Sunday, 1 May 2011

Nigerian Weddings vs British Weddings

I was captivated by the elegance and efficiency of the Royal wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton. There was a real sense of regal simplicity and everything ran smoothly.

'The Kiss' by the Royal Couple

But what would the wedding have looked like Nigerian-style? Below is a look at the differences in culture between a Nigerian and a British wedding.

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.

A Yoruba Bride and Groom in Traditional Wedding Dress (flamboyant cakes are popular)

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.

A Nigerian wedding party

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.

Example of the vivid wedding 'uniform' (aso-ebi), sunglasses and thick jewellery at a Nigerian wedding

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.

A Benin/Igbo Bride and Groom in Traditional Wedding Dress

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.

A Hausa Bride and Groom in Traditional Wedding Dress

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, or if the couple is rich, a famous musician like TuFace or Ice Prince.

Example of Nigerian Wedding Cake (Probably for a Traditional Wedding)

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, guests receive personalised gifts bearing a picture of the couple and a message from the gifts' sponsor, e.g. calendars or mugs with a smiling picture of 'Bunmi and Ade; 22/05/10 May God Bless Your Union; Love from the Adenuga Family.' Wealthier couples give out luxury gifts, from televisions to designer handbags to select guests.

Union between the Western and the Traditional


  1. Honestly, so funny and sooo true. I too am a 'Hausa' Nigerian that lives in London with my family. (technically Gwari and my mum has Fulani descent in her too)
    Good to see a view that covers not just Yoruba traditions and culture-led weddings.
    Put a smile on my face today remembering weddings I've been to... When will we learn that these expensive watches we buy for show, have a purpose!

  2. Thanks for visiting fellow Hausa/Gwari-Nigerian :) Nigerian wedding guests are... unique lol!

  3. Very funny!!!

  4. Welcome back wildflowers! I hope you've entered your email address in the box so you can get post updates?

  5. Hilarious!! I'm Yoruba about to marry a British man. We have had to cover pretty much every point you mentioned with a view to finding an amicable compromise. Fortunately he is so intrigued by it all, he'd have most of the ceremony set the Nigerian way (he's giving his speech in my language). I'm quite certain that his family and friends would not be amused by what they would see as the extravagances and extremes of our culture- not to mention our time keeping skills (or lack of). So I've been the voice of reason keeping his and my mum's enthusiasm in check.
    I love, love the ankara wedding cake. Where was it made?

  6. Congratulations! Luckily your man is fascinated otherwise it could be frustrating, but Naija weddings are fab cos we really know how to celebrate, just tell the 'real Nigerians' the wedding starts an hour before it actually does to prevent lateness lol!

    There are many bakers across Lagos & UK that could do a similar cake, picture 6 on this site would be great for you:

    May God bless your union :)

  7. proudly Nigerian.. in fact i'm proudly a Gwari girl, i think Nigeria is among the top countries that have the most exciting and colorful weddings, cuz in Nigeria even the poor people at least manage to have 3 different events...Nigeria for life

  8. Great read I agree with all said I was born here but went to Nigeria and met my hubby there married there before returning to the UK.

    I now offer cultural events to Brit/Nigerains that wnat to know more b4 marrying

  9. I need your help I am an American woman and I am marrying a Yoruba man in Nigeria. I do not know anything about his traditions. I am looking for my wedding dress and I am clueless. I do not know what to do. Can I get some advice? HELP!

  10. There are many Yoruba traditions, but I'm not Yoruba myself so I don't know much. I'm sure your husband, his Nigerian friends and your future in-laws would have told you the basics?

    Also, is the most popular forum for Nigerians online, and the majority of its visitors are Yoruba and there are numerous marriage-related topics discussed there, try it.

    Otherwise drop me a line at

  11. lol! well analyzed. i like this write up

  12. hope someday i will find an hausa lady to marry

    1. did you find your hausa lady yet?

  13. this was really helpfull for my home work :D!!! thankyou

  14. Goodluck with your quest for a hausa lady Shakir, they make great wives :)

  15. this is really good - really enjoyed reading about our rich and diverse culture

  16. The Benin/Igbo traditional wedding dress you posted is wrong. That is not an Benin/igbo traditional wedding dress,rather yorubas.I`m an Igbo woman,our traditional wedding dress is different from the benins, so also the culture.It would only take 2 minutes to google for the facts before posting this!I`m in England too, and i know you have easy access to internet.Please don`t melead people with your information.

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  19. Hi love the pic i am american i want to renew my vows to my husband he is from nigeria we been married for 12 years i just want mines to be diffent [wedding] i wear the nigerian clothes cook the foods many people thing i am from nigerian.

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  21. Doesn't truly give a good picture of a Nigerian wedding considering the multicultural nature of the country. The picture of the northern part of Nigeria may have been well painted but the portrait shown here of an Igbo bride is COMPLETELY wrong; no Igbo bride ever dresses that way, even in d 21st century.
    Good work anyways.

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  29. I'm dating a Yoruba man and I'm going to a wedding with him at the end of the month and this was very informative. Very different from a typical African American wedding, in a good way :-)

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