Meru Marriage Customs (Dowry and Wedding Ceremony)

African marriage

Marriage and family was the most important institution among the Ameru. Still is. Or haven’t your folks started asking you when you will get married and bear them grandchildren? And that’s another big part of it – children. Marriage was strictly for bearing and raising children – the ultimate blessing.

Marriage started with dowry.

The Meru did not recognise any marriage if there was no bride-price. It did not have to be paid immediately, but it had to have been negotiated and agreed upon. Here is how it went: Dowry had a set of irreducible minimums ( I had to use that phrase. 🙂 ) that were set by the reigning age group and additions were normally agreed by the families – actually by the men of the families as women were not allowed anywhere near dowry negotiations. So, once the men agreed on the dowry, a token (call it downpayment) was paid before the marriage would be allowed to take place or even recognised. The rest of the dowry would be paid in due time.

And the minimum Meru dowry was:

  • One heifer
  • One bull
  • Three she-goats
  • One he-goat
  • One ram
  • One drum of honey.
  • And “parents clothes” were later added.

This dowry would be paid to the girl’s father or his closest male relative in the absence of the father.

The validity of a Meru marriage did not depend on payment of dowry. Agreement to pay was enough.

Then the wedding Ceremony

Y’all know weddings to be these pomp events that cost a lot of money and months and months of committee preparation. That’s bla bla bla for the customary Merus.

After the dowry manenos were done and agreed, the day for collecting the bride was simply fixed and the wedding ceremonies happened at sun-set, when the demons were tired and people with bad eyes out of the way.

The bridegroom’s women relatives and children accompanied by strong young men (called Muraa)  to guard them, collected the bride. The bridegroom did not necessarily have to be there… but had to represented by a man of his age group (now you have a perfect example of “Wedding without a bridegroom.” 🙂 )

The Pastor for these events was the girl’s father (or acting father if the father wasn’t present – preferably a Njuri Ncheke elder). it was normally a simple ceremony. The bride, her relatives and the people collecting her would gather outside their home. Both the dad and mom would then come out with honey mixed with milk and wimbi… and any other presents they wanted to give their daughter. Dad then sprinkled the honey mixture on the bride in blessing.

Here is the prayer for marriage (by the father):

Father: Ndaikia mata mwanokwa uroenda mukuru okuu (I pray you will love your husband, my daughter)

Group: Thaai (Amen)

Father: Ndaikia mata uromwenda na twaana tutwiingi twa twiiji na tukenye (I pray you will love him with boys and girls)

Group: Thaai

Father: Ndaikia mata burociara, bwaciara na bwaakuria ja kali kara aceke, bukonanairua ja Kirimara na Nyambene (I pray you will will be blessed with several children, like the plant called Kairu, so that you may be shine and be seen by all like Mt. Kenya and Nyambene Hills.

Group: Thaai

Father: Ndaikia mata burweta njira imbegere na bwikinyaa muthwa (I pray you will walk on well swept roads stepping on white ants – safe journey)

Group: Thaai

Father: Ndaikia mata antu baa bonthe barokuria nani ngakuria (I pray that all those who are present here and I may have many children who grow to maturity)

Group: Thaai

The presents were then given to the bride, and she would then be released to the women who sung all the way home in a single line.

The wedding ceremony only became complete when the bride had spent a night with her husband and the married consummated.

Meru marriage. Going home.
Going home. This is not a Meru image, but the procession to the bride’s new home was like this. / Image: Daily Mail UK
  • Same sex marriages were not allowed.
  • Dowry had to be paid by the man’s family to the brides’s family. Being rich or poor was never a reason to not pay.
  • Close relatives, Gichiaro and prohibited age groups were not allowed to marry under any circumstances
  • All children belonged to the father – women had no children under Meru customs. They were like a farm where you planted children. Ouch!

Next time, we look at divorce – the only allowed reasons and how it happened.


Main image: Muna Luchi bridals

13 Comments to “Meru Marriage Customs (Dowry and Wedding Ceremony)”

  1. Shilton

    I enjoyed reading this, in part this has been insightful, being part Meru, well some of the cultural etiquette eludes me; still I’m glad you are blogging about Ameru; great post! Thank you for sharing!!!!

  2. Lucy Njiruh

    Meru being generous and humane did not have high bride price or demand that it be paid up front so that even the poor men could afford to marry. Today our cousins are very happy when their sons get a Meru girl for they say ‘Thank God she is a Mmeru; dowry will be cheap.”

  3. Kiriinya Mwongo

    Good trial, but you must differentiate between Ruracio na Nteguri!!
    Ruracio rwa Ameru is Stardand! From nthuci to Ntonyiri.
    But nteguri varies from Ameru sub-clan to the other.

    Ruracio rwa Ameru is five(5) cows: Namely:
    1. Mwari ya ngombe (Heifer)
    2. Mwati (female sheep)
    3. Nturume(male fattened ram)
    4. Ndegwa( a fattened bull)
    5. Giempe kia nainchu(a drum of raw honey, approx 100kg)
    Nteguri is specific to the Ameru sub- clan and it varies from Imenti, Tharaka, Tigania and Igembe, and they all offer different Nteguri.
    The writer is a Njuri Ncheke elder from Imenti.


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