Hausa Traditional Marriage

Image of hausa bride and groom
Photo credit: Bellanaija wedding

Hausa traditional marriage style and traditions, reflects the importance of family, honor, and tradition in Hausa culture. The value and belief system of the Hausas are deeply intertwined with all their endeavors, including marriage.  In this article, we shall be giving you the details you should know on what the Hausa marriage looks like.

Central to the Hausa culture is the concept of “Zurfi,” which emphasizes modesty, decorum, and respect. This principle guides various aspects of Hausa life, including marriage customs, where honor and tradition play pivotal roles. The Hausa value system places a strong emphasis on family cohesion, community harmony, and upholding honor and dignity in all interactions. In Hausa culture, marriage is considered a sacred institution that signifies the union of two families, rather than just two individuals.

Hausa traditional marriage often involves elaborate and ceremonial steps, which makes a rich list of cultural activities, rites and traditions. These activities are always observed in a chronological order. This list includes activities such “Kunshi” or “Kayan Zance” (bridal visitation), Kanun gida, Kai Amarya, among others.

The Processes of Hausa Traditional Marriage

In Hausa traditional marriage, there are specific rites and gifts that play a significant role in the entire marriage process. These rites and gifts are essential elements of the Hausa marriage customs. They are meant to symbolize the union of the two families and to ensure the success and prosperity of the marriage.

Pre- Wedding Rites in Hausa Traditional Marriage

  1. Ranna Ruwa (Water Fetching): This is the first and most important phase of Hausa traditional marriage. The groom, accompanied by his family and friends, goes to the bride’s house to formally ask for her hand in marriage. The bride’s family presents water fetched by the bride herself to signify her acceptance. The groom’s family then reciprocates with gifts before they proceed to the stage of dowry negotiation. By dowry negotiation, we mean a formal discussion with the two families on the amount to be paid as dowry for the bride. Originally, this price can be negotiated between the intending couple’s families before it’s provision is made.
  2. Noman Kalli (Introduction): This is a formal introduction of the families of the bride and groom. The bride’s family hosts the groom and his family, introducing them to extended family members and close friends. It is an occasion to exchange pleasantries, discuss plans, and finalize arrangements for the wedding ceremony.
  3. Kamu (Engagement): The Kamu ceremony is a pre-wedding event where the groom presents some  gifts to the bride. This is usually done to convince the bride’s family about the capabilities of the groom. Traditionally, the groom gifts the bride with fabrics, jewelry, and perfumes. However, in modern times, the gifts may also include gadgets, money, or other items based on the couple’s preference. In most cases, this is done few months to the wedding date. It is simply used to formalise the relationship between the bride and the groom.

Wedding Rites in Hausa Traditional Marriage

Soro: This is the initial stage of the marriage process, where the groom’s family formally expresses their intentions to marry the bride. This involves a delegation from the groom’s family visiting the bride’s family to discuss the marriage proposal. During this visit, the groom’s family presents a modest gift to the bride’s family as a token of their intentions. At the end of this occasion, items such as sweets, gums and kolanuts are being shared to the neighbours and guests.

Image of a woman wearing lalle
Image Source The Guardian

Alkawali (Bridal Henna): In many Hausa traditional marriages, the bride participates in a henna or “lalle” ceremony, where intricate designs are painted on her hands and feet using henna paste. This ceremonial application of henna is a symbol of beauty, femininity, and auspiciousness. It is often accompanied by singing and dancing as a prelude to the wedding celebrations.

Kayan Zance (Dowry): The dowry, known as “kayan zance” in Hausa, is a crucial element in Hausa traditional marriage. The groom or his family is expected to give some items to the bride’s family as a symbol of appreciation for their daughter and to show the groom’s commitment to taking care of the bride. The bride price may consist of cash, gifts, or livestock, boxes, beads, fashion items, jewelry, shoes and other things needed by the bride to appear good and happy. There are usually long lists of these items and the specific onceincluded can vary based on the families’ preferences and traditions.

Kudin Kai (Dowry):This is the official payment of the dowry by the groom’s family to the bride’s family. The dowry serves as a sign of appreciation and recognition of the bride’s worth. It usually consists of cash. The amount must have been known by the two families involved.The amount can vary based on negotiations and the families’ financial capabilities.

Kunshi:This refers to the gift-giving ceremony that takes place during the marriage process. It involves the exchange of gifts between the groom’s family and the bride’s family. The groom’s family presents various gifts to the bride’s family, which may include clothing, shoes, gold, accessories and lots more. In return, the bride’s family also gives gifts to the couple, some of which are clothing, kitchen items, bed, foodstuff, and other necessary gadgets that are needed to set up their new home. This is presented as a gesture of acceptance, consent, jubilation and appreciation.

Image of the ceremony of hausa traditional marriage
Photo source: Karma Compass

Fatiha:The Fatiha is the Islamic marriage ceremony, where the bride and groom formally enter marriage with the recitation of the marriage contract in the presence of witnesses. This is a significant religious and cultural rite in Hausa traditional marriage, and it symbolizes the solemnization of the union between the bride and groom.

Walima (The Wedding Feast): Walimah is a wedding feast or reception hosted by the groom’s family to celebrate the marriage. It is an opportunity for the families and communities to come together, share in the joy of the newlyweds, and offer blessings and well-wishes for their future. During the Walima, there is typically a lavish display of food, music, and traditional entertainment to mark the joyous occasion.Foods such as tuwo shinkafa, waina, tuwon dawa, mitan kuka, miyan taushe and lots are protein are served to the guests.

Post – Wedding Rites in Hausa Traditional Marriage

  1. Rikaye (Marital Home Entry): After the wedding ceremony, the bride is welcomed into her new home by the groom’s family. This event is marked with prayers, blessings, and a series of welcome rituals. The bride is guided by her mother-in-law or an experienced woman in the family, symbolizing her acceptance into the new family.
  2. Hawan Daushe (Post-Wedding Celebrations):These are subsequent celebrations held after the wedding, usually spanning an entire week. It involves visiting extended family members, friends, and well-wishers who were unable to attend the wedding ceremony. Food, music, and cultural dances are prominent features of these celebrations.

These specific rites and gifts in Hausa traditional marriage are deeply rooted in the cultural and religious traditions of the Hausa people. They serve to strengthen the bonds between the two families, mark the transition of the bride from her family to her husband’s family, and symbolize the beginning of a new and prosperous life for the newlyweds. Each of these customs and traditions carries great significance and contributes to the richness and uniqueness of the Hausa traditional marriage ceremony.

Image of dowry in Hausa Traditional Marriage
Photo source: Ancient Jamaanu


In Hausa traditional marriage, the dowry, known as “Kayan Zance,” is a significant aspect of the marriage customs. The specific items included in the dowry can vary based on the families’ preferences, regional traditions, and the negotiated agreements between the families. However, there are some typical items that are often included in the dowry in Hausa traditional marriage

  1. Cash:Money is a common component of the dowry in Hausa traditional marriage. The groom or his family may present a sum of money as part of the dowry to the bride’s family as a symbol of appreciation for their daughter and to signify the groom’s commitment to taking care of the bride. The amount of money can vary depending on the families’ financial strenghtand cultural norms.
  2. Livestock: Livestock, particularly cattle, goats, or sheep, are traditional components of the dowry in many Hausa marriages. The groom or his family may present a specified number of livestock to the bride’s family as a form of wealth transfer and as a means of demonstrating the groom’s ability to provide for the bride and future family. Livestock are highly valued in Hausa culture and are symbolic of prosperity and well-being.
  3. Clothing and Jewelry: The groom or his family may provide a selection of clothing, fabrics, and jewelry as part of the dowry. This may include traditional Hausa attire, intricately designed fabrics such as “aso oke” or “atamfa,” and jewelry such as gold necklaces, earrings, or bracelets. These items are meant to adorn the bride and serve as a display of the groom’s appreciation for the bride and his willingness to provide for her.
  4. Household Items: The dowry may also include various household items and essentials that would be useful for the bride and groom as they establish their new home together. This can include kitchenware, utensils, cooking pots, and other domestic necessities. The provision of these items by the groom’s family is a practical way of supporting the newly married couple as they begin their life together.
  5. Beverages and Food Items: In some instances, the dowry may also include provisions of beverages and food items. This can range from bags of rice, sugar, salt, to cartons of drinks or other consumables. These items contribute to the support of the bride’s family and are gestures of goodwill from the groom’s family, emphasizing their commitment to the well-being of the bride and her family.
  6. Personal Gifts for the Bride: os part of the dowry, the groom may also present personal gifts specifically for the bride. These gifts can range from perfumes, cosmetics, and accessories to personal care items. They are meant to adorn the bride and emphasize the groom’s affection and regard for her.

It is important to note that the specific items included in the dowry can be influenced by factors such as family traditions, regional customs, and the socio-economic status of the families involved. Additionally, the negotiation and presentation of the dowry are often symbolic of the groom’s willingness and ability to provide for the bride and reflect the respect and appreciation for the bride and her family.

In Hausa traditional marriage, the payment of dowry is a multifaceted representation of respect, commitment, and support, and the items included in the dowry hold cultural, symbolic, and practical significance within the marriage customs of the Hausa people.

Overall, while these traditional practices have evolved and incorporated some modern influences, the essence of Hausa culture remains intact. It reflects the importance of family, community, modesty, religion and respect for cultural heritage in Hausa traditional marriages.

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