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    Walt Shakes

    Walter Ude (@Walt_Shakes) is an award-winning Nigerian writer, poet and veteran blogger. He is a lover of the written word. the faint whiff of nature, the flashing vista of movies, the warmth of companionship and the happy sound of laughter. He blogs at mymindsnaps.wordpress.com.

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On February 14, I felt one of the best ways I should unwind from the love euphoria serenading the world was to go for a special valentine church program. Well, I did go, hoping to hear some new pep talk on love. Suffice it to say I didn’t hear anything new, but, the minister said something that got my ears up. Prior to this church program, I had been battling inwardly on the rationale of white weddings and the whole extravaganza attached to these nuptials. I have always wanted to know between the church and traditional weddings, which was more important, or should I say, which the real wedding was.

This inner battle led me to ask some married people which of the two forms of wedding was the real wedding, or which was the significance that a marriage had begun. Most of the answers I received validated the dowry, that once a dowry is paid to the bride’s parents, the lady in question automatically becomes the groom’s wife. Then I fired my second question: Then why the white wedding since the bride has become the groom’s wife? They would say something like: you know GOD needs to bless the marriage, that’s why we went to the church. This answer made me ask, so GOD does not bless a marriage until the couple performs the white wedding? At this point, most of my interviewees would pause, and say something like, I don’t know but I know you need the blessing of your pastor.

I believe it’s time we defined certain cultures that have finally become tradition. Even if we cannot define it, we should at least question its validity, check its merits and relevance, then decide if such cultures are still necessary. To me, I feel it is burdensome for people to go through two forms of weddings before the society will accept them as truly wedded.

There are three kinds of weddings according to the Nigerian law: the native wedding, the Islamic wedding and the marriage by act. Before colonization, the native wedding was the most popular wedding. The coming of white folks brought the white wedding trend.  And, ever since then, the trend has become the second phase of wedding for the Christians. Some argue they do not just do the white wedding because of church blessing, but because it is the only wedding legally recognized by law. The types of legally recognized wedding listed above punctures that line of thought. In fact, evidence abound that some people who wed in church without the native wedding are not legally married. The reason is because they just have church certificates, without going through the local government. This means invariably that the church wedding without the court authentication is a charade. In fact, it means that church wedding is not a form of wedding.

If this is legally correct, why should the minister on Valentine’s Day pontificate that the church wedding (white wedding) is the real wedding recognized by GOD. On hearing this that day, I perked up. I waited for the divine oracle to back up his claim with a biblical scripture. And he did; the man of God later used a bible verse that went thus: marriage is holy with the bed undefiled. To me, that begged the question: how does this translate to GOD authenticating the white wedding as the right kind of wedding?

We should call church wedding what it truly is, it is a white version of traditional marriage.

The whites brought Christianity to the ‘pagan’ African, their Christianity obviously came with their form of education, government, trade, mentality, fashion and culture. Though, we are independent politically, we are still heavily colonized by several means. In fact, the travesty of this colonization is that we are the colonizer and the colonized at the same time. Though we are free politically, so many Africans are struggling like the two major characters, Wangeci and Kiguunda in Ngugi Wa Thiongo and Ngugi Wa Miri’s play, I Will Marry When I Want – the two characters who do not understand why their native marriage was termed sinful by the church despite paying the entire traditional rites expected for one intending to marry.

So I ask: if one does not go through the process of a white wedding, does it mean God will not recognize the union?

If the answer is no, then I still say I see no reason for one to go through the hassles of two weddings. If the answer is no, then I say, after the first kind of wedding, be it native or white, any other type that follows is an empty ceremony with no real worth. If the answer is no, why will the church tell couples not to consummate their marriage till they come before “God” in the church to bless their marriage? If the answer is no, then what is the essence of wasting money, borrowing money, inviting folks – some who do not really wish you well – to come and witness the white wedding?

However, if the answer is yes, then, I see no reason we should waste our energy on the native wedding. One should head straight to the church and get that over with, and forget about buying drinks for all those beer-guzzling elders who did not contribute anything to the training of the bride. If the answer is yes, then one should damn tradition, make a forward match to the church and get done with the real recognized blessing.

On the contrary, if two of them are important or inevitable like the two ends of a stick, then it’s about time we found a way of simplifying it. Because, many a man go through severe headaches when they tinker out the cost of shouldering the two ceremonies – like how Kiguunda had to sell his only land to perform the white wedding. I do not believe marriage should be an expensive event. Personally, I feel it is really out of place to spend so much money celebrating an opening day of a serious event which you have not started. It is like throwing a party for an athlete who is ‘on your mark’, an athlete that should concentrate on the important race ahead. Wedding ceremonies should be a serious moment of reflection and not a day of wild jamboree.

Having said this, my one kobo on the white wedding is: it is a modern day definition of bondage. It is an expired cloth that has outlived its relevance. God’s blessing is also on the native wedding as long as you go about it the right way. The church does not have monopoly of God’s blessing.

May GOD open our eyes of understanding.

Written by Tobe Osigwe, @ikolondigboPictures

Leave a comment


  1. nik

     /  February 21, 2014

    Finally I get to read one of tobes write up that is very short nd precise. Good one bro

  2. Kelechi

     /  February 21, 2014

    Tobe says it all.

    The church wedding is actually “oyibo” trad Invalid per se under the law unless the church issues the couple a certificate RECOGNISED BY THE REGISTRY…

    I will just end up repeating all Tobe said. We owe ourselves an education. A huge one. 🙂

  3. it’s ridiculous when pastors tell the couples they can consummate before the white wedding. For real?
    Anyway, it’s for those who listen to pastors. Me I was consummating way before all that ish sef

  4. so true my brother , much ado a
    bout antiquated clothing and spending the money you don’t have to impress people who don’t give a hoot about you or your welfare. shine your eyes.

  5. @bertokoji

     /  February 21, 2014

    Very deep thots! I don’t see white weddings as a necessary must. Our older peeps did d Trad and marriages went on to last. These dayz reverse is d case.wasting so much Ego just to appease sum few Eyes.

  6. nnenna

     /  February 21, 2014

    Yes, I am with the writer of this article, as a JW, we don’t do two weddings. Either you do the native one with the ceremony and go later to get a court certificate or you do the white wedding with a wedding certificate from the court. Our organisation simplified this like 6 years ago knowing that all three types are recognised in nigeria.

  7. Esther genius

     /  February 21, 2014

    I’m sure all dis hula balu resonated from d cost of dis white wedding. Like Isaacola would say, “spending d money u don’t have to impress the people who don’t give a hoot about you or your welfare”
    Whether it is d real, fake, blue, pink or black wedding, the white wedding is a culture we hav accepted nd embraced, it has now become OUR culture. Now the underlining issue is, most pple want 2 spend above their means,dats where it bcoms ridiculous, do it bt within ur means

  8. villebilingue

     /  February 21, 2014

    Personally, I don’t really see the brouhaha with white wedding. If you want a pastor to bless your union, what happened to him blessing it during the trad, at least I know that nowadays, a pastor can preach during the trad. Also, any ish with having a church blessing?
    Seriously, I think white weddings are sometimes plain over-rated.

  9. Honestly,White wedding isn’t dat necessary…..bt our frnds n families av so much confused n tricked us into thinkn dat d fun fare n all dose unecesary spendin is super important…dey even sometyms make it look lyk lyf after d wedding ceremony is secondry…..on d oda hand n as an Event Manager,I luv White Weddings cuz it pays my bills…..*wink*

  10. david

     /  February 21, 2014

    Beautiful write up…if everyone thought in this line we would be in such a better place as Nigerians. Me likey…unfortunately I do not completely agree with my namesakes “one kobo” on the issue..”Having said this, my one kobo on the white wedding is: it is a modern day definition of bondage. It is an expired cloth that has outlived its relevance”….

    I would rather call both forms of marriage “African traditional wedding” and the “modern european wedding”. The “Christian” wedding on the other hand is called “christian” because the couple are joined in the presence and in the name of “Christ Jesus” amongst christians in a christian church and not “God” (because “God” can be anything you choose it to be, from a stone to spittle from your mouth). So if you’re a christian and you believe that christ should have preeminence over your marriage then that should be your pick…the african traditional marriage invariably because the worthless expired cloth (frankly I don’t see the relevance of the bride price since I no de buy my wife and not intending for own her as property and I don’t want to “blessed” by some wine barbers that I do not know from adam and who care nothing for me and my marriage). On the other hand if you are not christian then I see no reason why you should be found in the church performing a christian wedding.

    My take….people should be allowed to do one wedding for christ’s sake, it is quite ludicrous and frankly, stupid to perform two wedding ceremonies…it is one marriage afterall. However you wan throw the party should be entirely your decission if you want to wear batman and catwoman getups it shouldn’t be an issue.

  11. Kachi

     /  February 21, 2014

    Tobe has said it all. But the problem now is a lot of gals would want both packages because they wouldn’t wanna feel left out. “Ada did her White wedding 2weeks after her trado, so why shouldn’t I!”. “Did you see the last outing uniform Tola wore in her trado, I can’t wait to see her Vera Wang white dress next week saturday”….. We just need education, especially the ladies. You aint the one footing the bill, and moreover if your parents have handed you over to your man after the dowry’s been paid, why can’t you shut your big-greedy-ambituous-selfish eyes and go and marry him in his haus and save the both of you unnecessary brohaha and debt. I don’t see the need in doing the both of them. Simply unnecessary to perform 2weddings, do one and rest.

  12. darl

     /  February 21, 2014

    I don’t get it. Anyone who wants to do a white wedding does so within his or her pocket. If such person runs into debts after the wedding, it’s his or her problem. If money no dey for the wedding, then the couple may decide to fashii the thing. Personally I love white weddings. If you don’t like or see the reason for white weddings, please don’t attend anybody’s own. Don’t even think of having one. It’s the problem and choice of the couple and not yours. Simple.

  13. Yemie

     /  February 21, 2014

    Tobe Osigwe, you never to cease amaze me with the ways you tackle topical issues. Man, thou art a deep thinker and a very wise one at that. I doff my hat for you even though I’m not presently adorning one right now. You spit sense, ALWAYZ! LOL!

    A marriage is as good as final and done once the couple decide they wanna get with each other, both their parents give their sincere consents and the dowry’s paid. It doesn’t matter whether or not the union is ‘solemnized’ in a Church or Mosque. As far as I’m concerned, God’s in on a union that’s replete with all the aforementioned factors I stated, especially the parents’ consent being the key thing. Folks just love to indulge in the ‘razzmatazz’ that’s the white wedding. All na ‘effizi’, nothing more. For those who cannot afford to indulge in such frivolities, its alright; absolutely. No biggie!

  14. Oly

     /  February 21, 2014

    Personally, i consider the church wedding the actual wedding. The whole traditional thingy isn’t entirely necessary. In my church, once you are wed, you are also given the legal documents that can be recognized and acceptable anywhere in the world.

    However, it is important to show respect to whom it is due, and this is where the traditional rites should not be ignored. As a man coming to marry a woman, he should already be aware about the family background of the lady and what her parents really consider as important. My parents consider the church wedding the most important one and therefore focus on that. This doesn’t mean that they would disregard the traditional rites of the people. All that is needed between the young man getting married and his future parents-in-law is understanding. Talk to them, you never can tell how they would simplify the entire process for you. When my sister was about to wed, my father, who doesn’t believe in all the frivolities of ceremonies, made sure he made things easy and cost effective for them. All the traditional rites were done in Lagos without having to travel to the village or do an extravagant ceremony.

    It is not impossible to do the entire ceremony (both traditional rites and church wedding) on a particular day…It is less expensive that way.

    Some families would even refuse their daughters from moving into the husband’s house after traditional marriage because they consider the church wedding to be the ultimate.

    In my opinion, do the traditional rites (not a full blown wedding ceremony o) if necessary and within minutes, hours or 1week tops, do the church wedding. That is more important! Its the reception ceremony that engulfs all the expenses….easy, do a really small reception. You don’t have to invite the whole world to party with you.

  15. Wow! I’m thrilled by this! Toby, you just hit the nail on the head. Very well then, we should expect a very low key wedding from you. Just gather very few folks and we’ll drink some wine, play music and perform poetry. Lol!

  16. Maureen

     /  February 21, 2014

    The holy matrimony , commonly called “the white wedding” is the exchange of marital vows between a male and a female who have agreed of their own freewill to become husband and wife in the presence of a minister( who represents Christ) and @ least 2 witnesses. Then the minister blesses the union.
    The traditional marriage is a series of events (intro,bride price,wine carrying)steeped in the tradition of a people through which they give their daughter to an accepted man in marriage and also bless them. Each step bearing a weighty significance.
    Then for a legal proof of marriage, any of the above should be registered in a court of law.
    The third I know is the court marriage. Register ur intentions, put out the banns and if no impediments come forth, come with your witnesses and sign the documents.(I stand to be corrected by the lawyers on this one)
    Because some have come to believe in God and want him to be involved, they do the first. Then because many of us have not rejected the traditions of our people totally, they also do the second. A good number do only court marriage and feel okay. Some still do any one of the above three. All valid. All important, depending on who’s defining. Eg a traditionalist will have a trad wedding but have it registered cos he might need to defend his marital status while filling out forms someday.

  17. Maureen

     /  February 21, 2014

    We should not forget however that after the exchange of vows and the minister’s blessings in holy matrimony you become married. And as far as I know, this is cheaper to have than completing most traditional rites.
    The wedding reception has never been mandatory. That is the borrowed culture, the white man’s traditional wedding ceremony.
    So depending on your belief system, place your priorities right and spend wisely. Marriage actually commences after the wedding. Phew !

  18. Hitting the Hammer on the head. These thoughts have paraded my brain for long too. Thanks for the read

  19. Much ado about nothing. The way I see it, you can do all 3, even borrow one extra from the Red Sioux and Eskimos if you wish!!
    This, here, is my idea of the perfect wedding;

    Traditional rites: Done in the bride’s living room with 2 elders, both parents and siblings present, the siblings bit?? Optional.

    Church wedding/ blessings/ white wedding: Done on Monday evening or during the weekday services. Guests and family get goodwill souvenirs as the couple exit the venue( that’s if they feel up to spending on that. Might I add too? Maybe small chops on the go). No sitting or convening at another venue=extra expense for the YOUNG couple. Haba! Have a care!!

    Destination? HomeSweetHome.

    Couple can decide to have a pre, Wedding and post wedding shoot whenever they feel up to it.

    Less headache. No stress. Plus additional savings for the future.

    Full stop

  20. kriss ejike

     /  February 21, 2014

    Well, I think it’s d part where Ɣõu̶̲̥̅̊ made mention of us being both the colonised and the colonizer that is a fact really worthy of mention. The white wedding is an idea of of our colonial masters and it has now become an integral part of our matrimonial system. Every bride looks up to her white wedding and the groom as well.
    However, tradition must also run its course as it is also very important when a man is giving out her daughter in marriage. Suffice to say that both are relevant and one cannot be said to be more important than the other.
    This is because there are many couples today who are happily married traditionally without the blessing of a pastor or reverend father and vice versa…my humble submission.

  21. doris

     /  February 21, 2014

    Trad is the main wedding.Church wedding is just ceremonial…but i like am sha.

  22. Nwukabu Danjuma

     /  February 22, 2014

    “beer-guzzling elders” loool.
    My personal opinion: Only one type of wedding is necessary, but feel free to marry as many times as you like. If I were to substitute one for the other, I would skip the trad wedding and not have a reception after the church service. Everybody should go home and cook their own rice by themselves.

  23. Colonizers and colonials and traditional and…all that? Denigrating one for the sake of the other doesn’t make any sense to me.

    It’s funny how we can pick and choose what is ‘the white man’s’ ‘imposed’ traditions…while we type on laptops, wearing Levi jeans, drinking Coke (none of which is ‘traditional, by the way).

    I think that white weddings are fun and pretty…and expensive, so if you don’t wanna do it, then don’t. As far as you say vows before your parents and appropriate witnesses then you are married, whether you’re wearing a white dress or a bikini. And by the way, this ‘white wedding’ thing isn’t even a set tradition in all European countries. It has been merged and melded into what we know today over time and with little bits from various cultures.

    So…the ultimate thing with getting married is the couple, the vows, the family and the presence of God…with our without the party and trimmings.

    Just saying.


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