Nigerian weddings have traditionally been open invite, resulting in large and lively events that feature plenty of dancing and feasting, not to mention extravagant decor.
Some Nigerian couples opt for a separate religious ceremony and cultural celebration, with the union of brides and grooms from different cultural groups meaning an added layer of complexity when it comes to wedding day rituals. While some traditional wedding customs are still upheld, others are conducted symbolically or with tongue-in-cheek, reflecting the changing cultural expectations on Nigerian couples today.
Home to hundreds of different ethnicities, Nigerian wedding traditions are as diverse as its people, with separate customs associated with the Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo, and Ijaw tribes.
Particularly in Igbo tribes, it’s customary for the bride’s family to present any potential grooms with a list of items he must purchase for them before they give their blessing for the marriage. This might include traditional items such as food delicacies or modern appliances such as white goods. If the groom cannot find the items, he should provide monetary compensation for them, with the women of the bride’s family assessing whether his efforts are satisfactory.
Tradition also states that Igbo couples shouldn’t marry before their older siblings, so younger siblings are expected to postpone their wedding until it’s their turn.
In Hausa and Fulani tribes, the grooms are expected to prove their worth by being lashed without showing pain to illustrate their courage and endurance.
While some Nigerian brides now opt to wear a white wedding dress for their religious ceremony, it’s still customary to have a “family cloth” known in Yoruba as aso ebi that signifies the family ties at a wedding. A couple will decide on a particular color theme or fabric that they’d like their guests to wear and their respective families will create outfits that match this, making the bride and groom’s relatives instantly recognizable at a Nigerian wedding.
Most brides will also change into their aso ebi threads during the reception or opt for a traditional lace blouse and colorful kaftan-style skirt with a matching headpiece and coral beads.
In the modern day, it’s quite common for Nigerian couples to have two wedding ceremonies - a western-style ceremony and a religious ceremony incorporating traditional rituals.
At Yoruba weddings, it’s customary for a groom and his guests to prostrate themselves in front of the bride’s family in a show of respect, as well as for the groom to carry his new bride to show he has the strength to look after her throughout their marriage.
Ijaw custom requires a bride to display an unsmiling demeanor throughout her wedding ceremony, until her groom offers her a monetary gift when she is finally allowed to smile. In Igbo tradition, a groom will be required to pick his bride from three veiled women and cross his fingers that he gets it right!
One of the most popular Nigerian wedding traditions is to shower the newlyweds with money when they step onto the dance floor for the first time at their reception party. It’s the bridesmaids’ job to collect the money for safekeeping before everyone can hit the dance floor to celebrate.
Nigerian weddings are renowned for their lively dancing, including popular choreographed dances such as Azonto, Kukere and Skelewu, with the party going well into the night. It’s customary for the bride’s mother to cater for the reception, although members of both sides of the family will give one another trays of food to symbolize their new union.
• We love all the color and vibrancy of Nigerian weddings and the opportunity to capture this through beautiful and engaging images of your special day.
• We know that each ritual you select is reflective of your Nigerian cultural heritage and feel privileged to be a part of this experience with you.
• Nigerian wedding celebrations are often very lavish affairs, with high-end decor and details that we love to document so you can remember them for many years to come.
• The color of aso ebi at Nigerian weddings really makes images “pop” and strongly reflects the importance of family to the bride and groom.
We always have a final meeting with our couples before their wedding, which gives you an opportunity to share all of the cultural elements and rituals that you have selected for your special day.
We know that Nigerian weddings are often large affairs, so we always bring a team of photographers, lead by yours truly (Henry Chen), to ensure that no moment is overlooked.
Using high-quality camera equipment, including fast lenses and state-of-the-art lighting techniques, we know how to freeze all the dance floor action that is an integral part of Nigerian celebrations.
• Nigerian weddings are often on a large scale, so we highly recommend you invest in a wedding planner to take care of all the logistical details, ensuring you can relax and truly enjoy each and every moment.
• If photography is a top priority, ensure you schedule in plenty of time in your wedding day schedule for us to capture all of your ceremony details and reception decor, as well as beautiful couple portraits and family formals.
• It’s a good idea to discuss with your wedding planner the Nigerian and Western elements you want to bring together on your special day so they can offer their advice on how to achieve this seamlessly.
• When writing your wedding invitations, let your guest know about the “family cloth” custom and invite them to take part with either the bride or groom’s side of the family.