— By Hausa Nigerian. Edited and revised for AllAboutNaijaWeddings.com
Captivated by the elegance and efficiency of one of the most viewed ceremony this year: the royal wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton, it doesn’t take much to get the mind wondering about what such a wedding would have been like if the couples were Nigerians. Below are some differences in culture between a Nigerian and a British wedding. Though this deals with a comparison between the British and Nigerians as it relates to the underlying ceremony celebrating the union of man and woman, the same comparison can be applied to other western nationalities like Americans.
Brits: Invitations are sent out weeks ahead to guests with final numbers strictly adhered to for catering and seating purposes. The invite is usually from the bride and groom and the design and style can be elegant or humorous.
Nigerians: The concept of invitation-only weddings seems selfish to Nigerians so everyone is welcome, even the bride’s friend’s sister’s neighbour or the groom’s tennis coach’s girlfriend’s aunt. But invitations do go out and are usually formal and from the couple’s parents requesting your attendance to their children’s wedding.
Brits: The church is no longer the only acceptable place for Brits to swap vows and weddings now take place in McDonald’s, on roller coasters, under water and in pubs.
Nigerians: Religion is of huge importance to Nigerians and the majority of weddings take place in a church or mosque. The thought of conducting a service in an informal setting is laughable and would bring shame and ridicule to the traditionally minded parents of the couple.
Brits: The couple’s mothers tend to want to dictate a large portion of the occasion and are very hands on with arrangements. They can, however, be forced to be flexible so that everyone is happy.
Nigerians: The couple’s mothers tend to want to dictate a large portion of the occasion and are very hands on with arrangements. The younger generation often succumbs to the desires of the elders.
Brits: Time-keeping is important and efforts are made to keep to schedule and not over-run. The Order of Service are followed closely and even speeches are timed to the minute.
Nigerians: Time-keeping? Ha! Does anyone even arrive wearing a watch? A 12pm start is really a 3:43pm start, the bridal party is expected to be very fashionably late, the sermon can last an hour, the reception starts when everybody gets there and the Order of Service is used as a hand-held fan.
Brits: The wedding party consists of three or four pairs of bridesmaids and grooms men, a best man and maid-of-honour, a page-boy and one or two flower-girls.
Nigerians: The wedding party consists of nine or ten pairs of bridesmaids and grooms men, a best man and maid-of-honour, two or three page-boys and three or four flower-girls.
Brits: Smart, formal dresses, suits and hats in conservative colours. Female guests avoid wearing white so as not to upstage the bride.
Nigerians: Colours galore! From the monumental geles on the women’s heads to the elaborately patterned aso-ebis and ankara dresses on show, fashion is a serious factor in Nigerian weddings. Sunglasses are common and large jewellery, matching accessories and green crocodile-skin shoes for men are welcome. Friends and family of the bride wear the same coloured fabric tailored to suit their individual styles and the groom’s guests wear another.
The couple have two opportunities to showcase their couture, first at the traditional wedding (with a separate cake, traditional vows, bride price and lots of postrating before elders) where everyone wears native attire, then at the white wedding although guests can wear native dress to both.
Brits: The sermon by the Vicar is scripted and traditional and lasts no more than 20 minutes.
Nigerians: The sermon by the Pastor is unscripted and includes much advice, humorous marriage anecdotes and audience participation and can last an hour.
Brits: Colour-themed, draped chairs and tables, centre-pieces and favours.
Nigerians: Colour-themed, draped chairs and tables, centre-pieces, favours and snacks like chin-chin and puff- puff, canned drinks and large juice cartons waiting on the tables.
NUMBER OF GUESTS
Brits: Guests can number from 10 to 300 for a large wedding.
Nigerians: Guests can number from 200 to 3,000 for a large wedding
Brits: There are place-names and everyone knows where they ought to sit. There is also a top table for the bridal party.
Nigerians: There are no place-names and everyone sits where they want. There is a top table on a stage for the bridal party.
Brits: A set menu of three courses including dessert, tabled or from a buffet with alcohol a-plenty from a bar
Nigerians: A varied buffet serving up to twelve dishes including jollof rice, fried rice, yam, meat and fish dishes, salad, sauces and pounded yam. There is no dessert (except the wedding cake) but lots of soft drinks and non-alcoholic malt beer like Supermalt. There is usually no alcohol.
Brits: A live band playing guitar-led music or a wedding singer
Nigerians: An energetic live band playing drum-led music with religious lyrics
Brits: Bride and Groom have the first dance, then guests dance demurely until drunk when their moves become more comical and exuberant.
Nigerians: Bride and Groom have the first dance and are expected to energetically showcase their dance skills whilst guests paste dollar bills on their foreheads which drop to the ground and are gathered up by a member of the bridal party employed for such a task. The guests then dance with exuberance without the need for alcohol.
Brits: Wedding presents are expected and given, often from a gift list but giving money is frowned upon.
Nigerians: Wedding presents are expected but many guests arrive empty-handed. Giving money in white envelopes is common and appreciated. Towards the end of the evening, the newly married couple go around thanking each guest for their attendance and give them gifts bearing a picture of the couple and a message from the gifts’ sponsor, e.g. mugs, calendars, bowls, trays and other useful household items with a smiling picture of ‘Bunmi and Ade; 22/05/10 May God Bless Your Union; Love from the Adenuga Family.’