First off, congrats! On your upcoming wedding and married life.
This is one guide to a cost effective wedding for the almost-married couple with a strong Nigerian flavour. We may not all be able to swing it like the Kardashians, but we can still have all the glory and keep our gold.
I got married (traditional and Christian blessing) almost a year ago – the registry wedding was some months before that. I’ve outlined below major steps that helped me achieve the wedding I wanted in a pocket friendly manner.
Note: ‘You’ below can refer to the singular or plural form
Step 1 – Broad Strokes:
Start by answering some major questions, to guide the process and keep you on track – my answers are in italics
1. What kind of wedding do you want? simple 1-day wedding – traditional, pastoral blessing & reception in same location, c. 120 guests, minimal stress
2. What details matter most to you? Music, food, chill environment
3. How much can you afford to spend? How much would you like to spend? (there are different perceptions of the words ‘expensive’ and ‘cheap’). A N1 million wedding is expensive to some and cheap to others. N1-2 Million
Step 2 – Align Stakeholders:
Across the many unique Nigerian cultures, parents, family elders and religious leaders generally have a great deal of influence on the wedding process.
It is important to get these people on board as soon as possible to avoid surprises or unnecessary arguments close to your wedding.
Consider having these discussions:
♣ Location/size of wedding: village/hometown angle? big hall or small hall?
♣ Number of guests – IMPORTANT
♣ Important details to stakeholders e.g. traditional ceremony, good food
♣ Stakeholder contributions (if any) – Don’t be reluctant. Find out on time if any stakeholders will be contributing financially or otherwise, and what exactly those contributions will be.
Please do not put pressure on anyone to cover your wedding costs, especially if the choice of wedding scale is yours.
Stage 3 – Do the plan dance:
I suggest a 2-3 months planning timeframe – you can book vendors on time and maybe get discounts. However, don’t despair if you’re working with a shorter timeline, I know a couple who planned with a little over a month and it was a lovely event.
Communicate: you need to discuss the wedding details comprehensively with your partner – it is important that you both agree to the plans and budget (bonding opportunities abound)
● Put together a comprehensive budget – preferably in a spreadsheet, share with your partner and planners (actual planner, parents, siblings, close friends assisting)
*Google Sheets is great for collaboration – I’ve shared a template that can be adopted for your budget (make a copy of the template for your use) *
● Let go of wedding elements that may seem nice or trendy but won’t add much value to your union.
I let go of; bridal train, full photography (photos of makeup etc), souvenirs (from the couple), pre-wedding shots, aso-ebi and more!
● Inspect each budget item and carefully think through the reason for it being there. Some Important budget items and tips:
Location: Identify your ideal location early on, and negotiate discounts. If this isn’t a big deal or you’re going for a small wedding vibe, look for hotels with halls that can take a small party.
Also consider using a location away from the city centre to reduce costs
Catering: Good food is an important part of most Nigerian weddings.
Try using those cooks that don’t charge much but cook up a storm – I had my mum organise the food with caterers from the suburbs (wink), it was a fantastic spread at a lower price point
Outfits: Oh so important! There are generally at least two and sometimes four outfits in the Nigerian wedding.
To optimise costs, consider one traditional outfit and one church/reception outfit only. Remember that you may not wear those outfits again. Balance quality and price in making your choice.
Consider a locally designed wedding gown instead of importing (save the forex)
Important details: Those you identified in Step 1 – You may decide to spend good money to get the quality you desire (not what others desire) on these items. Prune the items in this list (keep only the most desired) to save more.
SOME THINGS TO REMEMBER
● Commit the process to God, ask for guidance and provision
● You have nothing to prove. You don’t have to use a particular venue or location because your friends used similar ones. You don’t have to buy that dress or suit because of what others bought. I understand that these pressures can be strong and subtle. Derive joy from your resistance!
● Remember that the wedding ceremonies are a solemnisation and celebration of your love. Please do not let people swamp you with expectations and effectively takeover your wedding (looking at my Nigerian parents here) – this doesn’t mean you should be rigid or disrespectful;
● Dig deep into your contact list and planners to get referrals and discounts for vendors: I got a cake discount through my sister-in-law, photography discount through a friend and many more.
● Consider a weekday wedding as most vendors and venues offer discounts. In a similar vein, book vendors as soon as you can to avoid a rush towards the wedding date(s)
● Get real invoices and costing for budget items on time – consider cheaper alternatives – N20,000 saved from five vendors is N100,000
● The budget is a guide, so many expense items can come up as you go. Expect to spend as much or more than 30% of your budget on miscellaneous items.
● Even better where you have excess cash, which can be used for your honeymoon, home furnishing, new home deposit, car upgrade, savings account and many more.