“Babe, how is our white wedding going to be? It must be the talk of the town”. Well, walking down the aisle after being engaged is the next big thing and the major way that couples in Nigeria use to announce their marriage is an elaborate white wedding.
This kind of wedding has now become an essential part of the marriage culture of Nigerians, irrespective of religious inclination and cultural background. Virtually everyone wants to have a formal wedding, especially the women, who are the brides on the day and want to wear that dashing white wedding gown.
So, why is a white wedding seen as a big deal by intending couples in Nigeria?
Meaning of white wedding
It is a customary formal or semi-formal wedding that has its roots in the United Kingdom.
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The phrase comes from the wedding gown‘s traditional colour of white, which gained popularity among Victorian-era aristocracy when Queen Victoria dressed in a white lace gown on her wedding day in 1840. Although earlier British queens such as Mary, Queen of Scots, had donned a white gown during her first wedding in 1559, Victoria’s embellishment of her wedding gown made the concept a popular one during her reign till date.
The phrase is currently also used to refer to the entirety of a Western wedding ceremony, particularly in the context of the Christian religious tradition, which typically consists of a church service during which the marriage is solemnized and a celebration that follows.
However, as highlighted in the prologue, couples of other religious beliefs also have elements of a white wedding incorporated at their wedding event. For instance, several Muslim adherents have had features of a this type of wedding ingrained during their nikkah.
History of the white wedding dress
Most young ladies who dream of their wedding day picture themselves in a white gown walking down the aisle. After all, a traditional wedding with all the time-honoured traditions on show, alongside the pomp and pageantry is what brides adore. However, those who are sincerely interested in history should be aware that brides did not always go down the aisle in white.
The Washington Post reports that because white was connected with grief during the 1700s and 1800s, no bride wanted to wear it on her wedding day. White was undoubtedly not the hue that most brides liked, despite some audacious brides—like Mary Queen of Scots —making big fashion statements by donning it.
According to TIME, brides were more likely to wear red at early church marriages. Rich brides, especially from the nobility, would wear jewel-toned robes with fur edges and gold and silver embroidery to make a statement as they started their marriages.
With Queen Victoria, everything was different. Yes, the same princess who popularised Christmas trees also established a new benchmark for bridal attire. Victoria was only 20 years old when she wedded Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg in 1840. According to historical records, she wanted her subjects to understand that she took her role as Queen seriously and would act responsibly. She determined that an elegant wedding dress would be the best way to deliver that message. Since then, the white wedding dress has come to stay not just in Britain, but across the world.
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History of the white wedding in Nigeria
The Ibani region (a subgroup of the Ijaw ethnic group) is where the modern white wedding tradition reportedly began in Nigeria. On Sunday, November 25, 1894, at St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Bonny (in present-day Rivers State), Christopher C.B. Green and Stella Jesibi Green exchanged vows in a church, thereby becoming the first couple in Nigeria to do so.
According to St. Stephen’s Cathedral Bonny records, church weddings (also known as white weddings) began in Bonny sometime in the early 1890s. The culture of white weddings subsequently spread across southern Nigeria as evangelical missionaries made their presence in the geopolitical region during the colonial administration, and began preaching and solemnising marriages.
Is the white wedding necessary in Nigeria?
There has been a debate for a very long time as to whether Nigerians must perform the white wedding. A lot of people believe that the white wedding is a borrowed culture and that it is not necessary.
Some are also of the opinion that, without a doubt, the white wedding mocks our traditional marriage. In the western world, having a white wedding is considered the traditional way to get married.
Why do Africans today consider white weddings to be better than the typical cultural marriage in which two families come together and dowry is exchanged? What sense does it make to perform an African traditional wedding and then top it all off with this borrowed white wedding? Do we Africans have to show off our newlywed status by donning those baggy suits and long gowns, I believe that Africans are promoting the culture of the white man while pushing their own culture into the background. Are we claiming that the white wedding is the ultimate wedding event?
Some people believe that the white wedding is a very necessary step as the couple is presented before and blessed by their church. While I do not doubt the spiritual significance of such an event, it is pertinent that Africans should also adhere to their culture of weddings because the western world, from where we copied white weddings, does not marry in our way.
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