the wedding ceremony.  Their Yoruba Modern Wears of lace iro/buba look wonderful with gele (head-wrap).  The bride’s mother uses her lace shawl to tie the iro for a tight hold while the groom’s mother has an asoke ipele.

Bride and Groom

What a beautiful couple!  Doesn’t the bride looks smashing in this one-shoulder number!

[PS.  Will update if and when Yoruba engagement outfits become available.]

Okay, the engagement pictures just came in and apart from the fact that six viewers already looked in on this page today – meaning they’ve seen the white wedding dress – it tugs at my heart to have to cut it out.  So, it stays!

Below is the engagement picture for which the bride and groom wears a delightful cream modern aso oke-type design which, despite their being not hand-woven but imported fabrics, are becoming popular with young people these days because they allow for colors and design combinations that are not practical for the hand-woven fabrics:


BUKOYEsBride’s parents holding the Proposal Letter at the Appleton, Wisconsin wedding.


The bride’s first cousin is to the right in the photograph and to her left are two old friends from school, both now medical doctors in the USA; talk about the BIG-NESS of America!

Now, this blogger could learn a thing or two about proper gele know-how – artistry  would be asking too much – from these three lovely young women!

The bride’s mother uses a two-piece modern silk aso oke as gele & iborun, and the bride’s father wears fila made from the same textile.  For other clothing items, the bride’s extended family and friends are all dressed in white lace.  As in these ceremonies, everybody looks wonderfully coordinated.

America is the land of BIGGIES:  homes, cars, ideas, yes, w-e-a-l-t-h … so who can fault this iwe ayo – joyful letter which – I’m not kidding – is the biggest I’ve ever seen in my life!

The Alaga Ijoko – spokesperson for bride’s family – shows a befitting BIG excitement; she’s the woman with the microphone and to understand her role and that of the spokesperson for the groom’s family, the link below is an ’04 essay which was aired here a year ago.  Notice the word ‘spokesperson’?

These two chairpersons are usually women although men seem to have discovered what a lucrative business this line is and are fast muscling their way in.  They are often accompanied by trainees although it seems a quick mind and cunning unlimited are all an alaga really needs …”


America and BIG ideas – albeit an imported hybrid?  While the Yoruba engagement ceremony is traditionally a mostly women’s affairs, good ol’ USA has men playing prominent role. While I think that’s a very good idea, what is being written here must bear closeness to reality!

The Yoruba-land version has the Alaga Ijoko receiving the “Proposal Letter” from the groom’s spokesperson known as Alaga Iduro.  The Alaga Ijoko then carries the intricately-designed custom letter to the bride’s father who then prays while holding the letter, and the bride’s mother places her hand on the document.  Thereafter, the women relations of the bride’s extended family, led by their Alaga Ijoko and the bride’s mother, dance to A ti gba leta ayo (3ice), Esu ko ni fa leta wa ya”!  It’s about saying “no”  in advance – to the devil in the new union.

Marriage in Yorubaland is similar to those in most of the African continent as the two families come together not just on the days of the ceremonies – often to the chagrin of young couples – but are always too close for comfort, especially the grooms’ families many of whom are always impediment to happily-ever-after.  Many couples often try to find their ways out of family medling while not alienating the in-laws.


A 2003 Proposal Letter, Courtesy: christiangraffiti.com


I’m going to make time, God willing, to visit Ondo [the town] which is a bit off course from my part of Ondo State so that I can have the dates for the market days at Ugele which was the market back in the late 60s/early 70s when I last went to Ondo market.  This is because the Ondo brands of aso oke are richer in color and the threads are much softer/lighter which produce iro and gele that are easier to tie.  To purchase them in Southwestern Nigeria, you’d need to visit the boutique-type sellers where the prices are stratospheric.

UPDATED:  June 2, 2013.


De ja vu?

Well, you have to go back up only a single wedding and staring you in the face would be near-perfect matching outfits with our beautiful new couple here!  The brides in both pictures, incidentally, may hail from Oṣogbo and Ẹdẹ, two near-twin towns but are separated by a big pond, the Atlantic.  While the USA wedding bride and groom made their homes in the USA long before they got married, our latest couple have both resided in the UK long before their wedding.

One thing common to both couples is a love of Yoruba culture and the aṣọ oke is a rich tradition although our Diaspora much younger cousins seem to lean towards the lighter non-hand woven variant aṣọ oke, which, as I remarked on the Appleton, Wisconsin wedding, may also have to do with the versatility of colors and designs that are impossible on the Yoruba hand looms.

Whatever designs, whatever the colors and wherever these outfits originated, this beautiful couple looks set to face the world, hand-in-hand together.  I wish them well.

Our latest bride and groom travelled home for their Yoruba engagement and wedding in July.

UPDATED:  September 24, 2013.

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7 Comments on “Yoruba engagement aso oke, etcetera – Tola Adenle”

  1. folu Says:

    please I want to ask if hand cut lace can be worn apart from using it for the engagement . thanks.



  2. Mrs Adah linda Says:

    Gud aftann ma!i ws just browsn,i saw beautful aso oke u ve made i like them.pls hw do i get mine? I need a quality combination,maturad colour of aso oke & lace.pls hw do we go about it i stay in abuja fct tanx



    • emotan77 Says:

      Dear Ms. Abah,

      Thanks for stopping by.

      I do not make aso oke but you can check the internet and google for sellers since you are outside Nigeria. I’m sure something should come up.




  3. emotan77 Says:

    The following two comments were extracted from one of the three old postings on engagement aso oke which have now being deleted. TOLA.

    October 31, 2012 at 6:02 am e
    From my tolaadenle@emotanafricana.com Mail Box”

    Mimiko’s re-election, Yoruba aso oke for traditional wedding


    How are U Ma? Thanks for ALL your postings. I particularly took note of your prediction of Mimiko’s re election and based my arguments in his favor using your data I also visited Akure before the elections and was impressed. Although I am still a strong ACN sympathizer, Mimiko deserves some respect.

    Ma, my daughter is preparing for her wedding in Feb 2013. She was so delighted with your posting on the Aso Oke as I forwarded it to her. The Fashola cap enlivened our discussions.



    emotan77 Says:
    October 31, 2012 at 6:23 am e

    Dear Mr. G.,

    Great hearing from you again, especially on what must be a favorite subject of yours – like mine: Yoruba aso oke. I’m happy this section of my blog is very popular with visitors to the blog as is evident not only from the essays on the subject but from the regularity of visitors who check out “Oje-Ibadan & Oje-Ede Market Days for 2012.

    I can’t wait to see the young lady’s choice of aso oke for the traditional wedding ceremony if you’ll send the pictures. Ditto yours and the bride’s mother!

    Thanks, too, for the confidence in my judgement re Mimiko’s re-election and even for taking the time to drive down to Akure. It’s humbling that a long-time reader of my newspaper essays from long before this blog wanted to be sure I still remain the same say-it-as-you-see-it as I’ve always been.

    Of course I remain Action Congress (A C N) – at least in Osun where I not only voted for Aregbesola but – pardon my being the one saying so – was one of those who gave Oyinlola grief for his mis-governance of the state for the years he was there; you remain a living witness. At Ondo State, however, I am Labor Party because none of the candidates, including Akeredolu as I wrote repeatedly here, could show why Mimiko should not be re-elected.

    In addition, Akeredolu was not well-known in the State and the Action Congress went about the whole matter wrong-headedly. Yorubas are the same and divisiveness will not help. As I’ve written repeatedly, an “integration of the Southwest” should not mean we cannot come from different camps, especially if the different camps are gunning for the development of the masses.

    At least from what you saw, I called it as it was and is and while there cannot but be personality issues, ways must be found that should not have included what I heard from AC’s leadership these past several months.

    By the way, my pedicurist, a young woman in her 30s, started warning those she heard predicting a rout of Mimiko by Akeredolu that he stood no chance “according to a grandma” she respects for her writing. The day after the elections, she called me to announce she was gloating for knowing someone who had told her Akeredolu was popular from newspapers and at Ibadan because of those who heard of him as the Bar Association president.

    My sincere regards, as always.



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