A Yoruba Wedding: Culture Meets Economics

Debts will be paid if they are incurred; a financial loss can be recovered, but their children will not get married twice”.

When one of Africa’s richest women, Folorunsho Alakija’s son got married in June 2017, the wedding was estimated to have cost a whopping $6 million (more than 2 billion naira).

And while a financial outlay running into billions of naira for a one-day celebration may be an exclusive preserve of the super-rich, it’s undeniable that in this part of the world, weddings attract huge spending; even more so when the families involved are of Yoruba origin.

Arguably the most urban and flamboyant ethnic group in Nigeria, the Yorubas are known for their fun-loving nature and zest for life often expressed in their dressings, foray into almost every field of endeavour, robust and widely spoken language—and of course—a flair for throwing the best parties in town.

For the keen observer, it would not be erroneous to tag the South West inhabitants of the most populous black nation in the world as the connoisseurs of parties popularly called “Owanbe”.

Beam the spotlight on wedding celebrations, and the inclination to spare no expense is several notches higher for the archetypal Yoruba man or woman.

Indeed, the highest expression of the love the Yorubas have for merrymaking and throwing the most elaborate festivities can be found in their celebration of weddings.

It takes only one Yoruba family to halt the regular programming of an entire town to host a shindig.

Bring two prominent Yoruba families—whose children are about to go into the marriage union together—and you have the perfect recipe for the quintessential society wedding that will be talked about for a long time to come.

Also Read: Does the Yoruba Demon Really Exist?

This love for hosting the best parties is part of what makes the Yorubas inimitable. And it’s not just the amount committed to the success of a talk-of-the-town wedding, the uniqueness of the Yoruba wedding is observable in unmissable features such as aso-ebi—the colourful traditional attires family and friends of the couple are expected to wear as a show of oneness.

“Alagas” who are the traditional MCs for the occasion are also crucial elements that differentiate a Yoruba wedding from the pack. Their dexterity with varying dialects, irrepressible wit, indisputable knowledge of indigenous songs and undeniable creativity infuse colour and excitement to the event.

But the Yoruba wedding is not just defined by the aforementioned: the music is boisterous and accompanied by instrumentals played by energetic artistes whose brief is to send guests into a frenzy with popular party anthems; the décor is vibrant and indicative of the mood of the day, and the food is the choicest.

In fact, for many, what sets the Yoruba wedding apart from all other forms of celebration are the array of local and continental dishes on display.

At first glance, one would be willing to bet that a significant chunk of the staggering quantity of culinary delight on display would end up in the bin, but that impression is soon jettisoned when guests (invited or not) continue to troop in, many of whom would claim they have not been served or who simply want a second and third helping.

The Yoruba wedding industry is a million-dollar one considering its socio-economic impact on a wide range of sectors, and by extension, Nigeria’s GDP. Think core industries such as agriculture, event planning, fashion, music, and decoration as well as supporting industries in the mould of makeup, printing, technology, content creation, media and a host of others.

In all of these, money is a huge factor.

It is the one factor on which every other component of the ceremony is hinged and the main determinant of how things will turn out. The Yorubas know this and they square up to the challenge by exploring different avenues to fund their indulgence.

A key determinant of the financial outlay that would be required to host a party is the number of guests. The typical Yoruba society wedding has between 500 and 2000 guests in attendance; this invariably suggests that the funds needed to cater to attendees will run into millions of Nigerian naira.

In an interview with CNN, foremost wedding planner, Funke Bucknor revealed that the average wedding costs between 5 million and 20 million naira. It’s safe to say the Yorubas constitute the majority when it comes to extravagant wedding parties.

And while a family’s financial standing plays a considerable role in determining the scale of the ceremony, Yorubas are also known to rally around their own to pull a lavish occasion.

Aside from the couple and their parents, it is not uncommon to see extended family and friends donate funds and gifts to ensure they have the kind of wedding the couple desire.

Also Read: Touch of Nigerian and Italian culture at wedding weekend in Campania, Italy

To the outsider, splurging on an extravagant wedding at a time when rising inflation continues to be a source of worry for economists and every other person who has seen their purchasing power dip considerably may be a tad wasteful, but for the Yorubas, the good time they have and extend to others is a matter of honour and more than compensates for any funds expended.

For the parents of the couple, it is a thing of pride and prestige to give the children they have raised for more than two decades a befitting farewell package as they go on to begin their lives.

Debts will be paid if they are incurred; a financial loss can be recovered, but their children will not get married twice.

Ololade, a strategic communications professional, blogs at Lolo’s Thoughts 

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