I didn’t grow up dreaming of a huge white wedding. If I’m completely honest, I rarely thought about getting married when I was growing up and in the rare instances that I did, I thought it would be a small, intimate affair. I imagined my now-husband and I, flying abroad with our nearest and dearest family and friends for an intimate ceremony, witnessed only by the people who truly cared. Instead, I ended up spending £30,000 on a wedding with over 350 guests, multiple outfit changes and food that rivaled the feast of the 5000. And I don’t regret a thing.
This week a Reddit post from a Canadian woman went viral when she revealed how she had tried to make her guests pay just under £1000 each to attend (and fund) her dream wedding. She ended up cancelling the whole thing - and her engagement - when her guests refused to pay and her fiancee suggested they went to Vegas instead. As expected, she was vilified for this - why should all her guests be expected to fund her dreams of being ‘a Kardashian for a day’? But it also strikes me that the conversation around so-called ‘Bridezillas’ and how people choose to spend their wedding budgets comes dropping in misogyny and snobbishness. Spending the equivalent of a house deposit is seen as gauche or irresponsible, rather than a personal choice. And predictably, it’s always the bride at the receiving end of this judgment.
When I got engaged last year, my husband and I had very different experiences when it came to weddings. While both of us are British-Nigerian millennials, he had attended far more Nigerian weddings than I had. I was used to attending weddings that had no more than 100 guests, however, my husband had attended some with 1000 guests present – and no-one batted an eye lid. The few Nigerian weddings I had been invited to or seen on social media had one thing in common: “Go big or go home.”
Nigerian weddings are seen as one of the high points or even the pinnacle in a person’s life, with the view that no expense should be spared when it comes to saying: “I Do.”
However, as my husband and I run a business together, so before the wedding, we had already decided to invest our mortgage deposit and the majority of our other life savings into this. This meant as far as we were concerned, a big wedding – as well as the British dream of starting married life off as homeowners, with a car and enough money for our next holiday, was well and truly over.
And we were fine with that – we set ourselves a budget of £6000 and even felt slightly guilty that we weren’t spending that on our business. But all that changed when our parents realised that our budget wouldn’t stretch to a wedding that adhered to lavish and often outlandish Nigerian ceremonies that most of our peers and the children of our parent's friends had. So they decided to step in and foot the bill.
This might make me seem spoilt, or entitled, but our parents had watched as we’d invested thousands of pounds of savings into the business we’d been working on together over the last few years, and they really wanted to give us a day to remember and look back on with joy.
That’s not to say I wasn’t stunned at the hefty price tags that came as soon as you said the word ‘wedding’ to a supplier. Venues seem to add on thousands of pounds when you say you are hiring the venue for a wedding and DJs can add on hundreds when they hear sounds of wedding bells. Before I knew it, the total cost of our wedding came to just over £30,000.
We had 350 guests, which seems like a lot, but Nigerian wedding guest lists rival Royal weddings to accommodate for family members that that often fly in from different part of the world. At first, it was suggested that we have a guest list of 500 attendees, but my husband and I managed to scale it down to just over 350 guests. Then the fusion of our British and Nigerian cultures and that meant catering combined two different cuisines, which understandably pushed the price up. Our buffet was a combination of roast chicken, potatoes, jellof rice (a staple food in Nigerian communities), plantain (a food of from the banana family that is usually eaten when baked, fried or grilled and again, a common delicacy in both African and Caribbean cuisines) and spicy stews. And I had my wedding dress, but I also had a second outfit made from traditional Nigerian lace that I turned into a fitted strapless dress to pay homage to my heritage.
When I saw how much money we’d spent, I felt immensely grateful that we have parents who wanted us to have the day of our dreams - but also, if I’m honest, sick at the judgement I thought we’d get for allowing our parents to spend so much on one day. I genuinely became worried people would use the extravagance of our wedding us a stick to beat the same old drum that I was another millennial irresponsible with money.
I was incredibly aware that our wedding would be on social media for all to see - and judge - afterwards, and that people who didn’t know me and my husband, our families, or understand the significance of a Nigerian wedding might not understand why we were inviting so many guests or spending so much money. They might not understand as well as it being the day of our dreams, we were creating memories that will last a lifetime for our parents and families too.
But judgment or not, I don’t regret a thing. Watching our friends and family dance the night away and explore foods from both cultures and celebrate our love in our stunning venue still fills me with joy. I’m glad that I accepted the financial help from parents to have a day that I still look back on with happiness.
The truth of the matter is, yes, weddings are only for one day but you only live once. It should be the one day you get do your way and spend what you want without feelings of guilt, regret and shame. Just because you’ve chosen to have a wedding that costs the same price as a house deposit, doesn’t automatically mean you’re an irresponsible, demanding or spoilt bride. Like me, it could be that you feel the expense is worth it to express your culture identities. Or maybe, you’ve decided that you deserve a day where you unapologetically celebrate your relationship. So let’s all hold off on the wedding judgment. Because just like you no-one ever knows what goes on in someone else’s relationship, you never really know what goes on in someone else’s wedding.