Nigerian weddings are lavish affairs, with elaborate attire, food, entertainment, and traditions. With hundreds of tribes calling Nigeria home, every wedding is a unique celebration of religion, culture, language, and more. The proceedings will look a tad bit different depending on whether it’s a Christian or Muslim wedding (the two religions make up the bulk of the population), but here’s what you might expect:
It’s acceptable for two weddings to be hosted—a traditional Nigerian wedding in all its splendor and a religious ceremony that’s more aligned with western tradition, typically held at a church or nondenominational venue. Expect to be invited to one or both, depending on how well you know the couple. The weddings are sometimes held days or weeks apart and in different locations.
A Nigerian wedding isn’t just a family affair, it’s a community affair. Expect to meet extended family members, relatives of relatives, friends of friends, and then some at a traditional Nigerian wedding. Everyone will be there. It’s a joyous occasion, and the good vibes are shared with one and all. The concept of the guest list and RSVPs simply doesn’t hold its ground here. The proud parents are happy to invite everyone they know to share in their children’s special day.
You will see the new couple wearing stunning outfits representing their heritage. The entire wedding party might coordinate their outfits as well, which makes it easy to identify which side of the wedding party some of the guests represent. You are welcome to wear anything occasion-appropriate, and if you choose to dress in traditional wear like the rest of the friends and family present, you will be embraced for your choice to participate in the culture.
The nuptials are short at a Nigerian wedding ceremony—typically about an hour or so. The reception after is where you’ll spend most of your time. Depending on the couple’s traditions, there may be outfit changes, a few additional rituals or smaller ceremonies, and lots of dancing. In a Muslim wedding, expect to be seated separately by gender with minimal intermingling between sexes. The couple does not kiss in public, either.
The fruit from the kola tree is considered a sign of blessings and prosperity. The couples exchange nuts with each other and they are broken in front of guests to signal the start of the auspicious occasion of marriage and the unifying of two families. Couples may choose to keep the rest of the nuts in their home as a souvenir of their wedding day and a reminder of their wedding promises.
This is the practice of money being thrown by older guests at the Nigerian bride or the couple as they dance at their wedding reception. Bridesmaids collect the money strewn on the floor for the Nigerian bride. This money is intended to help the new couple start their life together. Go with plenty of notes to shower them with your goodwill and share in their happiness.
Indulge in traditional delicacies, such as jollof rice, meat skewers, and fufu (made from cassava, yams, and plantains). The food at Nigerian weddings—typically catered by the bride’s mother and her friends—is certainly crowd-pleasing. Aside from beer, wine, and other drinks, you may also see palm wine served. At a Muslim wedding, though, alcohol is not served.
At Christian weddings, deejays typically play tracks from the latest Afrocentric hits or international beats. Some of the dances may almost look choreographed but are steps to popular hits that you can easily follow as you go. There will be empty seats aplenty as all ages head to the dance floor. Aside from the food, this is where you’ll spend the most time as a guest.
It’s a given that you will receive custom party favors when you leave. This can include branded items, monogrammed gifts, household presents, and more featuring the name of the couple and the wedding date. A lot of thought goes into planning these favors as a reminder of the good time shared at the wedding. Don’t be surprised if this is as elaborately designed as the overall wedding and reception itself.
Enjoy your time at the wedding and partake in as many aspects as you can. It’s another avenue to learn more about a different culture and see how love is celebrated among other nationalities.