Things I miss about a traditional Edo/Benin wedding

Edo wedding-benin wedding-Nigerian wedding

I almost cried the other night as I flipped through web pages on the internet and jumped excitedly from blogs to Pinterest to Facebook looking at photos of traditional Edo/Benin weddings. I’m a Nigerian who practically grew up abroad and I don’t have ties back home. I’ll be getting married next year abroad and I’m super pumped. At the same time, I’m a little sad because the reality of me not having a full-fledged authentic Edo wedding is beginning to sink in.

I’m from Benin City, which is in Edo State in Nigeria. Edo is in the southern part of Nigeria and we (the people) are referred to as either Edo or Bini. When I lived back home, I remember falling in love with the traditions, togetherness, and pure excitement that are packed in authentic Edo/Benin weddings. From how a house would be packed with the many people who are helping with the wedding to the elder male relatives who would hang out on their side of the veranda drinking Guinness and Star beers and munching on kola nuts to the little kids who would run around the yard with excitement like it’s Christmas time to the shady up-to-no-good teens who would steal fried meat from the ladies who are slaving away in the kitchen to prepare the meals for the wedding. I miss all of that chaos and excitement.

No matter who you are, if you’re from a large extended family and everyone gets really involved in helping make those special family occasions come true then you know the chaos and excitement I’m talking about. Here are some of the things I miss about sharing those occasions with my family.

The recruiting of helpers
I went to several weddings when I used to live back home and my family had its share of weddings as well. Months before the wedding, the bride and her parents would’ve lined up their family and friends who will be helping with the wedding to cook, feed and entertain guests who would drop by during the last week (s) before the wedding (paying special attention to the elders). The bridal family would also need someone to babysit and feed little cousins/nephews/nieces while the adults focus on major wedding stuff. And many things like that. Big events like weddings truly take a whole village to make happen, and the best part is that there are family and friends who would say yes to the task—even before you ask. That’s one of the cultural differences I miss about living back home.

The shopping
The week before the wedding is when we’d do most of the shopping for foods. Off to New Benin Market we’d go and other major markets across the city. For stuff that can travel long distance we’d have those brought over to Benin like from Lagos or even abroad. This is also the time when the house would get really packed that at night you find yourself sleeping on a mat or a mattress on the floor next to a snoring “aunty” you hadn’t seen in years because there aren’t enough beds to go around for everyone who’s staying over.

The food

Edo wedding-benin wedding-nigerian wedding-nigerian food

I love Nigerian food! Yes, I’m bias, I know. No matter how hectic things are during Edo weddings, there’s always time for some soulful Nigerian meals. My favourites are pounded yam with a soup that has several different meat, a very nice rice and stew dish, and yam with eggplant stew. The best part for me? Someone else would do the cooking. I can’t even begin to tell you about the delicious foods that are at the wedding. They’ll take your taste buds out of this world.

The entertainment
One of the great things I really appreciate about traditional Edo wedding is the live entertainment. Also months before the wedding, the bride would’ve chosen the entertainers who will be performing. Typically, you’d hire a well-known musician to perform as well as a cover artist to play some of those all-time favourite Edo songs. And let’s not forget the traditional/cultural entertainers who do interpretive dancing.

The drop-in guests
I’m sure it’s not just an African thing, but a typical Edo person has a lot of ‘brothers’ and ‘sisters’, which is equivalent to calling people ‘uncles’ and ‘aunties’ even if they aren’t by blood your actual uncles or aunties. This is most obvious at big occasions like weddings. And if you’re at the very bottom of the hierarchy, that means you have even more people to call ‘uncle’ and ‘aunty’—and that also means you’re the new ‘house boy’ or ‘house girl’ who’d be doing everything you’re told (not asked) to do by everyone who’s older than you. That aside, the house is packed with different people dropping in and house that you’re constantly running around to serve guests.

The attire

Edo wedding-benin wedding-nigerian wedding

Months before the wedding, the bride would’ve chosen the African fabric that’d be one of the unique features of her wedding. Friends and family would have the choice to buy the same fabric and take it to their tailor to make whatever style they want to wear to the wedding. And don’t forget the Edo coral beads—the final touch that makes every Edo bride feel like a true African queen on her big day. Edo weddings wouldn’t be the same without the bride and groom decking out those cultural fashion statement pieces. Brides could have the beads sewn and/or braided into their own hair or onto a crown and they would wear that crown. Traditional Edo weddings are distinctly recognized for the coral beads, and I can’t wait for my beads.

The mini party the night before
The night before the wedding is the best. It’s the ‘watch night’ of any big Edo occasions like a wedding—and that pretty much means that you don’t sleep. I miss staying up late getting everything ready for the Big Day like trying on my African attire and having the tailor fix any last minute problems; helping with little stuff in the kitchen while listening to the women who came to help prepare meals tell stories and jokes; running here and there to fetch things for the many “uncles” and “aunties” who would use you as their personal slave; and catching up with friends and relatives. By the time you know it, it’s daybreak and you’re rushing to get at least an hour of sleep. Those are some of the things that make me love weddings in Nigeria. On the night before the wedding, you’d have the ladies on one side of the veranda cooking up a storm while the men are on the other side drinking and munching on foods. That’s as traditional as it gets with gender inequality.

I might not be able to have a full-fledged Edo wedding, a westernized version with our own spin on it won’t be so bad. I can hardly wait!

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~ by omonaij on October 13, 2014.

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