Naira Wedding: Marriage and Money in Nigeria - PhMuseum

Naira Wedding: Marriage and Money in Nigeria

Glenna Gordon

All around the world, everyone goes broke getting hitched. In Nigeria, it’s a day that signals alliances of families and the start of an economic union. And sometimes love too.

Lagos is home to anywhere form 15 million to 30 million people, and one in every five Africans is Nigerian. The value added annually from this wealthy oil-producing nation makes it the biggest country in Africa by many measures. Weddings can cost hundreds of thousands or even millions of Naira, the high value local currency. Money trickles down from Oil and Gas; the best jobs are government jobs; and the rich here are richer than most people outside of Nigeria could ever imagine.

Naira Wedding is about what it costs to get married in Nigeria: the scale of money spent on lavish weddings as well as the emotional costs to families and individuals visible in the few quiet moments amidst frenzied ceremony.

Families give gifts to guests too: from gallon sized dishwashing detergents with the couple’s face on the label to electric teakettles to cheese graters. Everyone always needs another teakettle because the power grid fails so often that the cheap Chinese imports break down all the time.

Despite and because of Nigeria’s enormous wealth, things here break down: cars, phone networks, transport options, payment systems. Years of military dictators, coups, human rights abuses, strikes, and environmental disaster mean that many in this massive and fractured country just don’t trust each other. Not even man and wife.

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  • A groom lays on the ground in submission, asking the bride's parents for permission to marry their daughter, at a wedding in Yaba, Lagos in January. Weddings are big business in petrol rich Nigeria.

  • Bride Temitope Caulker poses with her bridesmaids, who in typical Nigerian fashion, wear outfits that match the decor of the wedding hall. The wedding industry in petrol-rich Nigeria is big business.

  • A small wedding in Nigeria will have several hundred guests, and a big wedding will often have several thousand guests. They are public affairs that seldom stick to a guest list. The wedding industry in petrol-rich Nigeria is big business.

  • A waiter clears the table at the end of a wedding in Lagos in October 2012. The wedding industry in petrol-rich Nigeria is big business.

  • Families give gifts to guests at weddings, completing the cycle of exchange. In this case, the gift is a gallon of Proclean, a dishwashing liquid, with the couple's face printed on a label glued on to the bottle. Weddings in Nigeria are elaborate and expensive affairs.

  • Men put up a giant tent for a 3,000 person wedding. The tent comes with carpet, air conditions, and generators to power the air conditioners. Massive weddings are big business in Nigeria.

  • Guests at a wedding in Lagos await the start of the ceremony and lunch. The wedding industry in petrol-rich Nigeria is big business.

  • Groom Shadrach Uchenna, a wedding photographer, and his bride Ekpo Peace Emem sit at the front of a banquet hall during the wedding as guests greet them on October 27, 2012 in Lagos, Nigeria. Weddings are big business in this oil-rich nation.

  • A bridesmaid collects "spray" - Naira notes (and sometimes dollars too) as throw at the couple as they dance. While spraying is technically illegal and considered an abuse of currency by the Nigerian government, the practice is common.

  • A bride struts down the aisle with "swagger." Weddings are big business in petrol rich Nigeria.

  • A bride gets ready to go into a hall at the Lagos Sports Stadium.

  • A hostess prepares for a wedding in Lagos, Nigeria. The wedding industry in petrol-rich Nigeria is big business.

  • Two women wearing dresses from "Mommy's Fabric," pose for a photo. The mother of the bride chooses and distributes one fabric to her friends, all of whom will have similar dresses made from the fabric and wear matching yele head ties. Weddings are big business in Nigeria.

  • A couple walks through the dance floor at a wedding in Lagos in October.

  • At a wedding on Lagos Island, friends of the bride "spray" her with money - they throw Naira notes (and sometimes dollars too) as they dance. While spraying is technically illegal and considered an abuse of currency by the Nigerian government, the practice is common. The money is collected by diligent bridesmaids, and occasionally, naughty children.


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