The Business of Saying “I DO”

wedding_plannerWhen we think of weddings, a smile comes to our faces as we picture the blushing bride, vibrant aso-ebi colors and the 11th commandment –firewood cooked jollof rice. The trip down the aisle has undergone a metamorphosis over the years from the taboo elopement, to the canopy celebrations in family houses, to the full blown productions we have today which comprises 5 star halls, bridezillas, movie standard cinematography, flowers imported from the abroad and a bride-price the equivalent of a Ferrari. There’s no wedding like a Nigerian wedding party, and the road to becoming man and wife is a battle of the fattest wallet, or the savviest wedding planner, for the more avant-garde brides. I’ll be exploring this national epidemic through my personal experience at a cousin’s wedding this weekend.

My appointment to the position of unofficial wedding consultant and professional errand girl came about five months to the wedding. My cousin also happens to be the most indecisive bride ever, so we shuttled back and forth between choice of vendors, fabric and styles, and the overall mandate of cutting down costs. The bride’s mantra throughout the planning process was practicability and recycling potential. If a suggestion didn’t fit into any of these criteria, it was kicked out. Imagine my shock as I was initiated into the world of cut-throat market prices and the sugar-coated tongues of Instagram vendors. Forgive my naiveté, but I simply had no idea that five yards of lace could retail for above a hundred thousand because it was Swiss-made and nothing could have prepared me for my day at the Ikoyi Marriage Registry.

This was the first wedding I had ever attended at the registry and hopefully it will be the last, for the sake of my sanity. Apparently, the Ikoyi marriage registry is THE place to wed for socially discerning couples and anybody with a liking for reality TV. We arrived at the registry around 6am, and the parking lot was already littered with cars of every model; with grooms to be struggling with bowties and their brides in the early stages of a two hour long makeup session. The premium facilities offered by the Ikoyi registry are as follows:

  • Photography services for the overjoyed newlyweds at triple the standard rate, all for a prized picture in front of the registry signboard
  • Makeup artists who take the adage of the blushing bride a little too seriously
  • Chair and tent rentals for the families of the couple who flood the premises. The management takes extreme care to ensure that there is no seating available apart from what they provide
  • Bridal gowns and tux rentals for the fashion forward couple with wardrobe commitment issues, or those who forget clothing items at home
  • Catering services for varying degrees of pocket size, from pastries and drinks to finer dining comprising perfectly smoked jollof rice and soggy plantain
  • Photo-op with a three-tiered cake at a fee of course. I couldn’t verify the edibleness of the cake though
  • Overzealous drummers and praise singers to herald the couple and their family into new beginnings
  • Corporate beggars with a peculiar taste of offerings, should you need to consecrate the holy union by giving charity
  • Employees, vendors and passers-by who will descend upon you like flies should you choose to entertain guests with food from the boot of your car
  • These facilities are all exclusive of the ridiculous wedding package with basically gets you a slot on the marriage register and a certificate. Parking is also free, if you make it in time or know which security man to part change with.

Most people think the wedding arrives and you can finally breathe a sigh of relief –this is a very grave misconception. God help you if you neglect to have a contingency fund for eventualities like a wardrobe malfunction, the credit unworthy relatives that will not pay for their aso-ebi, extra hotel rooms and LOTS of food, bargaining chips for the alaga-iduros on a mission, and 1001 other things that will definitely go wrong. Did I mention that part of my wedding duties was official money-picker? If you’ve been to a Nigerian wedding party, then you know that one of the non-negotiable terms of engagement is the spraying on the dance floor. I’ve always marveled at the prowess of Nigerians as they shower the couple with mint naira notes and turn the dance floor to a bureau de change, despite countless policies and campaigns against this trend which disvalues our currency. These thoughts soon flee my mind, as I attack my role with fervency, competing with the greedy hands of mischievous children and dangerously sharp stilettos dabbing and shoki-ing to the beats of the DJ; also getting sprayed by generous relatives in the process. One can then understand why dancing takes the major part of the program at wedding parties. The thought of unsettled debts and depleted bank accounts is enough to keep the couple going for hours on end. Sometimes, the amount gathered at the end of the party is enough to finance a whole wedding!

Several factors could be held responsible for the glorified business institution called weddings, from the increasing tastes of the younger generation, to societal pressure and an abundance of resources. The impact of this is inflation and burdening of individuals who cannot afford or simply cannot be bothered by lavish wedding celebrations. As with all things which follow trends, we are slowly regressing back to the good old days. Some couples are eloping or sticking to a quiet registry wedding alone. I’m seeing more backyard weddings on Instagram with fewer guests and more daring brides are making recyclable dresses and #SayingNoToAso-ebi. These are my general musings and I believe that everybody can celebrate the most important day of their lives as they like –on a champagne or beer budget… money kill am.


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