Report by Declan Eytan for Forbes magazine on how Nigeria’s rich spend over $2million on their dream wedding

December 28, 2014 12:21 pm

Report by Declan Eytan for Forbes magazine

Illusionists flown in from Spain,
flowers imported from France, or an R&B superstar flown in from the
United States. No request seems to be out of line to Nigeria’s rich when
it comes to the most beautiful day of their life. And don’t even
mention the b-word – budget, that is – ’cause whatever the bride wants,
the bride gets.
Due to its oil
reserves, gas, telecom and rising entertainment industry, Nigeria may
consider itself Africa’s largest economy as of early2014. But natural
resources and Nollywood aside, there’s another million dollar business
out there giving the national GPD a major boost: the wedding events
business.

The West African
nation may be home to the majority of Africa’s billionaires, but there’s
no shortage of millionaires either. “Our core clientèle is mainly made
up by millionaires. They will not hesitate to spend the money in order
to get what they want. If they need to fly in an artist from America, or
a decorator from Dubai or London, they will do so,” says Funke Bucknor,
founder of Nigeria’s leading wedding and events company, Zapphaire
events.
Bucknor is a brand. Apart from her wedding planning duties, she’s published a book titled The Essential Bridal Hand book,
and in the first quarter of 2015 her very own TV show will start airing
on a national TV network. She founded her wedding planning business
twelve years ago and was amongst the first to do so. Today, her
profession which seemed unnecessary to many locals over a decade ago,
has become an essential to the moneyed Nigerian bride that wants her
wedding to be the talk of town. Or perhaps it is better to say her weddings.
‘Cause one wedding alone just doesn’t cut it. First there is the
traditional wedding – the only wedding recognized by the family –
followed by the white wedding, which is similar to that which we know in
the West. As for the latter, the destination wedding is all the rage.
“Dubai and London are the most popular destinations, followed by Cape
Town, Seychelles and the Maldives. Florence in currently growing in
popularity,” Bucknor adds.

In
2013 research company Euromint showed how Nigeria had world’s fastest
growing rate of champagne consumption, second only to France, while
ahead of other lucrative markets including the US and China. Lagos-based
beauty-queen-turned-event-planner, Elohor Aisien, concurs. “Nigerians
love champagne, so the most money will be spent on drinks as well as
food. On Nigerian weddings there’s food from 2pm till midnight.” Given
that the average Nigerian wedding will easily have around 1000 guests,
whereas the bigger wedding will have between 2000 and 3000 guests, the
choice of champagne is a crucial one. “Old money Nigerians may keep
things more subtle, new money Nigerians are more concerned with letting
people know that they’ve arrived. Magnums of Dom Pérignon will often be
their drink of choice. In a way it’s become this competition amongst
brides. They’ll ask me: ‘How many bottles did she have? I need more,’”
33-year-old Aisien says. 

Her
wedding and events planning company Privé Luxury – founded in 2012 –
might be a newbie to the scene, but Elohor may already consider
offspring of Nigerian royalty, and the country’s leading female
recording artist amongst her clients. “I did the wedding of Reukayat
Indimi, who comes from a royal Nigerian family, which hails from the
north of the country. According to northern tradition, the bride can’t
leave the house during the month leading up to the wedding. Since the
bride didn’t have her wedding dress yet, I flew into London with a model
who fitted several dresses for her. Elie Saab is a popular choice of
wedding dress amongst Nigerians, whereas most grooms I work with want a
Tom Ford total look. Vera Wang is also very much in demand, since it
fits well on the Nigerian body type,” Elohor says, who may also tick the
box that says “celebrity wedding”. 

In 2013 Privé Luxury planned one of
Nigeria’s most talked-about weddings, twhich ended up being broadcast on
a local TV network. It was when Nigeria’s leading female recording
artist Tiwa Savage, exchanged vows with husband Tee Billz. Their
destination wedding was held at Dubai’s Armani Hotel, part of world’s
tallest man-made structure, the Burj Khalifa.”I have a good relationship
with the Armani Hotel in Dubai, they love Nigerian weddings,”Aisien
concludes. 

Some might argue that it is morally wrong for a country in which some
have to live on a dollar a day, to add value to how many liters of DP
are flowing at a wedding. Others however, claim that if it wasn’t for
lavish Nigerian weddings, there would be no Nigerian economy. “I
appreciate them spending this money, cause without these weddings I
don’t know where the Nigerian economy would be,” says Weruche
Majekodunmi, founder of Newton & David, a local company specialized
in event design and décor. “The weddings keep our economy going.
Normally the rich Nigerians will spend their money abroad, whenever they
go shopping. Thanks to the wedding industry the money is being invested
back into our economy. Jobs of caterers, tailors, carpenters and
upholsterers are being sustained. Prior to these major weddings, the
profession of make-up artist wasn’t even considered a full-time job,”
she explains. 

Weruche
started working with flowers at church as a hobby, around 25 years ago.
It was at a time in which Nigerians paid little to no attention, to the
decoration of their wedding venue. “Up to fifteen years ago, some
weddings wouldn’t even have a table cloth on the tables and they
wouldn’t have any flowers except for the bridal bouquet. Nowadays
Nigerian weddings will feature expensive flowers from France, silk table
cloth and lots of crystal. A lot of the elite Nigerian kids have been
educated abroad, so they’re used to the international standard when it
comes to detail. They’ve become accustomed to a certain standard, so to
import something isn’t unusual to them” the décor specialist slash
wedding planner explains. Currently trending amongst the international
kids is the flower wall, which surged in popularity after Kim
Kardashian’s marriage to Kanye West.

Weruche
goes on saying, “It has happened three times in the last five years
that I’ve organized a wedding that cost over $2 million. They spent the
most on food, Cristal champagne, entertainment and gifts to their
guests. At one wedding all the invitees got their wedding outfit with
their invitation. At another wedding they handed out microwave ovens,
smart phones and rice cookers, to all of their guests. At some other
weddings they’ll fly in their guests and arrange their accommodation in
case they decide to get married overseas. You must understand, that our
reasoning is different from that in the West.”

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