To kneel or not to kneel

Kneeling Painting by Njideka Akunyili

Kneeling Painting by Njideka Akunyili

Years before we got married, whenever we attended a wedding together, the wife would always make it a point to huff, puff and almost roll her eyes out of her head whenever the bride knelt down for her husband.

In Yoruba traditional engagement ceremonies, you’ll often find brides kneeling to place a cap on their husband’s head. The groom typically reciprocates by spraying her with money and then lifting the bride up in the air.  During the church ceremony you’ll find a “remix” of this same act when the bride kneels before her husband to feed him wedding cake.

Nothing drives my wife crazier than this practice.  If you make the mistake of engaging in a debate with her she’ll ask you “WHO decided this should be the custom?” “Why should a wife be forced to kneel before her husband… someone who she has sex with, like an elder? Is he her father or her mother?” Why are we forcing women to act as though they’re ‘under’ the person who is meant to be their life partner?”

Obviously, I never noticed it enough to have a real stance on the issue.  I figured if a man has to kneel to propose, why not the woman? But the wife made it very clear to me, even though we weren’t engaged yet, that she wouldn’t be kneeling before me at either our engagement or white wedding.  Now, the typical Naija man might have taken this to be a sign that he would in trouble if he decided to marry her, but I wasn’t bothered.

Why you ask?

  1. I didn’t care about the kneeling. “Submission” in the bible does not mean that any woman must be forced to kneel before me. While Yoruba custom might find kneeling to be a way to express that submission, and though she was happy to do it for our parents and other elders, I fully respected her wishes not to do such with me.  I’d realized a long time ago that a happy wife, means a happy husband and this just wasn’t a big enough deal to me to warrant an argument.
  2. As long as she was willing to kneel in private for um *cough cough* other things, why would I care about public kneeling?
  3. She agreed not to let me carry her at our traditional engagement. Maybe she was worried I’d drop her (Maybe she was right to) but I figured she’d spared us both a major public embarrassment, so how could I refuse?

So at our engagement, instead of kneeling before me, she sat on my lap, leaned in with a kiss and “crowned” me.  Not a beat was missed. Not a single person noticed the difference.

And we’re still happily married.


Welcome to the musings of the “not so typical” Naijahusband and his lovely Naijawife. Follow us on Twitter: NaijaHusband and NaijaWife


  1. LMAAOOOO!!!!!!
    This article could have been easily written by my YY….I have said, countless times, that during my engagement, I’ll probably pick one of the other items as opposed to the usual gift of bible….just because!

    I have also expressed my annoyance with that whole kneeling of a thing….like,for real? Who am I trying to please or deceive with the kneeling on that day? Pfttt!

    I am a whooping 180 pounds to YY’s rather smaller frame ( I dont even know how much he weighs). If it so happens that he becomes the lucky person to have to carry me…….oh boy! na die he dey o! So for his health reasons (and mine as well…afterall, na me go carry POP for hand after he drops me on the floor like a bag of rice), we probably will skip that one. But it is so much fun whenever I attempt getting him to practise carrying me…..buahahahahhahaha….

  2. I love your wife’s twist on the kneeling bit.. I actually think it’s lovelier.. Me thinks I may be trying that on my wedding day as well.. Although, I don’t actually mind kneeling if it rocks his boat (just for the ceremony of that day though.. I repeat Just.For.That.Day!) lol

    • She loved her ‘twist’ as well. Kept patting herself on the back for being such a rebel lol. The day she allows me to stop blogging anonymously is the day I’ll post the pic of how we did it.

  3. OMG…. i cant stop laughing at this post and even the comment. Just like your wife, i have told le boo that i aint kneeling down for nothing at our wedding, to me its just eye service.

  4. I too don’t want to kneel publicly because I don’t think kneeling during the engagement or on my wedding day means I’ll actually be a submissive wife. Your wife’s twist fantastic! I’m open to compromise though so if it’s really important to him and he’s able to articulate why very well, I’ll do it…probably 😉

    I’ve heard the “the man kneels to propose” comment before but I feel like the proposal is usually a private thing (just the two people) so to me it’s not the same as a public event.

    • I had def been thinking of sitting on his lap instead. I think its my own mother that will faint if I don’t pick the bible lol

  5. I’m of the opinion that some things we consider ‘tradition’ should be thrown into the gutters.Pardon my saying that,but it’s the way i feel.I don’t want a wife who’d be kneeling to me yet not submissive.I want a wife who’d be submissive yet firm.I’m not gonna be her father but husband and friend.

    • Agreed. Sometimes we forget that traditions and customs were made by humans, not God. We want to cling to them as much as possible (and sometimes we should) , but we need to be aware that there’s room for change or “remixing” as naijawife did.

  6. I am SO stealing your wife’s move! Do you think it’s something I should discuss with the fiance first, or just surprise him that day.

    Most people (family included) think I’m random already, so one more random act won’t hurt them 😀

    • Hmm. You may want to discuss that you’re not kneeling with him first to gain his support. naijawife told me early on that she wouldn’t be kneeling so that if the alaga shouted or insisted, I could come to her rescue…but the sitting on the lap was a very nice surprise. Your fiance may have an even better alternative than naijawife did if you share your thoughts with him. 🙂

  7. I really don’t like the kneeling but my husband wanted to do the kneeling for me during the cake feeding ha I quickly knelt down oh I can’t shout after the wedding ceremony I can flex my muscles as I am not Yoruba. Love this blog. But he carried me almost every where as I am a lot smaller than him.

  8. lol! i wish i had thought about it before that day. I honestly DID NOT THINK IT & HAD TO DO IT cos I hadn’t given it one thought. i.e. on our wedding as our engagement was atypical. It was like the second before I was to do it and I just thought – all these very traditional people should not come and say they have married a troublesome wife…. 😉

  9. Cheers to the rebels, the non-conformists and the dissenters. So much for Naija and die-hard hypocrisy. 3 gbosas for NW and NH. I am so sharing this with my friends. The way forward is fresh thinking.

  10. Going through your much older posts and saw this, wrote a piece on it too on my blog just around this time too. “The heart of kneeling” was the title. I was at a wedding when a young man seeing that the bride hugged her husband when told to welcome him home from work said his wife had to knell to welcome him home. I almost put a gun to his head but decided to smile and hear anyway he inspired the post.
    Officially my first comment on the blog 🙂 totally rocks.

  11. Going through the much older posts I missed and saw this, wrote something similar on my blog around this time too. “Heart of kneeling” I was at a friend’s wedding when a young man seeing that the bride hugged her husband when told to welcome him home, said his wife must kneel to welcome him home. I almost put a gun to his head but instead smiled at him and told him to go on. He inspired the post.
    This is officially my first comment on the blog 🙂 totally live it. It rocks

  12. Okay, so i am late to the party, but i have never understood the kneeling thing. I don’t mind kneeling to great my elders, grandparents etc. But all that fake humbleness at the wedding ceremony just to impress people i don’t know; hmmm i cannot attest.

    Thankfully, the whole kneeling drama irritates my dad as well, so i know i have an ally when my time comes. Great post as always,

  13. Hmmmmn. I share the same sentiment with your wife. I hate it when people are made to kneel to to feed their husbands.
    At my wedding, my husband had to really beg me to kneel down. The way he begged you would have thought I had said we were not getting married again. At the time when I got the slice of cake, the look in his eyes is one i wont forget in a hurry. I had to kneel…
    Its funny, I never kneel for him at all, so i always imagine why brides do it.
    Anyway, to each his own…

  14. I figured if he can kneel to propose to me, it wont hurt to return the favor at least once.

  15. It is just tradition
    Do it and get it over with

    By the way, my elder sister didn’t kneel
    I don’t think it defines submission
    but the elders think it does

    If I have an understanding husband, I would gladly not kneel
    Except when I want to blackmail him into forgiving me
    then I would kneel and do all the things needed
    But that would not be me

    He would know the real me and just laugh


  16. Omigosh I found your blog yesterday and I’m a HUUGE fan of you and Naija Wife. I have even spotted some Bella Naija regulars here who kept this delicious secret to themselves. Bad Berry Dakara! Bad Myne Whitman! Bad Dr. N!

    • IJ, this just goes to show that you DON’T READ MY BLOG?!?!?!?!?!? Cos obviously, you would have found NW and NH when I gave them a big shout out on a post last year. Worse IJ, wooooooooooooooooorse IJ.


    • Aha, secret readers! *sticks tongue out at Ij*
      Never fear, I plan to do a post on them.

      As for d kneeling, I didn’t even rem it on my wedding day. Neither of us is Yoruba. But he knelt to propose, tho. Sharp dude

  17. A lot of the events going on during traditional/church weddings are just for show, in my opinion. So, of all the things that are for show, the one that portrays respect is not the one people should be having problems with.
    I do not think the wife should be kneeling for the husband anywhere in the house for that matter, but for just one time in your wedding day? It’s not a big deal.
    Like the Yoruba engagement ceremony that requires the man to come with all his friends and lie down in front of the bride’s family. Given that it’s just for show for a day, I don’t think most men will have problem with that, but to each his/her own.

  18. My opinion on the feed cake kneeling mata: I will not be kneeling to serve my husband food everyday so why should we start our marriage with a lie. It took me a long time to kneel down to greet people sef(as an Ijaw girl living in a yoruba land)

    I don’t even kneel down for my parents not to talk about man, but experience has taught me kneeling is just one of dem tings if you marry or are thinking about marrying into a yoruba family.

    So in conclusion(after mini rant), if I end up marrying a yoruba man, I WILL NOT be kneeling down! Team NaijaWife all up on this!!

Leave a Reply