'Go big or go home':
Whether the budget is 3m naira or 50m, Nigerian nuptials are loud, flamboyant and often come with their own hashtag
You can go to a wedding in Lagos every day between April and December – and you don’t even need to be invited, says Mo Dharrah Sage, editor of the Nigerian Wedding Blog.
Ostentatious nuptials have always been part of the country’s culture, but industry veterans say they’ve become even more competitive with the arrival of the internet.
Millions of Nigerians follow specialist Instagram accounts devoted to documenting the biggest and best celebrations, with couples vying to be featured on wedding blogs and reality TV shows.
Folake Ojo, the executive producer of Nigeria’s Top Weddings, says it is a multimillion dollar industry that is growing incredibly fast.
In Lagos, the country’s cultural hub, weddings have been taken to “another level”, say bloggers at Bella Naija, pointing to the Vera Wang ball-gown, Christian Louboutin shoes and “next-level wedding decor” seen at the recent union of socialites Joke and Azeez Ogedengbe.
The January marriage of radio presenter Tolu Oniru ‘Toolz’ and her pilot fiancé Tunde Demuren was said to among the most star-studded parties Lagos has yet seen. It was one of the most anticipated weddings of 2016, wrote Nairaland. “The celebrity wedding was the talk of the town … graced by royalties from different parts of Nigeria,” added Nigerian Newspapers Today.
Held at the Landmark Centre in Lekki, a global conference venue with a capacity of at least 1,000, the wedding even had its own hashtag, #Tsquared2016, which has since appeared on nearly 4,000 Intagram pictures.
The photographs bring a whole new meaning to the term “squad goals”.
So what makes a wedding in the city standout? “The number of people,” says Sage. “[The best weddings] are more lavish and there is there is money flowing. Nigerians love to enjoy themselves, especially in Lagos.”
So much so that the parties tend to be open to all, with no need for an invitation.
But it’s the celebrity weddings with star-studded guest lists that have captivated the Nigerian blogosphere, which is quick to highlight the best dressed and most outrageous.
In January the high-profile couple Abiodun and Abiola Desanya entered their wedding reception in a Range Rover alongside their young son – who was driving a mini Mercedes Benz.
Sage says the most outlandish thing she has witnessed is a couple being showered with dollar bills. Spraying money is a Nigerian wedding tradition, but usually with naira, not dollars.
Such oppulence may be limited to the ultra-rich, but Sage says even among the bulk of the population the motto is “go big or go home”. The average Nigerian wedding has between 350-500 guests and costs between 2-3m naira (£7,000-£10,000), she says..
One of the biggest trends of the moment is the pre-wedding shoot. Couples are seen sunning themselves on holiday or enjoying their favourite pastime, often in matching his-and-hers outfits.
It’s then customary to disseminate the pictures with another popular trend: the wedding hashtag, buoyed by Instagram’s growing popularity in Nigeria.
“That’s when you know the wedding has started. It helps to include people in the wedding preparation, especially those relatives living abroad,” says Sage.
Instagram accounts, including those run by the Nigerian Wedding Blog and Bella Naija, profile pictures of real weddings sent in by couples, make-up artists or professional photographers.
They serve to provide inspiration, chart the fashion and poke fun at the possible dramas awaiting the wedding party.
Such is the reach of their platform Sage says she has to warn contributors not to share pictures of couples unless they have their explicit permission.
Nigerian customs may vary but there is one that applies across the board: “Namely, that a traditional wedding is all about the parents, and of course, the bride,” says Sage’s blog.
“No one brings the noise like Naija brides,” according to BuzzFeed, who once ran a 67-strong Instagram gallery in homage to them.
There are two terms that sum up the vibrant and colourful style of a traditional Nigerian wedding: Aso-ebi, the coordinated outfits worn by family and friends in the wedding party, and Aso-oke, those worn by the couple.
Some brides will wear dresses embellished with Swarovski crystals and beads which can costs thousands of naira. The bride’s parents also wear Aso-oke, but they don’t tend to be as grand, explains Sage.
The bride’s dress is important, but even more so is that her “make-up is on fleek”, says Sage.
“We’re seeing a lot of smokey eyes and ‘vampy’ dark lips at the moment,” adds Lagos-based fashion blogger Adetoke Oluwo.
Clothes wise, “most [couples] are embracing the African influences... with the ratio of Nigerians wearing Nigerian brands rising,” Oluwo adds.
Men have taken to wearing a local design known as Agbada – a three-piece garment signifying wealth and power.
Looking good is equally as important for the guests who are all hoping to be featured by one of Lagos’ top style blogs, says Oluwo: “The pressure is on, or should I say – it’s part of our culture to always look good irrespective of the occasion.”
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