Marriage in the Luo Community

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 A few weeks ago I attended one of the many Luo traditional marriage ceremonies for my cousin who is soon to be married. The event was called ‘Ayie’ which translates to “I agree”. In this particular ceremony, the family of the man approaches the family of the girl and get’s the mother of the girl to agree to release her daughter to the family of the man.

Traditionally this is the ceremony that seals the marriage and allows the man and woman to live together. In modern times it is just part of a several visits that culminate to a church wedding. In the traditional setting, the Ayie ceremony was supposed to be the first time that the man meets the family of the woman.

In the modern case it wasn’t quite the case. My cousin’s finance had already met my uncle and aunt and declared his wish to marry my cousin previously. He was therefore no stranger to the family.

During my cousin’s Ayie, my uncle made it a point to introduce the main friends and family to my cousin. This included her mother’s nuclear family, her father’s nuclear family, her neighbours and several friends who have been part of the family for a long time.

It seemed like the event was tailored towards letting the husband-to-be understand that the girls came from somewhere and had a network of people who watched her grow, cared about her and would come to her rescue in the event that something went wrong.

In Luo tradition, any attempt for the man to meet the woman’s parents before Ayie would be frowned upon and even fined as they were considered unofficial and untoward.

During the Ayie ceremony, the brined is supposed to cook for the groom and exhibit to the groom’s family, the type of food that would be cooked in the new home. The idea is that the mother of the groom would be able to have some kind of confidence about her son having a healthy eating diet.

During the Ayie, the Luo’s go all out and serve all kinds of dishes including local delicacies and relatively modern dishes. Basically, the man’s family should leave satisfied that the wife-to-be can make good food for her husband.

I am yet to learn about the other traditions among the Luo about marriage but I am eagerly waiting. I know that there is a second visit, where bride price will be paid. I also know that no one ever pays the bride price up front, there is always a left over a mount that is paid over the course of a marriage.

I also know that Luos tend to brag and show off during these ceremonies. Therefore it is not common for parents to serve ‘caviar’ at Ayie just to show up the husband’s family, or for the fiancée to fly in with a chopper jus to show up the wife’s family.

We are a complicated people; the story unravels…

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