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A Yoruba groom. / Jamie Tubers / Wikimedia
A Yoruba groom. / Jamie Tubers / Wikimedia
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11 Tips to Survive a Traditional Nigerian Wedding

Picture of Cynthia Okoroafor
Updated: 17 July 2017
Nigerian traditional weddings come in various sizes, ethnicities, and requirements and are possibly the most extravagant, festive, costly, loving, tasking, exciting, unforgettable, and important events you will ever attend to celebrate a marital union. People have risked their material possessions, as well as their physical and mental states, to partake in these ceremonies – from those directly involved all the way to guests. But don’t let this deter you. Here are 11 tips to make sure you emerge from a daunting traditional wedding ceremony in Nigeria and say, “I survived”.

Fulfil all familial requirements for a smooth-running ceremony

Let’s start here, as without a green light from the families of the betrotheds, there would be no wedding in the first place. Both families need to painstakingly ensure that all the boxes have been ticked; from ethnic backgrounds, to formal introductions, to payments of brideprice and dowries (where applicable), to consulting those playing key roles in executing the wedding rites, such as elders. Everyone must be taken care of and be on the same page before the guests can be involved.

Lock your asoebi down!

This must be reiterated. From purchase to styling and sewing, ensure you have an adequate amount of time before the wedding date to get your asoebi house in order. Again, this cannot be overemphasised. Have you heard about Nigerian tailors and last minute palavers? You don’t want that. This tip is for everyone; couples, family, and guests. The type of material might not be up to you in the end, but the best you can do for comfort is to choose a style that won’t weigh you down or hold you back in anyway on that day. Attend a traditional Nigerian wedding, and you would understand why.

A Yoruba bride. / Fhadekhemmy / https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/ef/A_Nigerian_Yoruba_Bride.JPG
A Yoruba bride. / Fhadekhemmy / https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/ef/A_Nigerian_Yoruba_Bride.JPG | A Yoruba bride / Fhadekhemmy /Wikimedia

Comfortable headgear and shoes

Still on the issue of clothing, but deserving of their own category. Overly tight and uncomfortable headgear and shoes will ruin your fun at a traditional wedding – particularly one that’s popping! While the headgear is said to complete your look, some choose to go without it, and it’s still fine. But you cannot skip shoes. And for some reason, you might find yourself having to do a bit of walking at a traditional wedding, and depending on the location for the wedding, the terrain might not be the friendliest for your shoes or your feet. Even with comfy shoes, as a woman, you might want to have a pair of flops stowed away somewhere. Also, if you wish for optimum results on the dance floor, you seriously want to reconsider how you dress.

Travel light

A small purse/handbag or satchel, in which your necessities can fit, should be the biggest accessory on your person when attending a traditional wedding. Because of the common “come one, come all” policy around them, traditional weddings can get quite busy. And when it’s party time, you might not find anyone to help you look out for your personal belongings.

Go “plus one” or more

This is advisable for the issue of watching out for belongings, not feeling awkward (if you’re not close to the couple’s families), getting and watching out for gift bags, picking money sprayed on you off the floor so strangers don’t, having designated drivers, and just because it can generally be more fun.

A wedding party. / HMUNACHI / Wikimedia   https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/45/Igbo_Traditional_wedding_ceremony.jpg
A wedding party. / HMUNACHI / Wikimedia https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/45/Igbo_Traditional_wedding_ceremony.jpg | A wedding party / HMUNACHI / Wikimedia

Eat before leaving home

A lot of people still make this grave mistake of attending these ceremonies on an empty stomach, especially in light of how unpredictable traditional weddings can be when it comes to sufficient catering and timing of activities. It’s all well and good to leave some room in your stomach to feast on the potential rice, fufu and egusi, amala and ewedu, eba and afang, beef, chicken, and so on that may await you at the wedding, but best be prepared for all eventualities.

Have “connections”

Following on from the previous tip, directly or indirectly knowing who’s “behind” the food counter, as well as who’s handing out the goody bags after, are crucial to making the most of your attendance at a traditional wedding. Thus, in the best interests of you and your party, you might want to do a bit of recon before the reception, so your table always has everything on the menu. Also, try to acknowledge elders accordingly… you never know who’s handling the catering at the next wedding. Seriously.

A plate of pounded yam and egusi soup. / Toludpilgrim / Wikimedua https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/1e/A_Plate_of_Pounded_Yam_%28Iyan%29_served_in_Birmingham_UK.JPG
A plate of pounded yam and egusi soup. / Toludpilgrim / Wikimedua https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/1e/A_Plate_of_Pounded_Yam_%28Iyan%29_served_in_Birmingham_UK.JPG | A plate of pounded yam and egusi soup / Toludpilgrim / Wikimedia

Stack up… on the cash

Pre-wedding and wedding ceremony advice for all. Planning any kind of wedding can punch a clear hole in your pockets, except if you have no financial worries whatsoever in life. Planning a traditional wedding in Nigeria can be even more so based on all of the “extra features” that come with the regular wedding expenses, including family demands, community demands, traditional demands, and wardrobe changes. For those attending, you’ll need cash for your asoebi purchase and sewing, and accessories, make-up (for the ladies – if you’re not one of the ‘Youtube ones’, but care to have a nice face beat that day), transportation, and even spraying the couple when they’re dancing. The good thing is the bills can be any denomination you want, but they have to be tangible. #SprayingRules

Prepare for surprises from the elements

“Traditional” weddings tend to be held in the outdoors, under canopies or tents. Therefore, it’s advised to plan for whatever season the wedding is happening around; sunshades and sunscreen for a sunny day, a hand fan for a hot one, an umbrella in case it showers, and so on. You don’t want a little change in the weather to send you home just when the party kicks off at a traditional wedding.

Save up on energy

This tip might not help you if you’re the couple, the couple’s families, close friends, or if you play any other key role in the wedding. But, for those who are just attending to celebrate the new couple, eat some delicious free food and dance the night away – you’ll need to have enough energy to take on a traditional wedding. It gets crazy.

A couple being doted over at their wedding reception. / Tom Miller / Flickr   https://www.flickr.com/photos/47125576@N00/24108399394
A couple being doted over at their wedding reception. / Tom Miller / Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/47125576@N00/24108399394 | A couple being doted over at their wedding reception / Tom Miller / Flickr

Ditch any wedding planning responsibilities

Somebody has to do it, right? Well, maybe it doesn’t have to be you. If it’s in any way possible for you to welch on major wedding roles – such as right hand woman/man of the day for the couple, designated food supervisor, or errand person – perhaps by outsourcing them to people who don’t really care for the party itself, do it! It might cost you your relationship with the couple, but you have around ten other things to worry about in order to enjoy the party anyway.