My, BIG … quaint, great Nigerian Wedding

When you say, “I’ve been invited to a Nigerian wedding”, everyone has high expectations. It’s wow! You are going to a BIG huge wedding! Take pictures!

Well, the one I was invited to was big in many ways. It was fun, well organized, flowed well, happy like all weddings, but most importantly, intimate and quaint!

Someone mentioned to me, “Can you imagine a wedding in Lagos for two hundred people??? Na wa o! We should have had it in London!” I smiled knowingly because I know exactly what BIG FAT Nigerian weddings are like.

I had the privilege to attend “my brother’s” Uzo’s wedding; this was a well-organized, quaint wedding in Nigeria! Many wouldn’t believe such a wedding would take place. You know, “small, two hundred guests, held in a quaint church, not boisterous and overwhelming”. In fact, the excitement was preparing for this wedding.  Uzo’s parents are my family friends and always treated me like family; they were extremely excited about the forthcoming wedding and shared the “traditional wedding” pictures, so excitement was already in the air.

When I received an invitation call from Uzo, I went into planning to attend and luckily, my friend Makin was in town from Lagos, and we started the wheels rolling! First we needed to know the colors –  that was the easy part, the invitation card said “Gold and Ivory”.

Then he asked, what is the color of the “Gele“? I was like “Eh? Just call and find out”.

Gold is the color of the “Gele“-  this is the head gear that is wrapped round your head. To quote ““Gele” is the name given to the head wrap synonymous with the Yoruba in Nigeria. Aso-Oke, Brocade, Hayes Original and Damask are just some of the materials used for a “gele””,

Preparations went into full gear. A tailor was called (who incidentally had my measurements before my load shedding) and informed me of the details of the wedding I was attending. Now to deal with the logistics: how would I get to the wedding and where would I stay?

Another call to a friend, “Consider it done! We will arrange it and let you know the details”.

Once the ticket was booked, I did the countdown to May 26.

I spread my infectious enthusiasm to an old friend of Uzo’s and I just couldn’t wait for the day to arrive. I suppose it’s because it was the first time for me to leave Kenya to attend a wedding by design. I felt important, included and of course excited to attend a wedding that promised to be different.  I’ve attended weddings in other countries, but by accident, as a guest of my host…more on that later.

As soon as I arrived in Lagos I was full of excitement and anxiety.  Where’s my dress? Where’s the famous “gele”? I was looking at a website that had these beautiful African outfits with the most elaborate “gele’s” and would imagine and visualize myself looking magnificent just like the Nigerian women!

Eventually it all fell into place on the day, tailor arrived with outfit; my gele arrived in flat starched material for me to discover that I needed someone who knows how to tie it! Quickly solved by another friend and the friend’s friend threw in a make-up artist as well! If this is what I was going through, what about the bride?  When I was ready to step out, the driver was waiting  to take me to the wedding.

As soon as I stepped out of the air conditioned room to enter the car something strange happened … my gele moved, it felt like a gush of wind was pushing it away and threatening to make it fly away like a kite! Then when I entered the car with hand on gele I hit my head on edge of the car because spatially I didn’t know how much head room I needed to duck to enter the vehicle. A sense of anxiety and fear descending on me, not to mention the heat that would make my make-up melt!

I said to the driver hoping there was no panic in my voice, “Kelvin, my gele is moving, and I’m not sure what to do!”

“Sorry ma, let me put the mirror down for you to adjust it, so we are not late for the church wedding”. He quickly moved the front seat and pulled down the sun visor with the mirror to allow me to see myself.

I thought, this is not helping, “Kelvin, I need pins to hold this down, what do we do?”

He of course had a solution: “Ma, I think we should go to a hairdresser on the way to church”.

So off to the hairdresser and I walked in explaining, “Excuse me, I need your help, my gele is not seating properly”.

Immediately the whole salon jumped in to assist.

Aah, aa! Who did this for you now?” one asked “Did they charge you? Mscheeew! Ha, but the color suits you now!”

I then drowned them, “Can you help me with some pins?”

In unison the answer came “Paper clips!” Apparently you can’t show hairpins on a Gele, its tacky! No one in this salon had hair pins! “Banange!” is an Ugandan expression I like to use when I’m caught between a rock and hard place that means “OMG!”

In the meantime, a male hairdresser removed my gele, commented that my recently permed hair was not helping and then called the assistance of two others to now push my gele down so that it would stay in place. I was advised not to shake my head and hug people lest it falls.

Kelvin had this incredulous look on his face and said “”Ma, we will be late and I don’t think they can help us, let’s leave!”

We left to seek alternative help from another hairdresser who after another twenty minutes sorted me out; I could shake my head and hug people without my Gele threatening to fall.

I arrived in church, ten minutes late and was glad to find I hadn’t missed much; I laughed quietly to myself (LQTM) and sent out a thank you text to all my friends who made it possible for me to arrive to the wedding looking fabulous! Then, I went into full swing enjoyment and lived in the present.

The wedding was quaint and great, small and full of joy, church was a happy affair, full of music and dance and an excellent pastor who expected energy from the bride and groom and congregation. The reception, equally as fun, dancing, few speeches, wine, food, new friends to meet, old friends to surprise! I hardly sat down, I was everywhere and very much at the wedding and I could see that it made a difference that many of us came from other countries to celebrate with Uzo  and his bride Ijeoma and their families. It also helped it was a small wedding; they knew who came to their wedding and were able to meet and thank them in person.

It’s impossible to leave a Nigerian wedding without a gift’s from the bride and groom, so we all received gift of an engraved mug, a cutting board and knife and bowls in luminous green and gold bags.

Wedding was done by seven in the evening and that ended my wonderful day!

More information on Gele: visit


The first time I attended a Nigerian wedding I found it odd that my host said. “I’ll be networking and you will sight see!”.

I thought how strange! How can a wedding be a sightseeing event? I had just read about the upcoming event in ThisDay, Nigeria’s leading newspaper. On Sundays they publish Style a glossy magazine pullout which had the day’s events, it mentioned that a newly appointed Minister’s daughter was getting married that day. It was dubbed “wedding of the year”, and the wedding was happening on the last Sunday before Christmas. Naturally, I didn’t even imagine that I’d attend such an event, so I carried on reading about other news.

I was surprised when my host and friend said we are going to a Minister’s daughter’s wedding. I showed him the article and he said that’s the one!

“Don’t we need invitation cards?”, I asked.

“Don’t mind, we are already “invited”, he replied. “I need to network with the new ministers, while you sightsee”.

Well, I whipped out an outfit, and went to the wedding in “a stadium”…the starting point of shock and awe of the event.

Everything was at a grand scale, I wasn’t so sure where to look…at the front or was it the back? Traditional dancers welcoming guests as they alighted from their chauffeur driven vehicles.  What about the life size or is it grand life size screens at the corner of each tent, filming current proceedings to the audience? The huge rotating fans offering relief from the heat, the tables full of paraphernalia, drinks – no less pink Tattinger champagne – bottles of red and white wine, every different soda you can think of, water, etc.

Everyone you met was welcoming, I was shown a table not too far from the stage, yet closer to a big screen and closer to a rotating fan which blew cool air on my face and spoiled my hair! But was too excited to care, there were so many things happening at the same time, a huge procession was entering the tent to the latest tune of P Square which was spot on! I asked one of the guests why the procession was so long, looked like about thirty odd walking down the aisle in the same color clothes. He thought my question odd. But  I explained that this was foreign to me, he happily became my tour guide for the whole event. The color of the bride was beige, the color of the groom, blue. We happened to be sitting on the beige side, the procession were a mixture of the bride and groom, accompanied by the maids and groom’s men as well their friends.

The rest of the wedding passed like a whirlwind, there was a lot of activity including the world renowned musician Sunny Ade’s performance. I was overwhelmed and stunned, in Kenya one would say “completely tishwad!“. As I later described it to friends in an email “Went to a wedding, very exciting and glamorous function -  was agog most of the time!” I even forgot to take pictures! When I finally arrived at my hotel, I realized I had no documentation except my outfit which thank God I had good mind to come with!

See this link from CNN that more or less give a picture of what to expect: Nigeria’s Wedding Boom




4 Responses to “My, BIG … quaint, great Nigerian Wedding”

  1. Gladys O
    August 8, 2012 at 12:14 pm #

    sightseeing…nigerian wedding! LOL. Like like like

  2. Uandi
    August 12, 2012 at 8:40 pm #

    Great post and love your outfit! Yes we Nigerians can be over the top with weddings. Would be nice to see more intimate, quaint weddings focused on the bride & groom as well : )

  3. Malose
    September 1, 2012 at 6:36 am #

    Africans like big get togethers. Big weddings, Big funerals. And I think it’s safe. Because I had a small wedding. My upward mobile friends from Jo’burg liked the wedding but my friends and family from home (rural part of the country) suffered. Around midnight my cousin came to me & said they had not eaten and I must give them money to go buy food. I was horrified. It turned out that they were fed but the serving was not quite enough & in keeping with the appetite. We eat you see. And the exquisite venue served a French cuisine & the chicken was more stuffed than there was meat. Off they went looking for food. My one uncle called them to ease their misery & said he was forward looking & recognized a problem was looming. So he had slipped out & bought buckets of Kentucky Fried Chicken. The entourage looking for food had just finished speaking to my life saving uncle when I called them. There was pandemonium in the bus & I got fright the noise in the background was due to something horrific like an attempted high jack or accident. My cousin said not to worry, “Oupa has KFC waiting for us at the hotel”. I thought you know, I should have had a big fat wedding in a big white marquee & with half the village there probably at half the cost I paid in a posh venue in Sandton, Johannesburg.

  4. Kip
    July 4, 2013 at 10:07 pm #

    If you had the wedding in Ossen probably the whole village would have plates full of ugali + nyama. And KFC will be nowhere.

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