The inspiration for this piece came from my friend Emeka and his long-time bride-in-waiting Ngozi (not their real names) who have been planning to get married for some time now.

Emeka lives in the UK and hasn’t been to Nigeria in a long while, and so he wanted to find out from me how much weddings (traditional and white) cost these days in Nigeria. Obviously he wanted me to share some of my July 2005 experiences with him.

As a long time friend, I obliged him and started by telling him that wedding costs will vary amongst Nigeria’s many tribes, and that it was an entirely different matter in Igbo land, a special case if you like, being that Igbo native customs and traditions make traditional weddings and the associated events seem like a haggling affair in a typical Nkwo Nnewi motor parts shop. The impression one normally gets was as that the bride- to- be was being sold, hence many eligible brothers now walk down the aisle later than they would have wished, as time is usually required for the brother to get his act together, graduate from university (at the mercy of striking lecturers), get a job (at the mercy of banks, telecom and oil companies), build a house in the village (depending on the part of Igbo land the brother is from, and also on his socio-economic background).

Emeka however insisted that I give him a rough estimate which I eventually obliged him. On hearing this he screamed out aloud, I thought he was having a heart attack. I however reassured him that he didn’t have to spend that much, after all if those artisans, farmers and low income earners in Nigeria can do it, then he too could since he was living in the UK and acquiring the almighty pounds. I reminded him that he shouldn’t forget the saying about people cutting their coat according to their clothes (not their size) when it comes to weddings.

We briefly engaged each other in a lengthy banter over the double standards in most Igbo towns and villages, where it seems that different rules are applied in marriage matters to potential suitors, one set of rules (the flexible one) for the home-based and another (the more expensive one) for the akata suitor.

Emeka was troubled because he and his bride- to- be are Igbo, he is neither a 419er or a fraudster and earns his money the hard way doing you know what in the UK, and so he just couldn’t understand why he should spend all that money, (savings from months if not years of sweat) in what he termed a ‘ritualistic wedding ceremony’.

When he called me again a few days later, I knew that trouble was brewing, and that probably our conversations may have stirred up some troubles in his household, or should I say his heart.

‘I think I know what I’m gonna to do’, Emeka said, in his fake Britico accent

‘What then’? I enquired

‘I will simply go to Nigeria, and meet my in-laws, if they won’t come down to my level and accept me the way I am, then I will call the marriage off’.

‘It’s not that simple as you think, also the matter is beyond your in-laws, it is an umunna (kindred) matter’.

‘To hell with umunna’, he retorted. ‘I don’t care about them’

‘Anyway, take it easy’, I cautioned. ‘I understand your frustration but if you love your woman, you can’t simply walk away because of the demands of tradition, no matter how expensive they are. ‘And how does Ngozi feel about this whole matter’? I enquired

‘She feels sad but there is really nothing she can do. Anyway, we may just have to postpone the wedding’ Emeka said.

‘That’s not a good idea, anything can happen, you never know’ I pleaded.

‘But that is not to say that I should pay through my nose because I want to marry’ he replied. ‘You live in this country and you know how hard life here is’.

‘No one is forcing you to marry’ I almost told him, but felt that he wouldn’t find it funny.

‘Well, what more can I say, pray about it’? I finally advised him.

‘Unless my in-laws will be willing to accept credit card for the dowry and other expenses’.

When he said this, I burst out laughing; he joined me in the laughter as well.

Afterwards, I told Emeka what a brilliant idea it was and how it would actually make life easier for brothers and sisters living abroad who are used to the buy-now-pay-later arrangements, if potential in-laws can be made to accept credit cards for dowry and other bridal expenses. But at the same time, I knew that the idea will never fly in Nigeria, why?

Many suitors and potential sons-in-law may end up marrying people’s daughters with fake or stolen credit cards, a situation that may lead to the in-laws sending ‘repo’ men after them to repossess their daughters, as they would normally cars, houses and other items purchased on credit with default payments.

Back to Emeka and Ngozi, they should have been getting married this Christmas (2005), but have since postponed the date indefinitely for economic reasons.

Emeka is not alone though, this issue currently affects many young eligible Igbo men, the women are also not spared because they won’t leave their parents’ homes until they are well into their late 20s and 30s, maybe it is time for our elders to re-visit some of our customs and traditions to see how today’s singletons can be encouraged, and not discouraged from saying I do.

December 21st 2005. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


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