In any typical Nigerian wedding, there are at least 2 or 3 priests and then you have to talk about the 200 - 1000 other guests that attend, and the masses of money paid for photography and video for the big day. Of course, it is not about witnesses, but about the Nigerian way of inviting as many friends and family as you can to celebrate with you. This ties back a bit to my post on destination weddings and the recent CNN article on the wedding boom in Nigeria.
"There's always been this joy around weddings, but now there's also this whole creativity: It's more like a production, and nobody knows where it's going to stop," he said. "People just imagine it and make it happen."
Themes such as a "snow wedding" would involve decorating the entire hall to match the concept, he said.
"Ten years back, you would normally do all the arrangements for the wedding yourself or with your friend," he said. "Now, for every aspect of the wedding there's a vendor that can help you."
The trend has been driven by the many young Nigerians living overseas, who had introduced ambitious ideas for wedding themes, along with the concept of the wedding planner: a professional event organizer who could realize the happy couple's vision for their big day, typically at their parents' expense.
Osunkoya said families typically put much effort and expense into the event, as a wedding was an important status symbol -- although "not in a negative way."
"It's showing how well you've done, and for the bride and groom, this is their time," he said.
"Most times in Nigeria, the parents take care of the wedding -- and there are many weddings where it's just a blank check," he said. "It s a thing of joy to have your children married, so most of the time, the parents want to go all out. That's where you see total creativity." [Source]
The last paragraph was true of my parents. While Atala and I contributed to most of the wedding expenses, my parents covered the rest of it, and when I baulked at the number of priests who were to officiate, my dad took that over too. You see, it wasn't free and that was what I found strange. Most of them said they were coming as a favor to my parents who are knights in the church but still they were to receive 'thank-you envelopes'.
But even then, the priests honorariums were the least of our expenses. And Nigerian weddings are not just big, in terms of numbers. By the time you add the costs of the ashebi, refreshments for everyone, venue, couples' outfits, etc, you begin to see how fat a wallet you need to pull off your wedding. In 2009, we spent over 2M and that was me being finicky and frugal. Imagine.
I wonder what weddings cost these days, especially these big, fat, wedding planner events?
With hindsight, I have to add that once a couple manage to cut their expenses to meet a budget, you kind of forget the stress of it all after a while. As far as you remember to delegate enough not to be overwhelmed on that day, but enjoy the beauty of sharing a memory with your love. It's a bit like what they say about labor, you forget the pain after the baby comes and that the outcome is totally worth the pain.
Also, when you remember that the wedding is just one day and that you have the rest of your lives to look forward to and plan for, it helps to put things in perspective.
Myne Whitman - award-winning blogger, bestselling author, magazine columnist and founder of Naijastories.com