A Pregnant Nigerian Woman and her Bride Price

This post is in response to a question that popped up from the search engine on my blog. It seemed someone needed an answer to the question: “If a Nigeria woman gets pregnant, would her bride price be paid”?

As a Nigerian woman I would try to provide an answer to this question using some of my experience about the issue of Bride Price. First of all it would be important to know what Bride Price means in the Nigerian context.

bride-price 2
An Igbo traditional bride price items

Bride price is a required list of items the family of a woman expects the man who intends to marry her to present. This items include money, tubers of yam, cartons of drinks, bags of rice, salt and sugar, honey, umbrella, box filled with cloths for the bride and her mother depending on the tribe, basket of fruits, goat and more. This bride price items vary from tribe to tribe and family to family. It is a transaction between the groom and bride’s family which signifies an acceptance of the grooms desire to marry their daughter. It is the final deal that signs a woman over to be traditionally married to a man. A man who refuses to pay a girl’s bride price is believed to be a thief (stolen his wife).

In the Yoruba tradition, after the traditional marriage ceremony, the received bride price is divided into two equal parts: One half for her father and his extended family; the other half for the mother of the bride and her own extended family. So you find an aunt going away with a small pack of salt and sugar and she would be so excited that she had partaken of the traditional marriage rites of one of their daughters. A child is believed to belong to everyone in her family so uncles, aunties, and grandparents all see the child as their own. The act of paying a bride price is according the family of a bride their due respect; it is a token though sometimes a “neck breaking token” appreciating her family’s effort at taking care of her from childhood. It gives a sense of pride to the bride’s family that their girl had married, “right” and had not shamed the family by running away/eloping with a man. A woman properly married in this manner (by way of bride price) brings honour to her family in the community. It is what makes the marriage valid in the eyes of society and family (nuclear and extended).

Failure to pay a woman’s bride price before marrying her can mean she is reclaimed by her family. In fact in some tradition any child such a woman gives birth to belongs to her family and not the husband’s. Fulfilling the Bride Price obligation in a marriage transaction is a “big deal”, in Nigeria. In fact it is, “The deal”.

I believe the question I am attempting to answer in this blog is actually about whether the value of a woman drops if she gets pregnant and therefore the husband to be is not obliged to pay her bride price. In other words he can be excused or refuse to pay. I smile at this line of thought…as I remember instances where couples engaged and promised to be married to each are required to first of all plant a seed in the woman’s womb. There are some families who will not even consent to a marriage if such a woman had not being impregnated. In such a situation, the grooms family insists that the girl their son wishes to marry must prove her fertility by getting pregnant first or they would not consent to the union talk less of rising to the occasion to accompany their son to the lady’s family in order to pay her bride price. This had turn out to be a big tussle in some instance especially when the couple believe in “keeping the marriage bed pure”. On the other hand the family of a girl who believes in chastity and holds unto a girl being a virgin until her wedding night would certainly be disappointed if their daughter shows up pregnant before marriage. However this does not mean they would then refuse to accept her bride price from the man who impregnated her and intends to marry her. In fact getting pregnant is an excuse to quickly speed up the marriage process. You’ll hear things like, “Bring your man home quickly and let him and his people (family) come and pay your bride price/dowry ; don’t shame us”! And when the man shows up, her family is so relieved by this and the process is quickly concluded. In some other families, parents actually rejoice when she comes home to say that she is carrying a child especially when they had consented to the man she is courting. Again I reiterate that payment of bride price is the final deal that seals a marriage between two families traditionally. In other words families would not accept marriage between a man and a woman if the bride price/dowry had not been paid. I know of a couple who went ahead to get married without paying the woman’s bride price; her family gave the man hell. After a few years being married to each other, her father insisted that they must do “the proper thing” by coming to pay the required bride price.

In Africa the blessing of a father and mother in any marriage contract is very important. This is shown in their acceptance of the dowry/bride price from any man their daughter wishes to be married to. Payment of Bride price for the Nigerian woman who becomes pregnant is not an option but a Must Do for the groom to be! If you wish to know more click on this link about  Marriages in Nigeria.

This post is not exhaustive in itself but i hope it is helpful.

Photo Credit: tony55.hubpages.com

By Adebisi Adetunji




13 thoughts on “A Pregnant Nigerian Woman and her Bride Price

  1. Does this mean the husband to be pays dowry and not the bride’s family? It’s an interesting post Bisimodupe. I’m glad I read your post, I learned a lot from it.
    I’m glad you visited my website. Thank you. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for this wonderful article. I am an American who is considering marrying a Nigerian bride. I was introduced to the Bride’s price through my potential bride. The question that I have for you is; If the woman that I want to marry already has a child from another man who was not her husband, what is your cultural rules under this condition? Secondly, would I have to pay more because she has a daughter who was not fathered by me. I ask this only because I am genuinely interested and would like to know a little bit on this issue. Thank you for your time and attention to this matter.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello Duke,
      Thank you for visiting this page. In answer to your questions… First of all bride price differs from tribe to tribe in Nigeria. So it depends on what her particular tribe requires. 2) Even when a woman has a child fathered by a man whom she did not marry, whoever loves her and wishes to Marry her will be required to pay her bride price. Why? Bride is basically a gesture that shows that a groom honors his bride to be and her family. It is family consent seal. We call it “marrying properly”. 3) you are not required to pay more simply because your bride to be already has a child. According to each tribe and family it is usually a statutory thing… They ask for the same things for every bride whether she already has a baby or not. As I said it is a show of love and respect for her and her family. Wish you all the best in your intended marriage Duke.


    • Thank you for sharing your concerns here. I will like to start by asking:Your spouse wants polygamy but what do you want? One of the Key issue in any relationship is commitment to one another. Love is difficult to share if not impossible between three people especially in a marriage relationship. So the question again is this why does your spouse want a polygamy relationship? Something is up. I believe you have a right to say no. You are not responsible for your spouses choice in this regard. Polygamy is complicated and messy why go looking for trouble. All the best in your decision.


  3. Dear Bisi,

    Thanks for daring (!) to take on this topic. Daring because it’s a very complicated one and varies from ethnic group to another. Pardon, I belong to the old school although I’d like to imagine the younger generation would agree that TRIBE is no longer acceptable to denote the different nationalities that make up the Nigerian entity. TRIBE harps back to the know-it-all western derogatory word.

    In Yorubaland to which you – from your names – and I belong, I haven’t attended a traditional wedding, i.e the engagement ceremony, in the last many decades, at least in a long memory, where the bride’s parents took the bride price even though it’s always presented. The usual response translates to WE DO NOT SELL OUR

    I’m in my early 70s, so the experiences have been both personal and seen everywhere.

    This contribution is to let foreigners who read your blog know that BRIDE PRICE is not really real as far as Yoruba areconcerned. It was long ago but from experience, it’s no longer generally accepted. Of course, in the East and North, things differ.

    I like your letting readers know how these things are shared. I’ve received countless shares from brides’ gifts; I’ll even take some sugar grains and taste it even though I no longer eat sugar! We are glad to partake of gifts to brides who, as you point out, are DAUGHTERS to all in the family.

    Thanks very much.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much Ma’am for reading and sharing your thoughts on this. I see the “We don’t sell our daughter” thing play out at traditional wedding too these days. The idea was to educate readers asking questions that pregnancy does not diminish the value of a bride to be. Therefore her bride price is still to be paid. It is now left for her family to return the money which is usually even a small token, particularly in the Yoruba culture. I like your contributions in helping to balance the issue.


  4. Hi Bisi, thanks so much for dis post, I am an Igbo gal n I’ve been dating dis igala man for some time now, we have been talking marriage for some time, d problem now is dat am pregnant, n he is insisting dat he can’t pay my bride price until i give birth, n am just a little below a month gone, I do not want to giv birth outside marriage, pls wat can I do?


    • Hello Jennifer,
      Thank you for reaching out. There is no hard and fast solution to the issue at hand. Now the question is this – Does your man really want to take things to the next level, I mean commit to you in a marriage relationship? You need to know. Also, what is the practice in his tradition/culture? You need to find out whether that is the practice in Igala, that a girl has to give birth before her man can pay her bride price. Even if this is the case, If your man is willing to take things seriously then let him know what your own tradition says by communicating this to him and coming to an agreement.


  5. Good day, some tribe in Edo State does not accept the bride price paid for a pregnant woman. It’s believed that she’s not one person as a result of the pregnancy and the child she’s carrying is not their child, so it’s improper to accept the bride price.


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