Long distance wedding planning

Our family has spent 2013 so far trying to figure out how to successfully plan my sister’s upcoming wedding. One of the reasons I was really missing this blog is because I’m sure by now you would have helped us sort out so many things! It’s hard to plan a wedding from a distance, but it’s even harder when you’re not up to date on the trends or requirements for a Yoruba wedding: I have a lot of questions! I could ask family members but I think this online community can also offer a lot of great advice.

My parents had a court wedding before my dad left Nigeria for the USA. My mom joined him about a year after he left Nigeria and when they returned to Nigeria they had a traditional marriage and a reception—they didn’t have a white wedding. My sister will be having a traditional and white wedding (by God’s grace). Even if my parents had had a white wedding, one or two things have probably changed in the last 30+ years!

Many people who were not raised in Nigeria are very familiar with Nigerian weddings because they have a strong community of Nigerians around them and have attended weddings galore. Some regularly travel back home when family members wed. Not so for us: my sister and I attended one Yoruba/Angolan wedding in Canada a while back, and then in 2008 we attended our first Yoruba wedding in Nigeria, that of our cousin. We arrived just two weeks or so before the wedding so we were not part of the planning. We didn’t know we were supposed to dance in before the bride at the reception, and we didn’t know about the aso ebi situation or anything like that…we were just told what to wear and what to do as the time came to do things. For my sister’s wedding I’d like us to be more aware of what is supposed to happen, which is why I’ll be appealing to you as time goes on, starting today.

One of the most eye-opening aspects of the planning was something we thought was no big deal that turned out to be: the issue of the maid of honour. My sister asked me to be her maid of honour and I accepted. As things progressed and family members back home became aware of the plans, we learned that an older unmarried sister “can’t” be the maid of honour. Maybe this isn’t a hard and fast rule everywhere, but the families getting married take it seriously and were insistent that we go along with it (my mom too felt strongly that I couldn’t be my sister’s maid of honour). We weren’t happy about it because for us, the people you call your maid of honour and bridesmaids should be your nearest and dearest. Aside from me, my sister can’t use one cousin because she’s also older and another because she’s married. Looking back on our cousin’s wedding, we noticed that her bridesmaids were not people she was close to, which seems strange to us. Her bridesmaids were selected based on who would complement the wedding: she told us that her sister that she was closest to was too tall so she was not in the wedding party.

I talked to a few friends who got married in Nigeria about the topic and they didn’t see anything wrong with an older sister being in a younger sister’s wedding party, however those with older sisters didn’t have them in their wedding party! In a more extreme case, one friend said she knew someone who had to wait for her older sister (who was single) to get married before she was allowed to get married, so I guess it all depends on how your family feels about such things. The fact that birth order prevents me from ever being there for my sister in this way took some getting used to because if she was getting married here that would never have even been an issue. But things are different and of course there are so many other ways to support her than as maid of honour.

Despite the many phone calls that have gone back and forth between Canada and Nigeria, it feels like plans are coming together very slowly. Our family members back home have been trying to run around on our behalf but it’s not easy. The groom lives in Lagos rather than in the city they’ll be getting married so that doesn’t help either, though I guess one thing that’s the same in both Canada and Nigeria is the lesser role of the groom where wedding plans are concerned.

Another thing that is confusing me is the topic of wedding colours. I asked the question on Facebook and I got a great reply, but I’m still confused because of the different uses of colour in a wedding in Nigeria.

First of all, if someone asked me here what my wedding colours were, they would be asking what colours are being used to decorate, and usually one or more of the named colours would match the dresses of the bridesmaids and maybe the tie or handkerchief in the pocket of the men’s suits. So if I say my colours are purple and gold, you’d expect those colours to feature prominently in the reception hall, the bridesmaids would probably wear purple dresses with gold jewelry or shoes, and the groomsmen would wear suits with purple ties.

It seems a bit more complicated in Nigeria: there are white wedding colours (as explained above), colours that bride and groom will be wearing during the traditional wedding, and then colours for the bride and groom’s sides to wear! My sister did in fact choose purple and gold as her wedding colours, but thanks to the helpful Facebook commenter, I think she will need to select two separate colours for the traditional wedding—is this correct? Let’s say the traditional wedding colours are blue and white–does this refer to what the bride and groom’s outfits will be? Does the issue of bride and groom’s sides colours only come up for the white wedding or also for the traditional wedding?

Back to white wedding colours: since they are purple and gold, does this mean one side (bride or groom) should be told to wear gold and the other side purple?

Your input on any of the above would be much appreciated!

10 thoughts on “Long distance wedding planning

  1. oh wow, that is a lot of questions. lemme try my best

    On being on the train, i dont think its a big deal, but i think it will leave you exposed for "uncouth" people to be asking you all sort of questions, o why are you not married, do you feel bad your sister is getting married before you, etc. maybe better to avoid it.

    As per wedding color, i will suggest you dont complicate it, during my time, we had peach and cream as our white wedding colors. everyone from bride or grooms side wore that color, it reflected in the cake, d decor, the bridesmaid and grooms men outfit.

    For trad, yea, maybe there you can have two difff colors for hubs side and wife's side. But the husband and wife will wear the same thing, usually two different outfits.

    I suggest you use a wedding planner, cuz, vendors here are very unreliable and if you are not on ground to coordinate them, it may deviate from what you want.


    • Thank you, Doll! That's a good point you make about not being on the train. After all the comments I get about being fat, I relish the opportunity to not be in the spotlight!

      Simple sounds good as per wedding colours o! Hmm, so guests were invited to wear either peach or cream? Do you think it's absolutely necessary to define colours for the guests to the engagement?

      I wish we could hire a wedding planner but due to time constraints and concerns about not having met the person face-to-face, I don't think we'll be able to do that.

  2. welcome back GNG!
    for my wedding i choose purple and was it gold cant even remember. for engagement i chose olive green and cream …for both wedding and engagement it was a uniform colour for both sides…we couldnt be bothered with more colours…infact both sides of parent wore exactly the same material for engagement and wedding..talk about unity…lol…

    happy planning!!!

    • Thank you, dear!

      Ah, it seems like you're echoing Doll on the wedding colours thing…I will tell my sister to really consider going simple like you did…and she loves cream colour so maybe I'll suggest cream with another colour for the engagement.

      Hurray for unity! :)

    • I'm like you, mpb! I know nothing about all this and I feel like I keep asking questions and getting a variety of answers. The good news is by the time this is over I'll know much more than I knew before!

  3. I think the maid of honour/bridesmaids issue happens in many more cultures than you think! In many cultures, married women, especially married women with children (regardless of whether she's older or younger than the bride) aren't supposed to be bridesmaids. In other cultures, the bridesmaids must be friends from the bride's side, sister(s) of the groom can't participate, though a BFF would probably get a pass. I actually had to have a very long discussion with my parents on how things are a) different in the 21st century and b) we are not in Hong Kong, but in Canada. Heck, an acquaintance of mine, who is also Chinese Canadian and who married a few months after I did had a Man of Honour (her brother). There were also culture clashes about who should pay for the bridesmaid dresses. In Canada, the bridesmaids pay, while in Hong Kong, the bride does.

  4. I see no issue with u being ur sister's maid of honor. from experience, every bride should have whoever she can trust implicitly to have her back on her wedding day.
    More importantly, one way of making the day "yours" is by bucking any trend and breaking every laid down laws.

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