The Iru-Mgbede Marriage Rites Also known as Fattening Rooms

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Iru-mgbede refers to a preparatory period in the life of a young woman of marriageable age that just recently got a suitor asking for her hand in marriage. During the Iru-mgbede, the young woman is taken away from the family house to a separate living arrangement specifically designed for that purpose, called the Fattening room.

In the fattening room, the young woman is well taken care of by helps and also taught the details of how marriage works, what to do and what not to do by an older woman. She is taught how best to take care of her husband and future children before she fully gets into married life.

The purpose of the Iru-mgbede ceremony

  1. The first and primary purpose of this ceremony was to nourish and cater to the needs of the young woman in the mgbede and make her look beautiful, attractive and plump.
  2. Another purpose for the mgbede was to prepare and educate the young woman adequately about the workings of marriage and raising a family before she enters marriage life.
  3. The mgbede period also gives the parents of the young woman an opportunity to express appreciation to their daughter for her loyal and hardworking services that she rendered the family.
  4. The mgbede allows the parents to announce to the community that their daughter has come of marriageable age and will soon be leaving for a new family with her prospective husband.
  5. The iru-mgbede ceremony can also be an opportunity for the parents of the young woman to announce their economic status. The ceremony is quite expensive as the services of helps and an older lady will be employed. A variety of meals will also have to be provided for the woman so she is in her best shape after the period. Wealthy parents use this opportunity to display wealth during the ceremony.

Usually, the women who went through mgbede were accorded more respect and recognition over those who did not go through the process. It was the general belief that girls who went through the mgbede process made better wives than those who did not get the privilege.

How the iru-mgbede works

A woman in the mgbede had maids and attendants whose duty was to make sure she didn’t get involved with any domestic activity. The maids are mandated to assist her with everything, including bathing, after which they will massage her skin with sweet scenting oils. After this morning rituals, the maids assist the lady in dressing up, they sing to her, play with her and engage in some fun activities including dancing and playing games.

The mgbede life is one of restraint and also devoid of privacy, as the young lady is limited from moving about except within the confines of the mbgede house and also constantly surrounded by her maids/attendants. She would not be allowed to entertain any visitors apart from her parents.

The woman is served with the best meals filled with a lot of fish, snails and meat. Whatever her favorite meal was, it was prepared for her and any other meals she may be interested in. As per tradition, she is expected to keep all the fish racks and the tails of the stockfish she ate during her preparatory period as proof that she was well fed and catered to.

The Iru-mbgede lasts a total of about 3 weeks.

What happens after the Iru-mgbede

After the duration of the mgbede, the young woman is brought out of the room amidst a small celebration and taken to her husband’s home. The husband welcomes her with gifts and praises and her mother buys her jewelries. The husband has a well-rested and refreshed bride who is also now well-educated on the workings of a home.

On her outing day, her mother would invite her friends to accompany the bride to her husband’s house. A wealthy family would go the extra mile of buying gifts to distribute to the people who attend the celebration and even go to the local market to share them.

The Iru-mgbede now

Unfortunately, this practice is now extinct. with increasing urbanization, families have dispersed and most communities no longer gather to perform such rites anymore.

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