• Monday, June 17, 2024
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BusinessDay

Nigeria’s worsening economic realities shrink wedding receptions

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…as emphasis on ‘aso-ebi’

reduces

Nigeria is witnessing a massive disruption in every area. Citizens are scaling down on their expenses, focusing purely on very important areas of their lives. One of the noticeable areas that may have been affected by the harsh and challenging economy is wedding ceremonies.

People appear to be cutting their coats according to their size nowadays. Many more newlyweds today prefer a quiet reception or no reception at all. They just entertain their guests at the wedding venues without hosting any elaborate reception thereafter.

It has also been observed that the rate at which people purchase ‘Aso-Ebi’ (uniforms) for such ceremonies has also reduced.

Some years past, people were going to offices and other social events selling Aso-Ebi to friends and well-wishers for upcoming wedding ceremonies, but such has reduced these days.

Nigerian weddings have long been renowned for their grandeur and extravagance, with lavish receptions being a hallmark of the celebrations. However, a significant trend is emerging among newlyweds in Nigeria – a move away from elaborate receptions. This shift is driven by a combination of factors, including economic realities, changing values, and a desire for more intimate celebrations.

However, Nigeria’s economic landscape has undergone significant changes in recent years, with a recession in 2016 and ongoing fluctuations in the value of the naira. As a result, many couples are finding it challenging to justify the substantial costs associated with hosting a large reception.

The expense on venue rental, catering, decorations, and entertainment place a significant burden on the couple and their families.

In response, many newlyweds are opting for smaller, more low-key celebrations that allow them to prioritise their financial stability and future together. This decision is often made in conjunction with their families, who may also be feeling the economic pinch.

Taofeek Yekeen, Oyo-based academics, told BusinessDay SUNDAY that while people are trying to cut down on cost, it is also important for newlyweds to note that reception is one of the many ways to socialise.

“Long distance relations that they might not come across in years do have opportunity to associate during this kind of gathering. However, the wedding ceremony should not be done to the extent of going bankrupt after the end of the wedding,” Yekeen said.

Yekeen, who is a professor of Ecotoxicology in the Dept. of Pure and Applied Biology, LAUTECH, Ogbomoso, Oyo State, said that having to pay debt incurred during wedding, years after the ceremony is not healthy for a new family, hence the need to manage expectations and plan within budget.

Elijah Adebayo, Oyo-based Reverend Canon, told BusinessDay Sunday that: “In today’s Nigerian economy, cutting out a reception after a wedding may have financial benefits such as significant cost-saving which can be used to start a new life together, enjoy the honeymoon, and avoid debt payment after the wedding.”

Adebayo, who is also a professor of Industrial Microbiology from LAUTECH, further said that the purpose of wedding reception is celebration and hospitality; however, its importance depends on the couples’ priorities and cultural context.

“However, there may be some social implications like breaking tradition, strained relationships, and negative perceptions by the people around. However, the decision of whether or not to have a reception is a personal one,” Adebayo said.

Kingsley Adu, who recently had his wedding without a reception, told our correspondent that it was a mutual agreement with his wife.

“We just did not want to go into all the hassles of looking for and paying for a hall or events centre. We prepared food quite alright which we gave out to our guests at the Church and that was it. We also found out that that is in vogue these days. For us, it was nothing to be ashamed of,’ Adu said.

Changing values and priorities

Nigerian culture has traditionally placed a strong emphasis on large, elaborate weddings as a symbol of status and prosperity. However, this mindset is evolving, with many young couples now prioritising more personal and meaningful aspects of their special day.

Some couples are choosing to allocate their resources towards more significant investments, such as purchasing a home, starting a business, or furthering their education. Others are opting for more intimate, destination weddings that allow them to celebrate with close friends and family in a unique and memorable setting.

Similarly, the desire for a more intimate and personalised celebration is another driving force behind the trend. Many couples are seeking to create a wedding experience that truly reflects their love story, interests, and values.

Accordingly, a smaller reception allows for a more curated guest list, enabling the couple to share their special day with those who are closest to them.

“Going by John 2:1-10, at the New Testament maiden edition of the wedding, there was a reception ceremony. Therefore, as many that can afford it, should go ahead. Even Jesus was present to rescue them from the soft drinks crisis,” Babatunde Ilesanmi told BusinessDay Sunday.

Ilesanmi, who is the chairman of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN), Ikeja province, further said that organising a reception to feed guests, as well as felicitate with celebrants with dancing is customary of the Nigerian traditional wedding ceremonies.

According to him, newlyweds should not contemplate organising reception or hosting guests just for the purpose of impressing them at the wedding.

“Furthermore, a venue with the right ambience to enable guests from far and near to relax before going back to their destination is quite encouraging. However, inability to afford the last point above is pardonable. That is what cutting off reception suggests. No sin at all if unable.

“But I can suggest further that trying to impress people beyond your affordability is sin. Even when you can afford it, the Bible admonishes us to be moderate in all our conduct. Therefore, extravaganza, flamboyancy & showmanship should be disallowed by the church authorities, Ilesanmi said.

In addition, a smaller reception provides the opportunity for more meaningful interactions and connections with guests, rather than the often-impersonal nature of large, formal events. This shift towards intimacy and personalisation is a refreshing departure from the traditional, formulaic approach to Nigerian weddings.

However, as couples move away from large receptions, they are exploring alternative ways to celebrate their union by organising intimate dinner parties with close friends and family to deepen the bond shared by the couples.

Also, some are considering exploratory measures to deepen their love lives by opting for weekend getaways or mini-honeymoons. In some cases, newlyweds opt for small, outdoor ceremonies or picnics to help them stay closer together and bond, while some opt for cultural or traditional celebrations that honour their heritage and help to drastically cut costs.

However, beyond cutting costs and managing expectations, these alternative celebrations not only offer a more personalised experience but also provide a unique opportunity for couples to express their creativity and individuality.

Also, the shift away from large receptions in Nigerian weddings is a significant cultural and social phenomenon. Driven by economic realities, changing values, and a desire for more intimate celebrations, newlyweds are redefining what it means to celebrate their love and commitment to each other.

As the wedding landscape continues to evolve, it will be interesting to see how this trend develops and influences the broader Nigerian culture. One thing is certain, however – the essence of a Nigerian wedding remains unchanged, with love, family, and celebration at its heart.

Anita Chigozie, a recent wedding guest, said: “The wedding was strictly by invitation and it was carefully adhered to, as non-invited guests were driven out of the venue. Obviously, all the hosts tried to avoid, was leaving the invited guest which tend to be the important ones, unattended to.”

According to Pastor Maduka Philip, who was not just a guest, but the chairman of the occasion of a recent wedding, “The wedding was rhetorically a success, but not all invited guests left happily as some people couldn’t get to fill their stomachs with the pleasure of the occasion.”

Less emphasis on ‘Aso-ebi’

Strikingly, other than enormous monumental meals, extravagant decoration and luxurious event centres, an entertaining segment of weddings that has also been affected by the unfavourably harsh economic condition of the country is the uniform attire worn by the celebrants’ families known as ‘Aşo-ebi’.

The practice of Aso Ebi—coordinated outfits worn by family and friends of the couple—remains a vibrant tradition, particularly in the South-West and South of Nigeria. Aso Ebi is not just about fashion; it symbolizes unity and support for the celebrants.

The Aşo-ebi which are usually worn in different styles and patterns depending on individual preference is now classified among the less important necessities. The high level of inflation rate and extortionate costs of living, makes thoughts of buying the clothing material and also making payments for the tailoring, heavy in the mind of the participants.

Several socio-economic factors have been attributed to be responsible for the shift which has been significantly evident in the manner at which wedding ceremonies are conducted in recent times.

The rate of unemployment, rising costs of inflation, devaluation of the Nigerian currency (Naira – against dollar), and high cost of living among other tenets of the economic crisis have eaten deep into the lives of citizens making it almost impossible to have proper celebrations even at occasions as important as weddings, thus leading to the option of simplicity over luxury.

There is now a growing trend towards more modest and intimate weddings, reflecting a shift in societal values and a realistic approach to financial constraints. Newly-weds are increasingly opting for local vendors and simpler decors, reducing overall costs compared to high-end service providers that were once a staple of Nigerian weddings.

Instead of hosting elaborate receptions at separate venues, many couples now entertain guests directly at the wedding ceremony venue in order to cut down on venue rentals, catering, and other associated costs.

The COVID-19 pandemic introduced virtual and hybrid wedding formats, which have continued post-pandemic as cost-saving alternatives. These formats allow for participation without the need for extravagant and expensive gatherings.

Careful budgeting is becoming the norm as newlywed couples are becoming more budget-conscious, often planning weddings within strict financial limits to avoid debt as many are reconsidering taking loans for weddings due to the long-term financial burden and high-interest rates.

Irozuru, events planner, weighs in

Meg Irozuru, an experienced events planner and the creative force behind Maggie Yellow Flower Decor in Abuja, shares insightful observations on the evolving landscape of events planning in Nigeria.

Despite economic fluctuations, Nigerians continue to host elaborate weddings and other events, underscoring a cultural emphasis on celebratory gatherings.

According to Irozuru, there is still significant expenditure on events, driven by a deep-seated desire for grandeur and memorable experiences.

However, in response to growing concerns about wastefulness, events planners like Irozuru are now introducing strategies to manage resources more efficiently.

One such strategy is portion control, ensuring that food and other resources are allocated in a way that minimises waste while still satisfying guests. This pragmatic approach aligns with a broader trend of conscientious consumption, where hosts are increasingly aware of the costs and environmental impact of their events.

The enthusiasm for social gatherings in the South-West is highlighted by instances where people travel great distances to attend events.