Traditional Nigerian Weddings; What To Expect
Nigerian culture is a beautiful thing.
From the people to the music to the culture, there are a million aspects that insiders take pride in and outsiders watch covetously.
One of their more popular traditions are the highly talked about weddings.
With delicious food, hours of dancing, and the beautiful couple, here’s what you can expect at a traditional Nigerian wedding.
Tons Of People
If there’s one thing you can expect to find at a traditional Nigerian wedding, it’s a ton of people.
You’d better be ready for tons of meet and greets.
In Nigerian culture, weddings are a big deal.
While you might be thinking that it’s obvious because weddings are a big deal everywhere, they hold an even bigger importance within the culture.
Marrying off your children is a great sense of pride for Nigerian parents, so you can expect that all of their friends and most of their acquaintances will be in attendance.
Guest lists at a Nigerian wedding is often merely a suggestion, so the couple and their families usually prepare themselves for a large group of unannounced guests.
If you feel uncomfortable around large crowds, prepare yourself because the guest list will run deep.
Two Ceremonies Is Tradition
Do you have Nigerian friends?
When it’s time for them to get married, you can expect to be invited to two ceremonies.
In line with their culture, the first ceremony will be more traditional where they wear their traditional attire.
The second ceremony will more commonly resemble what we’re use to in Western culture where the bride will wear a white wedding gown.
If you’re thinking these ceremonies will take place in the same day, they won’t.
Clear your calendars!
You’ll most likely need to clear your weekend to attend the wedding.
The traditional ceremony often happens the day before the “white wedding.”
On day two, this is when you can except to break it down on the dance floor at the reception.
Multiple Nigerian Wedding Dresses
Since there are multiple ceremonies, you can expect to see the bride in multiple dresses.
For the traditional day of the wedding, you’ll often find her in attire that includes a lace blouse, kaftan-like skirts, and head tie.
You’ll most likely see the bride in the white dress for day two of the festivities.
Don’t expect to see her in it for long though.
You can expect her to change out of her white dress for the reception.
For the reception, she’ll don a brand-new gown to introduce herself into married life.
Aso ebi is another popular Nigerian tradition.
If you’ve attended a Nigerian wedding before, you’ll find that many people end up wearing the same fabric.
Coincidence? Not at all.
Aso ebi is a Yoruba phrase.
It is reserved for the family and friends of the married couple.
As the couple prepares to get married, they settle on a fabric to share with their close ones.
This fabric is then used to create their attire for the wedding.
You might even see the aso ebi (or bride tribe) have an entrance of their own at the festivities.
Elaborate Decor At Nigerian Weddings
As I mentioned before, Nigerian weddings have a large sense of pride behind them.
Because of this, you can expect a lot of extravagance.
While the décor will be set up in a manner to promote the romance and love story of the couple, you can expect to find a lot of bling bling as well.
Definitely not the most budget-friendly cultural weddings you’ll attend, you can expect to see the lush and lavish put behind the attire, set up, flowers, food, and more.
Dollar, Dollar Bills, Y’all
You might not be going to a strip club, but you need to prepare yourself with $1 bills.
In fact, before you think about writing that check and putting it in an envelope, think again.
If you’re headed to a Nigerian wedding, take yourself to the bank and get lots and lots of change.
And if you don’t have time, chances are you might find an auntie roaming around the party ready to make change for you.
Spraying money is another popular tradition you’ll find at a Nigerian wedding.
This is when the guests “spray” or shower the bride (or couple) with money.
While this can happen at any time during the wedding, it’s most common when the couple is dancing.
You might be wondering what happens with all that money if people are dancing on it all night.
Depending on the bride, either the family or bridesmaids will be tasked with collecting the money.
Don’t be surprised if you see them walking around the dance floor with a broom and pail.
Choreographed Dancing Is Tradition At Nigerian Marriage Ceremonies
If you’re not totally immersed in Nigerian culture and aren’t familiar with the music, you might be slightly confused about the dancing.
When everyone is out on the dance floor, you’ll often see them break into what seems to be a choreographed dance.
Before you feel left out, don’t fret just yet.
Similar to American culture, there are many dances in Nigerian culture that they break out into when the timing feels right.
Don’t be embarrassed to jump right in.
Chances are you’ll be able to find an auntie or cousin who is willing to show you a few moves out on the dance floor.
Now we know that most of us run on CP time.
Let’s face it – half of the people we know don’t know how to be on time.
For some reason, it seems worse when it comes to Caribbean and African people.
One tip with what to expect at a Nigerian wedding is to never arrive hungry.
You might be thinking that the wait can’t be that long between the ceremony and the reception, and trust me, it can.
Think of all the factors that are being added between it.
Not only does the couple have to take pictures, but if you remember from our earlier point, the bride will likely be changing her outfit.
With the outfit change probably comes makeup and hair touch ups.
Before you know it, 2+ hours have passed and you’re ready to eat your hand.
For any Nigerian weddings on your calendar, make sure you’re prepared to start eating dinner late.
Amazing Food At These Traditional Nigerian Weddings
While our previous point will tell you that you won’t be eating until hours after you’ve planned, you can expect an assortment of delicious Nigerian cuisine.
Another common practice at Nigerian weddings is that the food will be served buffet style.
Because it is often hard to anticipate the number of people who will be coming, buffet style seems to serve a better purpose of endless food for “wedding crashers.”
And while the food will be in abundance, it will also be delicious.
You’ll have classics from jollof rice and pounded yam to moin moin and ofada sauce.
For more dishes you might find at the buffet table, these traditional Nigerian dishes might all be on the menu.
Delicious Nigerian “Chocolate” Cake
Upon first glance, you might think that chocolate cake is being served at traditional Nigerian weddings.
You’d be wrong.
While dark in color, there’s absolutely nothing chocolate about these cakes.
There are two things you can almost always expect out of these cakes – raisins and a slightly alcoholic taste.
Unless you’re going to the same baker, you’ll find that these cakes are rarely ever exactly the same.
While you’ll find most of the regular cake ingredients, this delicious cake often features standout ingredients like butterscotch flavor, nutmeg, black treacle, and brandy.
Partying Until The Break Of Dawn
If you love to party, I hope you’re ready for a long night (and morning)!
One thing you can definitely expect at a traditional Nigerian wedding is a party!
While the reception might start any time in the evening, don’t be surprised if your invitation doesn’t come with an end date.
Many Nigerian weddings take place at a hall, and you shouldn’t be surprised to find that often times, the couple might have the space until 3 or 4AM.
With that being said, make sure you bring a change of shoes and maybe a cup of coffee.
You’ll need it to get through the night!
What To Wear To A Traditional Nigerian Wedding
Now, when you’re attending a Nigerian wedding, one of the most important things is deciding what you are going to wear.
The first thing to consider when you’re attending a Nigerian wedding and planning your attire is if you’ll be wearing the aso ebi.
If you weren’t explicitly asked by someone in the wedding party, don’t be scared to ask either the bride or groom if you’re required to wear it.
After all, buying the fabric and then having your attire made out of it can be expensive!
If not, here’s what you can do.
First, if you’re not wearing the aso ebi but still want to go with a traditional fabric, make sure they don’t look similar.
You’ll run the risk of looking like you’re trying to hard to be a part of the “bride tribe.”
Just pick a print you love and go with it.
Second, you should already know to stay away from white.
If you’re going for a regular dress, feel free to choose a bright color.
And if all else fails, black always works.
Third, no scandalous outfits, please.
It’s a wedding!
Parents, grandparents, and children will be in attendance, and it’s not a good look to look like you’re about to drop it like it’s hot.
Lastly, make sure you’re comfortable.
You’re in for a night of eating and dancing, so make sure you’ll be able to make it through the night without regretting your outfit.
Traditional Nigerian Weddings Conclusion
Nigerian weddings are grandiose, fun, and guaranteed to be a night you’ll never forget.
From the beautiful bride and groom to the amazing venue to the extravagant décor, the day is designed not only to be magical for the couple but for the guests as well.
If you have a few Nigerian weddings to attend on the horizon, get ready!
Brush up on your music and get a new dress!
You’ll be a Naija girl before you know it!