In parts of Nigeria, it is not at all uncommon to have two weddings – a traditional one and a white wedding (or church wedding). The white wedding is usually modeled after the British with the bride wearing a white gown and the ceremony being held in church. In contrast, the traditional wedding is rooted in Nigerian culture involving particular customs and elements. All of the details on the traditional wedding, which varies from region to region, could fill a book. Thus, instead, I’ll introduce you to some of the most beautiful hairstyles worn in a traditional Nigerian wedding and their significance.
Coral beaded hairstyles
Coral beads are worn by Edo and most Igbo brides as hair jewelry, headpieces, necklaces, bracelets, and/or body jewelry, depending on the custom. (A few other ethnic groups wear them as well.) Women in the bridal party may also wear the beads, but it is the bride who is most adorned with them to stand out from crowd as royalty. The coral beads represent beauty, status, wealth, and power. In some regions, the more coral beads the bride wears, the better.
Probably one of the most eye-catching parts of a traditional ceremony is the incorporation of coral beads as a headpiece or hair accessory. Depending on the bride and her customs, the hairstyle can range from very simple with a few coral beads for adornment to very intricate (especially for Edo brides). Here are some more beautiful examples:
This quote perfectly captures the significance of the coral beads:
“… Many scholars and lay people alike, suggest that these red coral beads which by themselves are regal are often gifts for the bride from her family and used to inform the bridegroom and his family of her worth or value to her own family. The woman wears the bead to showcase the wealth of her own family in a manner that informs the bridegroom and his people of her own significance prior to joining his family. It also showcases the joy the bride and her family feel for that day.” — Isioma’s Style Report
The traditional Efik bride wears her hair braided and long for her wedding. Her hair is then adorned with several extravagant gold hair combs. The combination accentuates her beauty and embodies royalty.
“Hair is very important in the Efik tribe. … In the days of old the Efik women regarded their hair as a symbol of their femininity; therefore, they cherished their curly locks and were forbidden to cut them. Efik women inherently had very long hair (before perm & relaxers was introduced). The only time that their hair was allowed to be cut was in the event that punishment was being met out. The severed locks were then braided to the ends of a bride’s hair thereby giving it the long length. Golden combs are used as a final decorative touch. Nowadays, they just use weave to capture the same look” — An Efik woman (Nairaland)
Plaited hair with shawl
Last, but not least, is the plaited hair of the Kanuri bride. According to Nigerian Wedding, the woman’s hair must be loose before the wedding in order for the “groom’s aunties and grand aunties to wash it”. Afterwards, the bride “performs her ablution” followed by the women blessing her. She then “gives permission to plait her hair which is necessary for a Kanuri bride.”
Do you know of any other hairstyles in a Nigerian traditional wedding? Please share below!