It is every young man’s dream to one day have his own family. In Nigeria, that can seem a daunting endeavour because caring for a family is rather expensive. In my case, after graduation from the university, completion of the compulsory national youth service (NYSC) and a couple of jobs, I finally joined the small group of Nigerians who can be classified as the Middle Class; so I felt ready to start this journey of ‘forever’.
It was cold, windy and cloudless, the night of Sunday, December 15, 2019. I had just proposed to my girlfriend, signifying my intention to extend our 5-year long relationship to the end of our lives. We sat across each other at the outer court of W Bar Lounge reminiscing over a bottle of wine and basking in the moment, while Marvin Gaye’s ‘Let’s Get It On’ played softly in the background. My phone chimed. It was a Google News notification about a suspected outbreak of pneumonia in the province of Wuhan in China. I swiped to dismiss the notification, as we continued to admire the breathtaking scenery of moored boats bobbing in the Lagos lagoon with elaborate Christmas decorations in the foreground. Little did I know that this news flash heralded an event that would shape the coming year.
On our way home, we discussed the date and arrangements for the wedding. We have never been fans of large parties and our ideal wedding was a small, intimate ceremony in a garden, attended by close friends and immediate family members. However, as with many couples, our aversion to extravagance was not shared by our parents. Therefore, we decided to choose a weekday to manage their plans and settled for Thursday, May 14, 2020.
On February 27, 2020, while chatting with my fiancée on WhatsApp discussing groomsmen choices, the news of Nigeria’s first confirmed case of COVID-19 broke. By now, it was clear that the earlier outbreak in Wuhan was not pneumonia but a new strain of the coronavirus officially termed COVID-19. Although the outbreak had been declared as a pandemic by the WHO, there was relatively little information on the virus culminating in widespread misconceptions on social media. With no knowledge of the gravity of the virus, I dismissively made a mental note to purchase face masks and sanitizers the next day and continued explaining to my fiancée the benefits of selecting my choice of groomsmen over hers.
By March 30, 2020, the Federal Government had announced a total lockdown of Lagos State, Ogun State and the Federal Capital Territory, along with restrictions on inter-state travelling. Then it became evident that our plans for the wedding had to be reviewed, especially as most of the items we ordered online were either cancelled or delayed causing us to source for local alternatives. Fortunately, the lockdown measures in Ibadan, where my fiancée resided, were flexible enough to allow her to take charge of the planning and logistics for the wedding.
As more cases of COVID-19 infection were confirmed across the country, the government extended the lockdown timeframe. We knew then that it would be selfish to put our wedding guests at risk, especially our aging parents who were more susceptible to the virus. Thus, we considered postponing the wedding. At the time, the wedding registry ceremony scheduled for April 30 had been postponed indefinitely. However, after deliberations with our parents and the church and taking into consideration the increasing unlikelihood of a return to normalcy, we decided to go ahead with the wedding subject to the safety and social distancing rules stipulated by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC). Hence, we informed guests that they could attend the event virtually.
At precisely 10:35 am on Thursday, May 14, 2020, my fiancée, and I got married at Harvest House Christian Centre, Ibadan. There were 8 attendees in the church consisting of our parents, 2 officiating ministers, a photographer, and the chief bridesmaid. Our deliberations on the groomsmen and bridal train turned out to be in vain as the interstate travel restrictions deterred our choices from attending.
Relatives and well-wishers were not allowed in the church and had to wait patiently outside the premises in their vehicles. After the wedding, they joined us for a photoshoot with social distancing measures in place. Guests were handed packed food and drinks as they dispersed. The poor state of ICT infrastructure in Nigeria meant our live cast of the wedding over Zoom did not go as planned. It has been reported that Nigeria’s internet download speed was one of the slowest in the world, ranking 176th of 207 countries measured globally. This was very evident while streaming the wedding, as there were long spells of buffering video and garbled audio which did not make the event enjoyable for friends and families at home. Nonetheless, it was a great day and I am happy we did it.
In retrospect, on that cold December night in 2019 when we picked the wedding date, neither of us could have imagined that our siblings, friends, and colleagues would be unable to attend an event that meant so much to us. Nevertheless, we are happy knowing that these persons are all safe and healthy.
In conclusion, an upside to going ahead with the wedding despite the pandemic was that we were able to make over 80% savings on the cost of the wedding. The average cost of a decent wedding in Nigeria with a guest list of 250 is about N2 million and a large chunk of it goes to venue, catering, entertainment, and decoration expenses. A more luxurious wedding with a large guest list is way more expensive. That said, not having a physical wedding meant we did not have to pay for the usual wedding expenses. We ended up not using up to 20% of the money we had budgeted for the wedding. Of course, after the pandemic, we plan to go on a much-needed honeymoon. More importantly, however, we intend to channel the saved funds towards a profitable investment.
Written by Kolade Agboola