Well, well, well, look who just got lucky! Did you receive an invite to a Nigerian wedding, or better yet, do you find yourself tying the knot with a Nigerian? Buckle up, my friend, because you're in for an experience! As you may already have heard through the grapevines, Nigerian weddings are known for their colorful and lively atmosphere, as well as ceremonies that last longer than the Lord of the Rings trilogy. However there’s more to it than that. Nigerian weddings are all about celebrating love, culture, and tradition.
Attending a Nigerian wedding can be a thrilling and exciting experience, especially if you're not Nigerian. If you'll be heading to one, here are 7 things you can expect.
Wedding Guest/Partner Checklist
1. Vibrant & Colorful Atmosphere
One of the first things you'll notice at a Nigerian wedding is the vibrant and colorful atmosphere. The vibrant weddings are elevated by the lavish color themed décor and guests dressed in matching traditional attire, known as an Aso-Ebi.
2. Dressing Etiquette
What do you wear to a Nigerian wedding?
Are worried you may be under dressed or overdressed? One thing to know is that there's no such things as being overdressed at a Nigerian wedding, as Nigerians tend to be very well dressed and come to make a fashion statement.
The Aso-Ebi (pronounced: ah-shaw eh-bee), is an outfit worn by family and friends of the bride and groom. The colors and patterns of the Aso-Ebi are carefully chosen to reflect the theme of the wedding and to add to the festive atmosphere. Typically the families pick an Aso-Ebi fabric and distribute it to their friends and chosen guests who are then tasked with the responsibility of making an outfit from it. No need to worry -getting an outfit tailored in Nigeria is as common as ordering a pumpkin spice latte at Starbucks. If you need some guidance, you can start by asking your host for tailor recommendations.
To pick a design that's suitable to your style, head to Pinterest or search hashtags on Instagram (e.g. #AsoEbi or #AsoEbiBella or #AsoEbiStyles). Once that's finalized, send it to your tailor who will also get your measurements taken.
If you’re part of the Aso-Ebi crew, you’re kinda covered on that front, unless there's an expected outfit change for different ceremonies or as determined by your role on the day. Find out what’s required but typically most hosts are ok with guests wearing the Aso-Ebi throughout the ceremonies.
If you’re not part of the Aso-Ebi crew, err on the side of caution and dress up! Like proper dress up, as if you're going to a black tie event. If you’re a Westerner, the chances of you standing out for being underdressed are likely if casual is your vibe. If you’re overdressed you’ll likely be fine but it’s always a good idea to check in with your hosts.
3. Multiple Ceremonies & Rituals
Nigerian wedding ceremonies are usually long and lavish affairs, with different ceremonies lasting over 1-3 days on average as determined by the couple. Each ceremony can take several hours, and it's usually a blend of traditional and religious customs. You'll witness the exchange of vows, the presentation of gifts, and other important rituals that are unique to the culture and signify the union of the couple.
There are typically 3 stages to the ceremony: a traditional wedding, a Western/church wedding and the reception.
Image: BellaNaija (Eby & Emeka's Igbo Wedding)
In the traditional ceremony, the bride and groom are dressed in the traditional Nigerian attire - and this can vary based on the tribe. The Western church ceremony follows with the religious rituals and exchange of vows. Some couples opt for one of the ceremonies, but most typically have both ceremonies. After this, the new couple take pictures with their friends and families, and this can last for several hours before the reception. The reception is where the real party happens and it typically runs into the evening. Most Nigerian weddings have a Master of Ceremony (aka an MC) hosting their reception to carry along the schedule of events and also bring the fun.
4. Time May Stand Still
On a more important note, Nigerian weddings tend to not start on time. So don't be surprised if you're the first to arrive. It may also be beneficial to clarify with your host (depending on your relationship) if they'll stick to Nigerian time so you're not left waiting for hours. Despite the ambitious nature of Nigerians, this does not translate to our social life unfortunately. Overall, Nigerian weddings tend to fun-filled, laid back and can go on for long.
5. A Feast/Banquet
Ever heard of the Jollof wars? A Nigerian wedding is the best place to test out the theory and realize that Nigerian jollof is the best in Africa (jkjk) :) Regardless of your jollof preference, you'll be in for a treat as a guest.
Since most Nigerians are meat lovers, you would be flush with options at Nigerian weddings which are famous for their delicious food. However, it is important to verbalize dietary needs and restrictions in advance or ensure your host will accommodate it and you’re not surprised at the the ceremony.
The wedding reception usually includes a wide variety of dishes like Jollof rice, fried rice, pounded yam, Egusi soup, and more. Guests are usually treated to a buffet-style meal with different stations serving various dishes.
6. Don't Forget Your Dancing Shoes
Nigerians are known for their love of music and dancing, and a wedding is no exception. Expect to see a live band or a DJ playing a mix of Nigerian music and other popular tunes. Hello #Afrobeat! With the popularity of afrobeat today, there are numerous playlists on Youtube or Spotify as well as dance moves you can practice before the D-day.
One way Nigerians display their happiness and support the couple is to spray money on them while they're dancing. Like literally throw money on them. The spraying of money culturally signifies blessing and is common in most ceremonies like birthdays, anniversaries and more. You can get some cash beforehand if you intend to show your support and participate in this fun experience.
The wedding reception is an opportunity for guests to let loose and dance to their heart's content. Overall, Nigerian weddings are known for their energetic and lively dancing, so don't be shy about joining in the fun.
7. Strong Sense Of Community
One of the most remarkable things about Nigerian weddings is the strong sense of community. Nigerian weddings are often a family affair, with family and friends coming together to celebrate the couple's union. You'll witness the love and support that the couple receives from their community, and you'll feel like you're part of something special. Don't be surprised if you're invited to join in the festivities and feel like a part of the family.
In conclusion, attending a Nigerian wedding as a non-Nigerian can be a thrilling and unforgettable experience. You can expect to see a vibrant and colorful atmosphere, feast on delicious Nigerian cuisine, dance to energetic music, witness a long and lavish ceremony, and feel a strong sense of community. Nigerian weddings are a celebration of love, culture, and tradition, and you'll leave with a deeper appreciation of Nigerian culture and its people.