If there’s one topic I have been meaning to write about on this blog ever since I started, it is definitely this. I’ve waited for 5 years to finally get around the topic of planning your Nigerian wedding in north America.
Granted, things could be very much different now but to a certain extent, some things would always remain the same when it comes to a ‘Naija’ wedding. I tied the knot in 2012 to my Ghanaian/Nigerian husband in Chicago. Like the wedding logistics were not already murky enough since I was asking my family to fly to Chicago from Nigeria, when it came to how “Nigerian” my wedding was, I can confidently say I fell short.
I have never planned a wedding in Nigeria of course but I can tell by the number of times my mum said to me then, “Oohhhh if this wedding was in Nigeria ehn….(enter random complaint here)” that things truly were different. Looking back now and seeing how Nigerian weddings are held in this part of the world, some things are pretty standard or at least somewhat expected. However, a number of things can really make or break your wedding in regards to how Nigerian it is.
Bride Uju – Elegant Nigerian Wedding via KnotsVilla
So for those looking to show the Nigerian culture in a wedding hosted in North America, here are a few ways to insert the ‘Naija’ style and rock your wedding to the fullest in the ‘Naija’ way!
1. Food: Banky W said “ain’t no party like a Lagos party”, but many Nigerians will add “ain’t no wedding like a Jollof wedding”. The food is VERY important and we Nigerians don’t play when it comes to that. It’s weird but I can’t express the disappointment I heard in voices when I told people that my wedding was not having naija food. I even felt worse for those who did not get the memo early only to come and be served pasta, geez, their hearts must have been broken into pieces! “You mean no Jollof? Gerrarraherrrreeee!”
The difficulty in having Nigerian food at your North American wedding comes from the fact that many locations do not allow outside catering, or the ones that do add an extra premium for that, making it cost much more. For someone who is on a budget, this can be highly challenging as it was my case. So I had to weigh my options and eat my Jollof rice the night before the wedding, hahaha!
Navigating this: There are not so many ways around this. If you can find a location that allows outside food and you can afford it, well then, that’s all settled. But if not, consider cutting the budget from a not so important area and moving funds around to cover for the high cost of having your Jollof rice. At the end of the day, it’s all about prioritizing.
Another compromise might be to find a venue that would allow you use outside catering for only the appetizers. So though no Jollof, if snacks like suya meat, puff puff and the likes are present, you might be forgiven by those disappointed jollof-wanting guests.
2. Guest List/Invitation: Back home in Nigeria, a 300 people wedding could easily be considered as a small/intimate wedding. No kidding, the weddings in Nigeria are huge and I know cases where 500 were invited and 1000 showed up. It’s weird but there is the mentality of bringing one’s whole village if possible to a wedding of a total stranger.
Coming to North America, some adjusting has to be done! First of all, venues have capacity limits so such scenarios can’t possibly work out. Secondly, in this part of the world unlike some places back home, the cost is per head. So to pay for 500 guests and then get a bill for 1000 after the wedding would absolutely frustrating. One has to think very critically on navigating the idea that any and everyone can just show up to your wedding without being invited.
Navigating this: As crazy as it may seem, you may just have to consider a destination wedding in the middle of Mars! That’s one of the easiest ways to avoid those happy and well meaning wedding crashers. If that’s not an option, consider not publicizing your wedding plans. Again as crazy as it may seem, you may have to keep your wedding planning excitement in private chats and off social media. That way, things are hush-hush and the wedding crashers have no clue.
Lastly insist on your wedding invitation that it is an event strictly by invitation. This information would still fly over some people’s heads but at least it’s worth a try. Depending on other factors of the couple, one might have to consider having a bouncer, lol! No, don’t think of it as those big bodied guards you see outside the clubs, just think of it as a well able person who is by the entrance with the seating chart ensuring everyone who gets in actually has a designated seat and table.
3. Music: Up until this day, if there is anything I vividly remember from my wedding day with a smile aside from my husband, it would be my dance floor. I am yet to experience such Naija groove again. After the Jollof rice, next would be the music for a wedding to be fully declared as a Nigerian wedding. And for those like me who fell short with my food, I had the music to make up for it.
Nigerians LOVE their afro beats and they don’t play when it comes to that. On a good day they can listen to Rihanna and Drake but bring them to a wedding and give them Davido, Kiss Daniel and co, and they’d lose it! Everyone says the entertainment in a wedding is something that would always be remembered and good music plays a huge role.
Navigating this: Luckily enough a Naija DJ is not that hard to find in North America. However, this is something that needs to be planned way ahead of time because though they are not few, they are still in high demand and can easily be fully booked (especially the highly recommended ones.). Depending on when your wedding is (peak period or non-peak), you may have to secure your wedding DJ very early.
Remember that all DJs are not equal, ensure you listen to their play list before signing the contract. If possible, attend their parties or events to get a feel of how they work and excite the crowd. Trust me, people would remember how they felt on your dance floor (not necessarily your wedding decor) 10 years from now.
So there you go, 3 areas of your wedding that can easily be used to describe whether your North American wedding was indeed a Nigerian one or not. Did I miss anything? Comment below and share other major areas couples can insert the Nigerian culture into their weddings!