The ‘Owambe’ experience

calabar bride in her full regalia at her wedding ceremony. photographed by Sandra Ogbonna.

I remember my first wedding party in Lagos, Nigeria, it was a movie. In fact, without any exposure whatsoever to other tribes and cultures in the world, I concluded ultimately that Nigerians throw and produce the best weddings ever.

The colors, poise, richness and sophistication cannot be denied. You walk into an event center that 24-hours before was boring and very uneventful and suddenly an immaculate transformation has occurred where it’s as if you’ve been teleported to another planet, a more beautiful planet.

The most interesting thing is the transition from one phase of the event to the other. Every Nigerian knows that a typical wedding party is divided into three parts. The first part is the Church and picture segment, the second part is the couple reveal and food segment, while the third part is the after party which is when the young kings and Queens begin to ask their folks to leave the venue because its about to be a +18 affair.

-Sandra ogbonna, 2021

The first phase is thoroughly intimate as it’s usually between the couple, their families and their God and runs from the early hours of 5am till about 11am which is the allocated time for the religious events.

The second part is the reveal where the couple make their way through the cheering crowd of close family and friends and also a few unknown people a.k.a plus ones, in the beautifully decorated hall that now serves as a reception venue for the event. The live band or Disc Jockey plays a curated list by the couple and for the couple, as they dance their way through the crowd and to the stage where they’ll share intimate moments on cloud 9… literarily.

And the third part is when the party is violated by the plus ones of the plus ones a.k.a the after party, where all the elderly people are advised to go home because the real wedding party which is rated 18 plus is about to get started. But quickly let’s talk about the changes that have occurred overtime starting with the concept of hashtags.

I remember talking to my auntie who is about 40 and mentioning a list of wedding hashtags that I like and she was utterly perplexed to say the least.

She further went on to explain that in her days, weddings were regarded very sacred and intimate, not a carnival event as that is what she thinks weddings these days are. When I asked another elderly relative of mine which wedding era she preferred, she joyfully said the 21st century does it better as she prefers a more grandeur approach to life and love in general and weddings are celebrations of love so there’s that.

The concept of having about 3 weddings also doesn’t quite sit right with the older generation. For example, my Auntie understands the purpose of getting married in the court and traditionally but the ‘white wedding’ idea doesn’t appeal or make sense to her because what is a white wedding? Marrying the white way? is the traditional and legal wedding not marriage enough?

Auntie Eno kept throwing these questions at me and it really made me ponder, what is really the point of having a white wedding?

its the effect of colonization in my opinion… we were colonized by the brits and its only normal that we copy some of their systems and doctrines. Is it a necessity? No, but its the status quo.

AUNTIE ENO, 2021

Status quo indeed because nowadays, the white weddings are considered the main event and in some way a grand finale to the 2/3 day wedding event.

Pre-wedding pictures are probably the newest addition to the wedding event craze after dangling cakes and 200 bridesmaids. It is considered a unique way of informing the general public of the marriage intentions by both parties (the bride and groom) as well as wedding date and venue depending on how exclusive the event is.

The one constant that has been preserved in the endless evolution of the Nigerian wedding scene is cultural heritage. That is one thing that all 300 ethnic tribes in Nigeria have agreed on to keep intact because if we lose our cultural heritage and values, what else do we have and who have we become?

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