The Wedding Season is in full swing. For many of us in the Diaspora, this means weddings and/or traditional engagements every other week. In Africa, weddings are deeply rooted in age-long cultural, social and religious values that make it a very serious ceremony for many people. It is estimated that more than 5 million weddings take place in Africa’s towns and cities every year and it remains the single most cost-intensive event for many families. Here in the UK, the average wedding day in 2016 spiralled to an average of £27,000 outside London and £38,000 inside the capital, according to wedding planning site Bridebook. How does this compare to the average wedding spend in Africa? According to smallstarter.com as of 2013, depending on the country and location, the average wedding budget in many cities in Africa could be anywhere between $4,500 (£3,471.30) and $40,000 (£30,856). It is also estimated that Africans spend millions of dollars every year on wedding-related products and services. When we consider that the average salary in SSA is just $762 (£587.81) such expenditure is a significant proportion of the average African’s income. Yet the continent’s wedding industry is booming and set to grow even further in the next few years due to it’s*young population, buoyant middle class and expanding disposable incomes.
Photocred: @Eastafricanbrides/ @photographybyabi
Sustaining the Nigerian Economy
Nowhere is the wedding ceremony more lavishly celebrated on the continent than in Nigeria. Funke Bucknor-Obruthe, CEO of Zapphaire Events a full-service event planning company, believes the industry is flourishing because “Nigerian’s love to celebrate and want to outshine others“, plainly one’s wedding is seen as a status symbol. This is unsurprising to many of us who are well versed in the Instagram feeds and blog pages of the likes of BellaNaija Weddings or Wedding Digest Naija who document the lives of Nigeria’s hottest couples and their lavish ceremonies. The country’s wedding industry is currently growing exponentially, although there is not much by way of official statistics, according to Folake Ojo, the executive producer of ‘Nigeria’s Top Weddings,’ a TV show that documents Nigeria’s hottest weddings,”it is a multimillion dollar industry that is growing incredibly fast’”. Aside from the strong social media influences that have exacerbated the competitive culture, it is said that Nigeria’s youth having stronger western influences than their parents, being well travelled and studied abroad, have returned with more expensive tastes which, have pushed the boundaries of the traditional wedding.
Photo cred: @Nigerianweddings
As a result, Nigeria’s ‘elite’ blow the average wedding spend out of the water with many, spending over $2 million on their dream weddings according to Forbes. In 2013 research company Euromint showed how Nigeria had the world’s fastest-growing rate of champagne consumption due to lavish celebrations like weddings, second only to France, while ahead of other lucrative markets including the US and China. In Lagos, around $17 million was spent on parties over a 5-month period in 2013 alone – with one-fifth of the sum on weddings.
Things get even more interesting when we are to consider the fact that Nigeria’s economy is actually currently in a recession. The country officially entered recession in 2016, its first in two decades due to the impact of its vital oil industry hitting weak global prices. Could the spend on lavish weddings be seen as irresponsible on the part of the country’s wealthy and/ or even immoral considering that the poverty rate in Nigeria is about 35%? (The World Bank). On the contrary, the country’s current economic woes have been seen to have little to no impact on its wedding industry which continues on an increasing trajectory. In fact, as the industry grows, so too do the opportunities for everyday Nigerians. How?
Firstly, the wedding industry is responsible for creating new professions in the country as well as transforming traditional ones. For instance, the ‘MUA’ (Make-up Artist), according to Weruche Majekodunmi, founder of Newton & David, a Lagos based company specialising in event design and décor, “prior to these major weddings, wasn’t even considered a full-time job ’. Now, the role is an essential part of any Nigerian bride’s wedding celebrations – and all parts of it. From the traditional ceremony and the (ever increasingly important) white wedding as well as the pre-wedding/ engagement shoots. And this has opened the door of opportunity for another relatively new profession in the country – The Wedding Planner. As ceremonies get more and more extravagant, the Wedding Planner has become integral to any busy modern day African woman with big plans. Ibidunni Ighodalo Founder of Elizabeth R Events, a leading events management company recently expanded her event planning business into a Bridal line with the aim to become a ‘one-stop-shop’ for brides whilst Funke Bucknor-Obruthe of Zapphaire Events (mentioned above) has expanded her business into a training school for events management.
As Nigerian Weddings have become more and more extravagant, it is creating opportunities for
creative entrepreneurs in event planning and decor.
For the traditional photographer meanwhile, opportunities have been created to become an even more integral part of the wedding ceremony. Trends such as the engagement shoot and cinematic film like footage have expanded this role and opened the door for lucrative opportunities.
Photo cred:@Zapphaire_events/ @frankugahphotography
Trends in the wedding industry have created lucrative opportunities for skilled photographers
Secondly, an expanding industry has meant homegrown brands are getting a cut of the market. For their wedding attire, couples are increasingly ‘wearing Nigerian’ as they opt for Nigerian tailors and designers to dress their large bridal parties. And finally, on a smaller scale, the boom in the wedding industry has created opportunities for the everyday labourer in catering, upholstery and carpentry etc. After all, many are needed to serve the 1000+ attendees of a Nigerian wedding.
photo cred: @bellanaijaweddings
The wedding industry has benefitted homegrown designers as many couples
seek Nigerian dressmakers and tailors to dress their large bridal/ groomsmen parties.
“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.” Weruche Majekodunmi, founder of Newton & David
Unemployment in the country has risen stubbornly according to new data published by Nigeria’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) and currently stands at 14.2% (up from 13.9% in the last quarter). A booming wedding industry, therefore, has the potential to fill gaps left behind by some of its staple industries.
Opportunities for African entrepreneurs
Although Nigeria’s wedding industry remains a standout example of growth, similar trends are being seen across the continent and it is one that any innovative and creative entrepreneur should take advantage of. Given that weddings have always been a staple part of most African traditions, tapping into this market now has the potential to be very lucrative. The influence of social media has undoubtedly left a mark on young Africans which has created a demand for specialist service providers. Additionally, entrepreneurs within the diaspora could also take advantage of the growing industry, as they are in a good position to offer a fusion of modern traditional ideas and services.
A wave of new startups are already looking to tap into the booming industry and provide services specially tailored to the needs of the continent’s booming wedding industries:
Weddingdress.ng: A platform that allows former brides and brides-to-be to exchange, sell and hire wedding gowns.
Drinks.ng: Enables customers to order drinks online and have them delivered to their door. Founder Lanre Akinlagun got the idea for his company after a difficult experience trying to obtain drinks for a friend’s wedding at an open-air market.
DMT Toilets: Mobile lavatories for weddings and events. The company offers a range of VIP toilets equipped with red carpets, flat screen TVs, air-conditioning, mp3 players and plush interiors.
*Apart from having the world’s fastest growing population, the continent also has the world’s youngest population – more than 50% of its one billion people are under 20 years old, compared with only 28% in China.
What are your experiences at African weddings? What are your thoughts on the growing industry? Comment below