My big, fat Nigerian wedding: Inside Lagos' bridal boom

Story highlights

  • Nigeria has a booming wedding industry
  • The trend is driven by the desire for extravagant themed weddings
  • Weddings in Nigeria are huge affairs, sometimes with 2,000 guests
Weddings in Nigeria are colorful, creative and extravagant productions, with guest lists of up to 2,000 people considered standard.
"In England, if you had 400 people at a wedding, that would be considered a huge number," bridalwear and couture designer Yemi Osunkoya said.
"In Nigeria, if you had 400 guests, people would say 'Oh, dear,' " he continues. "The more (people) you have there, the more friends it seems you have."
Osunkoya should know. With his wedding gowns highly sought-after by Nigerian brides, he attends about 15 of his clients' weddings in Nigeria each year, and his London-based label, Kosibah, is at the heart of that country's booming wedding industry. Last month, it was one of 129 businesses exhibiting at Lagos' Wed Expo exhibition, which drew 10,000 attendees over two days.
"I would say weddings are one of the fastest growing industries in Nigeria right now," said the event's organizer, Akin Eso. "A lot of people term it that they're 'going into events' -- but the money is really in the wedding industry."
The publisher of Wed magazine, a wedding-focused title that launched in Nigeria last year, Eso said the typical Nigerian wedding has evolved in recent years into a high-concept "production."
"There's always been this joy around weddings, but now there's also this whole creativity: It's more like a production, and nobody knows where it's going to stop," he said. "People just imagine it and make it happen."
Themes such as a "snow wedding" would involve decorating the entire hall to match the concept, he said.
"Ten years back, you would normally do all the arrangements for the wedding yourself or with your friend," he said. "Now, for every aspect of the wedding there's a vendor that can help you."
The trend has been driven by the many young Nigerians living overseas, who had introduced ambitious ideas for wedding themes, along with the concept of the wedding planner: a professional event organizer who could realize the happy couple's vision for their big day, typically at their parents' expense.
Osunkoya said families typically put much e