While Nigerian weddings are much more than the ceremony: they represent a celebration of love, a fresh beginning as well as, ideally, a never-ending union, they are still plagued by a number of issues.
A wedding is generally assumed to be the greatest show or celebration of love between a couple. This assumption is more of a modern-day understanding of the ceremony, as it meant the farthest thing from that back in the day. Decades back, people married for stability, to join assets, unify families or form allegiances and so the wedding was merely ceremonial and it didn’t symbolize much. However, these days, weddings are much more than the ceremony. They represent a celebration of love, a fresh beginning as well as, ideally, a never-ending union. Unfortunately, weddings — especially Nigerian weddings — still carry some archaic ideas. They are mostly heteronormative and hedge on values which assign women to be a man’s cook, home-maker and bed mate. It is no coincidence that many of the practices and routine activities of that day seem to also reflect these values or ideals.
One of such practices is the pressure to lose weight for the ‘big day’. This pressure is almost exclusive to the bride and her bridal party. Unfortunately, many women admit to choosing their bridal party based on aesthetics and not actual friendships. Women have been pressured to lose weight in order to be in their friends’ bridal party. If they eventually do not, they are removed and replaced with someone who fits the societal standard of what a bridesmaid should look like. While this issue persists till this day and it’s one of the more glaring issues with planning a wedding, there’s also the subtle issue of women picking their bridesmaid based on skin tone. This becomes more apparent when pictures are taken and every single one is reflected in a specific shade. There’s an emphasis on the aesthetics of the wedding — which could mean that those who would “smear” the aesthetics will be relegated to the background — rather than the actually celebrating love and surrounding one with loved ones.
There is also the appalling idea that the more uncomfortable a bride on their wedding day, the better. Often, brides feel pressure to drop massive amounts of weight in expectation of their big day. Many brides will even buy dresses smaller than them or just below their average weight in order to make ‘improved lifestyle choices’ before the wedding date. There is a universal acceptance that we must struggle into our dresses rather than prioritize comfort, ease and fun as the grooms’ party would be free to.
Another unhealthy practice is the seating of the bride and groom’s family away from one another, as if they are not fully married yet, just practicing. It’s probably the most ironic tradition in Nigerian weddings because weddings are supposed to be the marriage of families and not just between the couples. Rather than fostering camaraderie and love between both families, we encourage division and separation between both houses. Family A and their guests sit at one corner while Family B and friends occupy another corner. At some point, weddings become less about the couple celebrating and more about the families. While it's true that different families have their traditions and separating them on the d-day will ensure no one inconveniences the other, it still enforces the notion that weddings are more about the family and not about the couple. There’s the also the issue of people trying to center themselves in other people’s wedding ceremonies. That one big uncle, that aunty you haven’t seen in ages trying to center themselves in a wedding they were probably indirectly invited for. Mummy Tunde, take several seats, everything is catered for. Just enjoy and celebrate the couple.
Many couples experience stress on their big days as a result of the ‘circus’ that comes around weddings. It's why more and more, people want smaller weddings or destination weddings where they have a handle on what actually happens on their own wedding. While I personally enjoy the celebrations, I also do not feel the need to indulge in unhealthy practices such as the aforementioned because it tends to drain the life out of what is supposed to be one of the happiest days of your life . It would be a let-down to spend so much money and not even be able to keep fun memories of the event because it became less about the celebrants and more about the egos and excesses of the family present.
While traditions are obviously hard to stop or circumvent, taking hard stances and making certain compromises might be the key to fully enjoying your wedding. Get a wedding planner if you can afford one. Even if you do not have a planner or you can’t afford one, it is important to put a trusted few in charge of things for that day — people that know you well and will prioritize your needs and wants and not turn your wedding to their own private party or make things unnecessarily sticky or difficult.