‘The Legends’ are ‘enjoyment ministers’ who gatecrash weddings
It is not out of the ordinary for most of us to have that special something we enjoy doing that makes life a little more fun, and for these three West African ladies gatecrashing weddings seems to bring that extra enjoyment into their lives.
They go by the names, Lovelylizzyltg, Ketuya Talks (myself) and Andrianna Patterson. They have been attending the weddings of people they do not know since they were children and they have a whale of a time doing it.
Not only do they find themselves socialising with old school friends they bump into, they also get to meet up with new people and admire men belonging to the Yoruba tribe of Nigeria. Lastly, they get to ‘turn up’ all the way to the top.
Just like any other event or function African weddings are becoming major social affairs with Instagram pages like ‘bellanaijaweddings’ promoting weddings and appreciating the iconic moments that have taken place.
Traditional weddings can see over 1,000 guests at a time, apart from the celebration of love, African weddings are quite an elaborate affair with expensive and colourful materials flooding the banqueting halls of London every week.
Two-toned Malian cloths, tightly hand-crafted wefts of Kente and checked Kikoy, they give guests a slight pinch of what African culture is really like. Not to mention the crates of drink and trays of food to keep the congregation amused, smiling and happy.
So what about gate crashers, defined as people who attend events that they are not invited to?
Between the ages of 12 and 15 Ketuya became the ‘handbag lady’ for her older sister and her friends who were older. I was taken all around London while my sister and her friends partied away. I would basically hold the table for herself and her friends along with their bags and coats while they enjoyed themselves. It never felt lonely there were always aunties passing by and asking me if I wanted something to eat or drink.
At times they would join me at the table and start insulting their husbands slyly. I remember being at a Sierra Leonean wedding and an aunt said “my husband is so short I don’t know what to do with him.” I found it so funny and when she pointed him out, I really couldn’t help but laugh.
Just as I watched their bags and coats they would also pile up the gifts that you tend to get at these types of weddings. From wooden spoons to plastic trays, bottle openers, and even Tupperware. Most of the kitchen utensils I have in my house today have come from weddings.
Now at 25 years-old I honestly have no shame. At work the other day two African girls were talking about a wedding and I asked them when and where the wedding was taking place. Because I was going to attend, and enjoy!
One of the girls said “That wedding is going to be to lit!” I knew there was potential for a live band and a lot of money getting showered on the bride.
Because enjoyment is ministered at weddings, I have the time of my life, I will also be ministering enjoyment when I get married and everyone is welcome to come and taste ‘high time’ and ‘high life’.
I thought I found my future husband at a wedding I attended last year. He was a tall Yoruba guy. What a shame. Not to worry I’m a legend I will find one in the next couple of years.
Lovelizzyltg’s first wedding experience was African but it was not a traditional wedding. It was a Cameroonian ‘white’ wedding in Leeds. “Actually, this wedding was really good, the music was really good but it was done in a hotel, not a banqueting hall. Everything had to be done for a certain time frame and the wedding has to keep to a schedule which I’m not really used to. I remember we had a limited amount of time to eat the food but it was still good and lively with loads of Cameroonian’s and the bride a groom looked amazing.”
“The atmosphere, different colours, dancing, hype, and enjoyment is what I love. Everybody just comes together and has fun. Unlike a rave, there is no time for animosity at a wedding. Everybody is just there to literally enjoy the vibes and celebrate two people coming together.”
“I have several reasons why I go to the weddings of people I don’t know. The first reason is that I am bored and like weddings – Lizzy laughs as she says this. Secondly, it’s just part of our culture to go and celebrate at parties whether you know the person or not. I’ve even had parties where I don’t know the people who have turned up and I have never had an issue with it. As long as everyone is well behaved and respectful I do not see anything wrong with attending a wedding if you don’t know who is getting married.”
“Personally, I don’t care who is getting married I will go! Cause I want to! The biggest wedding plug is my friend Ijay she is the biggest plug for all weddings. She knows about everything in advance because she is a socialite.” In urban terms ‘the plug’ is someone who is good a resourcing something.
“At my wedding everyone is welcome to come and celebrate with me as long as everyone is respectful, well behaved and well-dressed. Everyone is welcome because my wedding is going to be extravagant, it’s going to be amazing, it’s going to be sensational so everybody is welcome to come and experience an extravaganza!”
The wedding plug, Ijay, laughs at Lizzy’s comment and goes on to say: “Weddings are free, you meet different people and the vibe is bubbly! But she doesn’t think she’s ‘the plug’, and that readers “should not mind Lovelylizzyltg. She says she knows about weddings because she also gets invited by friends.”
As a child, Andriana Patterson / Joy Joy (a friend of Ketuya Talks & Lizzyltg) was taken from wedding to wedding. On average she attended a wedding every other month. “As a child the vibrant and bold colours of African weddings mesmerised me. I thought weddings were quite playful. Till this day I enjoy the fact that African weddings are so much fun. There are always people on the dance floor shaking a leg. When I enter weddings, I am always very happy and it is equally the same when I leave them.”
“I have never been left hungry at a wedding. There is always food and on the odd occasion when the food is finished there is always so much drink to share. Afro beats are always played at these weddings and that style of music puts everyone in a happy place. Even if you have never heard the song that is playing in the background you can vibes away.”“When I go weddings of people I don’t know it’s so much more relaxing. I am not having to run around or help out (give food and drinks to guests). There are many cases when you come across someone you know but there also cases where you don’t really know anyone. In such cases, I sit back and enjoy the celebration around me. Gossip takes place in every community and I am conscious about this. If I go to weddings and see people I know I prepare myself to know there might be a slight chance someone may say something whether it’s good or bad.”
“On my wedding day, I want an enjoyable experience. Honestly, I most likely wouldn’t even know if there were people at my wedding that I don’t know just because I probably will be ecstatic and overwhelmed! But I would defiantly let people I don’t know come in and enjoy the party. That’s what makes African weddings special. Even weddings that are not African celebrate the idea of not knowing who might be at your wedding, there are plenty of cases were the invite says ‘plus one’ so you won’t necessarily know who’s going to be there.”
According to studies at the University of Warwick in 2008, the black African born population of the UK was around half-a-million and ‘The Migration Observatory 2015’ at the University of Oxford released a chart of the top 10 countries of birth of migrants in London of which Nigeria held 4th place.
So just imagine how many traditional weddings are taking place in London. And this on top of Africans that marry other races/ ethnic groups outside of Africa that still make sure that they have a traditional wedding.
Weddings in the African community are discovered by family and friends. At that point, a wedding crasher will usually know the basics which could be whether it’s an ‘invite only’ function or an open-door function. This information is key as you never want to get turfed at the door by a wedge-shouldered security man – that’s embarrassing and people will just be looking at you thinking why did you not stay at home.
However, with so many people just turning up at weddings some couples have decided to keep their LIT weddings on an ‘invite only’ regime otherwise the venues can get overcrowded (this does have a more western approach because in Africa weddings are open to all the neighbours and extended community). Wedding crashes dismiss this idea because they believe enjoyment and thrills are good for the mind, body, and soul.
This approach may be deemed selfish but every blessing is a great blessing on a wedding day. What’s the point of having an aunty at your wedding who you have never really liked but has to be there giving you the same side eye she always has when you can have strangers bring that all sparking energy to the table?
The proceedings of African traditional weddings can vary from country to country but the concept is pretty much the same. The biggest factor is two families joining to become one.
Once the couple has declared their love the groom will put in his request to the bride’s family. This is usually called ‘knock door’ or ‘permit’. The groom will usually come with members of his family gifts and bride price money are presented. This is a serious negotiation and arguments have been known to take place. The essence is that the future groom has to declare how he is able to look after his future bride. Gifts can vary but in the western region of Africa, it is very common for Palm wine and kola nut to be included in the gifts given. If the family of the bride accepts the request of the groom the wedding planning begins.
Aside from hiring a wedding coordinator and caterers for mountain heaps of food Ashwabe is held into account.
ASHWABE: By definition, Ashwabe is like a ‘cloth uniform’ that will be worn by most of those who will attend the event; Ashwabe can be worn for church functions and funerals. The cloth is the choice of those hosting the event. In western weddings the only Ashwabe worn is by the bridesmaids and ushers – they are all uniformed, or at least wearing the same dress. The congregation wears what they want, of course, but come suited for a wedding.
This can also be the case in African weddings however, Ashwabe typically is an extra option you can buy the cloth/material from the couple and have something sewn for yourself. This is seen as a way of showing support to the Bride and Groom, adding a new garment to your wardrobe, symbolises a memory of the couple’s wedding, adds a colourful uniform and theme.
Some may sew very western styles and others will stick to styles that are very African like; buba, Kaftans/Agbada, wrapper, head tie and Kaba.
On to the day of the wedding
Some traditional weddings are done at the home of the bride but the weddings that ‘The Legends’ like to gate-crash are the weddings that are held in banqueting halls. @glittermomentsevents has decorated various events for different occasions of which African weddings are included. These can have wedding tables and banqueting halls looking super personal, pretty and glamorous.On the day of the wedding, the sounds of traditional drums will play as the groom enters with his groomsmen in style soon followed by the Bride and her bridesmaids.
Words of wisdom and advice are given to the couple by community elders, pastors and parents. Quite similar to those words that may have been exchanged at the ‘knock door’ except the couple will be together.
In Banyangi tradition (a tribe in Cameroon) when the bride comes into the venue she will look for her husband-to-be while holding palm wine. When she finds her husband, she will give him the cup of palm wine to drink and the crowd will cheer. Similar traditions are also seen in Nigeria, Togo, Ghana and Burkina Faso.
After such proceedings, it is time for ENJOYMENT. Time to drink ‘plenty plenty’ Alcohol, eat, dance, and party until the morning.
For those of you looking to also upgrade your ‘enjoyment life’ start attending weddings. It is not a problem. Start becoming familiar with your African sisters. Feel free to ask them if they know about any weddings coming up. Hashtag #traditionalweddings on a Friday and Saturday, you may be able to find the location on a geotag and join in the fun.
Featured image by Apai-Ketuya Marchant – other images courtesy of Deine photography, Divine Polyvant, Bissong Anastasia, Reneta Ndisang, Malvis Ann, Bitmoj Vanessa @vs_kitchen_ & Shantel @Glittermomentsevents