I am Nigerian, and one of the landmark events in life is the Wedding. The coming together of two families to form another family. Such a blessing indeed to start a new life together, despite leaving the family you cam from. Leaving your fathers house, is a truly celebrated event. Big or small, it will be the most memorable event of your life.
Dowries, goats, yams and coral beads!
The Bella Naija Wedding
The typical Bella Naija wedding, I am sure you have already heard about it, is about having an extravagant, over-the-top celebration with over 500 guests, elaborate decorations, monogrammed dance floors, and bejeweled cutlery and glassware. The aim is to be featured on a media platform like BellaNaija where your special day will be made timeless by constant likes and double-clicks. You have to be the talk of the town, the ultimate bride, with wedding decor that captures.
Here are some qualifying features:
- Ridiculously expensive wedding dress, even better if it is hand-crafted with an extra long train.
- Decor and management by one of the prominent bridal planners, Dure Events or Conceal Affairs.
- Utilizing a premiere venue like Chatteau Cocomar or Petroleum Club.
- Having a well known DJ or MC, preferrably someone that everyone in the woke Nigerian community is aware of.
- The cake tower of life. If it is draped in gold or silver you earn extra points.
- Don’t forget the large dance floor with your monogram.
- The more floral arrangements the better, everyone knows flowers are expensive.
- The thrown. You cannot have a BN wedding and not have a thrown.
- Wedding invitations must be keepsake-able. Now is not the time to implement Office Depot… each invite must break necks and gravitate the strand of hair on those you have invited.
- Guests! Guests! Guests! More than 500 if you are somebody.
The only problem was…
I didn’t want a big wedding. If you have read my earlier posts you will remember that I am an introvert and I prefer not to have all eyes on me. I can count my friends on my fingers and toes, and my husband is sadly no different. The thought of having such a huge wedding was overwhelming and more anxiety-provoking than anything.
But my parents wanted a big wedding.
I still remember my mother saying
“If you want a small wedding, then you and your husband can invite your one hundred guests, and me and you father will invite 4oo in addition.”
This just sounded ridiculous. Now we would be forking over at least 50 grand to entertain a bunch of people we could not name or identify. My husband, used to taking the path less taken but hating confrontation left the decision up to me.
I don’t even get invited to weddings!
I don’t know where to start, who to look to for insight. What was a good starting point, what were people doing, who was I competing with?
What kind of wedding dress should I get? What was the point of having a extra long train? Who would carry it for you?
What if people came and didn’t like the food? Or didn’t like me?
What if it wasn’t BellaNaija enough?
God, these were big problems for me.
My decision to go small is tough
One night I entered the bedroom and plopped onto the bed next to my husband and sighed loudly. He looked at the magazines and books in front of me and already knew what I was going to complaint about.
“Ada, why do you have to have this big wedding if it is making you stress like this? Why not save the money and invest it somewhere else more important to you?”
Then it finally dawned on me.
My and my husband had already been married for a year. We eloped hoping to evade the whole wedding situation. We had purchased a home in a beautiful town and were planning for a baby soon. A big wedding just seemed like a big painful interruption in my life. Giving anyone $50,000 that I could use to pay down student debt or invest for my future or my child’s future felt outlandish.
Speaking with a random.
I vented to random young brunette at a coffee shop. I was hoping she would understand where I was coming from despite not knowing who the heck I was. But just like random conversations, with hidden angels, she said something that made me change my entire train of thought. She said:
“In my family, my parents always gives us a $25,000 wedding gift. They give us three options for the money. Either use it as a down payment for your home, spend it towards your wedding or keep it. Her two elder siblings put it towards their first homes.”
She smiled. I smiled. That was brilliant. It made me remember that this wedding was an investment, and the fact that I saw it as an EMPTY investment was killing me softly. This stranger helped me realize the flaw in my forcing myself to do something I didn’t think was necessary for the approval of my parents and my community.
When I brought this idea to my husband, he was confused because he said he had been telling me this all along. Sure, whatever.
Breaking it to my parents…
It was as if I said I were getting a divorce. We had decided we would use any money we were saving at that time and re-invest it in ourselves. We would still have a wedding, but it would only be open to very close friends and family. We would use the church we had attended for years, even though it was in the ‘hood. We would use a small hotel with enough sitting for 75-100. We would have no real flowers. And I would buy my dress from a consignment shop and make my own bouquet.
They didn’t think I was crazy. As sad as they looked, my mother admitted that she never saw me doing a big wedding, she just hoped it would happen.
“This my darling daughter, she likes to stay in her own business”
She laughed. My fathers sulked, he asked that if he funded the wedding, could they do one in Dallas the coming year. Sure, I shrugged. They asked if I could at least allow them to have a traditional wedding in Nigeria, they would fund that too. Ok, I agreed.
And just like that. I had the most beautiful day I could ever imagine. I had tears in my eyes. There was no one in that hall that didn’t love me. My parents, aunts and uncles, in-law and great in-laws danced the night away. My mother surprised us with a cake and had the hall decorated. The men in my life made speeches and I was so moved. And when me and my husband got home the following day, he gave me a big smile and exclaimed:
“Guess how much that cost us?!”
I won’t say.
I still look back on the pictures and smile.
Pictures (just a tease):
Sneak Peak to my traditional wedding, post coming soon: