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An assortment of party favors you can expect to get at any big celebration 'ìnàwó" in Nigeria.

In the U.S. you go to your friends house for a dinner party, you bring a bouquet of flowers or a bottle of wine to show your appreciation. In Nigeria it is the opposite- the guests are the honorees. After a dinner party here, guests are the ones who walk away with bottles of wine. But a “dinner party” is not a realistic example for Nigeria because it is rare families have their friends over for a intimate three course meal. Fill a large room with plastic tables and chairs, hang some colorful decorations from the ceiling, hire a company to hand out glass bottles of Coke and Fanta and dole out heaping plates of jollof rice and amala and bam, you have yourself a true Nigerian party. At a true Nigerian party you will also always see the guests leaving with some type of personalized, pragmatic gift for domestic chores or living. What use is a t-shirt printed with the newlyweds’ picture when you could have a bucket with their picture printed on it to do all sorts of things? When I attended my first wedding here, I found it odd to be walking away from the chapel hall with a ceramic bowl, especially since the bowl had a sticker with the bride and grooms faces, date of marriage and a mention of who paid for the gift. After more and more parties, I am used to receiving a cup, a food cooler and a notebook all covered in stickers commemorating the celebrants and inside a personalized cloth bag.

Why do Nigerians do this? Kíló dé? What is the impetus for the brides parents to spend thousands of Naira making personalized clock radios, and the groom’s parents printing stickers to put on plastic fans all to give hundreds of guests at the wedding? Some people say Nigerians just love spending money. One of the names for celebrations like weddings, funerals, naming ceremonies is “ìnàwó” which literally means “money spending” in Yoruba. Others say everyone does it because everyone else does it, nítorí náà ó tí di baraku fun gbogbo omo Naijiriya lati na owó katikati fun àwon ebùn yìí. Maybe it’s because Nigerians go to so many parties in their life times that they need something useful, something they can use everyday for fetching water or writing notes to remind them of that wonderful “ìnàwó” they attended years back. If you are lucky enough to be be among the guests at a party where the celebrants are very wealthy, to lowó bajebaje, you might even get a Blackberry complete with the a picture of the newly wed’s faces on the back.

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Nigerians–particularly Yorubas–love to celebrate. Birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, naming ceremonies, funerals are all occasions for huge parties complete with plenty of food, deafening music, matching decorations that extend to the smallest details and all sorts of fanfare. An intimate dinner or cocktail party among friends doesn’t align with Nigerian culture. The bigger the better for the Nigerian party. Lucky for the sociable type these parties happen often, maybe too often. The average Nigerian adult has attended hundreds of weddings. While each of the aforementioned celebrations have qualities that make it unique, they all share a common order of events. They all start with an opening prayer. The MC then introduces the important guests seated at the high table. Caterers pass out a plethora of drinks (juice, minerals, malt beverages, bottles of wine, beer and everyone gets a bottle of water) and plates of food (usually rice with moinmoin and meat, or iyan egusi, or amala) to each guest. Then the celebrant dances while family and friends spray him or her with money. The celebrant’s friends stand around to pick up the 50, 100, 200, 500 Naira notes that fall by the celebrant’s feet. Then the MC or someone else gives a closing prayer, guests collect their gifts and go home with full stomachs and poorer hearing than they arrived with.

wedding decorations in Nigeria

An example of a brown and orange color scheme at a wedding party I attended. Bottles of minerals, boxes of juice abundant on every table.


So it went at the traditional Yoruba wedding I attended last weekend. People call this wedding the engagement. The church ceremony followed by a big party is the wedding party. So I celebrated the marriage of Esther and ‘Tosin in the traditional Yoruba style that has been a bit modernized by the imposing presence of microphones and photographers. While studying Yorùbá at University of Wisconsin, I happened to choose marriage among the Yoruba as a research paper topic and I am posting the 20-page paper I wrote, all in Yoruba of course, for any Yoruba readers to see if they are interested. I think the wedding will be best described by the photos I took.
Marriage among the Yorubas (part 1 of 2)
Marriage among the Yorubas (part 2 of 2)

guests at a Yoruba engagement

Guests at the engagement sit under tents out of the hot sun, chatting, eating and drinking. Everyone is dressed in native Yoruba attire, iro, buba and gele around the head for the woman, and buba with sokoto for the man. The guests at the engagement will be fewer than the guests at the wedding party.

yoruba wedding bride walking down the aisle

The bride and her friends walking her down the aisle, singing and dancing the whole time.

Yoruba wedding the groom waits for the bride coming down the aisle

As the bride walks down the aisle with her friends, the husband sits under the beautifully decorated canopy waiting for his wife to greet him.

Photographers don't miss any facial expression at Nigerian parties. They are always in the celebrants faces taking way more pictures than needed. Here the bride and her entourage walks her down the aisle. The women dressed in cream and red are in her bridal party.

Yoruba bride and groom with groom's family

The bride and groom, oko and iyawo, pose with the groom's family. At a Yoruba wedding, everyone in the groom's family wears the same color cloth. The same goes for the bride's family. These colors are different to differentiate the two families that are coming together through marriage. According to Yoruba beliefs, marriage is not just between two people, but two families.


women playing sekere at a yoruba wedding

Women playing a traditional Yoruba instrument called the Shekere as the bride dances her way to greet her husband.


dowry at a yoruba wedding

The dowry displayed for all the guests to see. The groom's family gives the bride and her family many gifts for the marriage. Here we see yams, bananas, other food stuffs and oil. The bride's family is seated on the right. The bride and groom's family sit on opposite sides of the aisle.

esther dancing getting sprayed

Esther, the bride, dancing with her new husband, 'Tosin. Fifty Naira notes fall in her arms from the Nigerian tradition of spraying money on the celebrants.

Yoruba women in aso ebi on the husbands side

Member's of the groom's party dressed in aso ebi (see earlier post for description). They are wearing a buba (the shirt), iro (the wrapper skirt) and a gele (head wrapper).


closing prayer at a yoruba wedding

One of the bride's maids praying for the new couple.

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