In this article, I share some candid advice as a married millennial, reflecting on my wedding with Eleos
Author's note: Below is a post that was written in response to the question a member of the Alive Mentorship Group asked me quite recently. The question and that answer had thus been published on the Alive Mentorship Group but is now being reshared as a Wedding Anniversary token from Anu and I to reach out to other 'Patricias' out there pondering the same thoughts...Feel free to share with those in your world that may need this.
“Good evening JKO. I’m Patricia. I had just finished reading your book, 'Bumpy but Sweet'. Jeez! It was really inspiring and the Q&A section was very helpful. I got my fiancé to start reading it, too. I’m a young lady in my mid-twenties and I’m planning my wedding which should be coming up in less than a year. Every time I see pre-wedding photo shoots of my friends on social-media and eventually, their wedding photos, there is a cringing feeling I have. It’s as though we are living in a time and age where folks are all about expensive weddings. However, I stumbled on your wedding photos quite recently and I saw simplicity at its best. Can you let us into the details of your simple wedding and more especially, the principles that shaped that?”
Thanks Pat. I’m glad you found Bumpy but Sweet quite helpful.
Of course, planning a wedding is not about either of the couple-to-be, it’s about BOTH of them. So the simplicity of our wedding — Eleos and I — is not what either of us wanted, it’s what we BOTH wanted.
Let me humour you with some details before I come to the principles.
I had no best man. It just never really occurred to me until a couple of days before the wedding that I 'needed' one. My wife, as well, had no bridesmaid. She had two elegantly dressed ladies (one was her neighbour Maru Tasi and the other was her church member, Miriam Opare) and a much more elderly ‘Aunty’ Alberta Aniagyei (also from her church) that were there for her in the days leading to the wedding and also on the wedding day.
I invited a friend Phil Baro Thomas from my Bible College in Bradford that was into photography to come to cover the event. He only asked that I book his return train ticket for the trip to Birmingham for the wedding. Besides, my wife’s uncle from London Oluyemi P Falade came with a very good camera and took loads of beautiful shots to preserve the memory of the day for us, for free.
The kind-hearted pastor I worked with in Bradford (Pastor Dara Shofoluwe) took me to Slaters in Leeds and bought me a wedding suit. (Otherwise, I was willing to wear the £40 suit I bought for my Bible College graduation just a few weeks before).
I got to Birmingham a day before my wedding and lodged in a hotel (paid for by the Bradford pastor earlier mentioned). My pastor from Liverpool (Pastor MD Davies) came to pick me up from the hotel to the registry on the morning of the wedding. Himself and his gorgeous wife (Alice Davies) brought drinks and one of the church members in Liverpool (Victoria Aletile Fatukasi) baked a very simple but wow wedding cake. (To be honest, I wasn’t even expecting a wedding cake). One of my wife’s aunts (Aunty Folasade Falade Bello) brought with her some sumptuous moi-moi (beans cake) and giz-dodo (stir fry chicken gizzard and plantain). In addition to that, we paid a token to one of Aanu's church members to make some food — and there was far too much variety than I thought the £150 we paid her could offer.
My wife was even simpler. All she needed was a wedding dress that was as simple as simple can get, her natural hair and her beautiful face. She didn’t need the services of a make-up artist neither did we require the services of a limo rental business. The ‘Aunty’ from her church brought her to the registry in her car together with the other two ladies.
The court wedding was followed by a brief church service in my wife’s church and reception followed immediately in the same church premises. (By reception, I simply mean a brief moment of photography with friends and families and exchanging pleasantries — that type of thing — NOT a party). The music played during the reception was from a YouTube playlist of a few songs my wife and I selected to celebrate our love. Our souvenir was a blank journal the cover of which a church member in Nigeria (Oyetunji Joseph Ibukun) helped us to design two days before the wedding. I designed the wedding programme myself and my wife printed few copies from her office in Birmingham. Foods were given out as take-away packs...
In no time, my wife changed her outfit into a regular dress for her graduation ceremony. We headed to the City Centre for her graduation and then to a low-cost hotel afterwards for the night. We boarded a COACH to Edinburgh the next day for our honeymoon (because TRAIN tickets were more expensive) and spent the next couple of days in a bed-and-breakfast in Edinburgh before returning to continue the rest of our marital journey.
And the joy continues.
That’s it! No pre-wedding photoshoot. No change of clothing between the registry, the church and the reception. No bridal train and aso-ebi. In fact, while both our parents are alive, they couldn’t be there in person but we were satisfied having received their prayers and blessings over the phone earlier in the day and having done the needful according to the traditions of our ethnicities. A wedding couldn’t have been cheaper, and I can assure you that it couldn’t be more special as well.
Now, to 'THE PRINCIPLES'...
The phrase that best describes what we did with our wedding is an ‘audacity to be counter-cultural’. In describing what should really matter in a marriage celebration as opposed to what shouldn’t, John Piper wrote that the focus of weddings should be “the Lord Jesus; the Christ-exalting meaning of marriage; the awesome importance of the vows; and the preciousness of the people, the lovers—NOT the clothing, the flowers, the location, the music, and the whole production that can make the actual act of God in marriage seem like an incidental prelude to the big, fancy party afterwards.”
EXPENSIVE WEDDINGS AND JOYFUL MARRIAGES ARE MUTUALLY EXCLUSIVE — ONE DOES NOT GUARANTEE THE OTHER. We have both embraced A CULTURE OF SIMPLICITY over the years in our courtship — it didn’t start while we were planning for the wedding.
I remember my mum’s remark the first time my wife came to visit. I was sick. One of her dad’s drivers drove her from Akure to Ife to check on me. She spent the night in our guest room while my mum came to keep me company through the night just to be sure that I won’t wake up in the middle of the night and go searching for a book that I must have left in the wardrobe of the guest room.... But really, the fact that your parents have drivers in the Nigerian context places your family in an imaginary class of wealthy people, and having a driver to drive you is just one of such indicators. Such people will be expected to also dress in a certain way and not be used to doing certain house chores (because chances are they will have someone to do that for them as well).
But after my fiancée left the next day, my mum came to me and said “She’s just so simple!” I blushed and replied, “Yeah, like me.”
But that’s the truth. Her dressing, her appearance, her disposition to doing house chores — there was nothing 'showy' about it. There still isn’t.
And I think this is at the heart of true Christianity. It is not self-seeking. It is not about making a statement or a name for yourself. It’s not about having a talk-of-the-town wedding. (What’s the point of that anyway — spending the money you don’t have to buy what you don’t need to impress people you don’t even know on social media?) It’s all about the “simplicity that is in Christ”. Piper wrote, “The New Testament is relentless in pushing us toward simplicity and economy for the kingdom and away from luxury and away from affluence and away from finery.” I think that’s on point!
But beyond that, as far wedding planning is concerned, isn’t it foolish, really, to have an expensive wedding that gets you starting your marriage broke, or worse, in debt? How wise is it to spend so much on sightz and soundz that will thrill for a moment when you could have a more richly intoxicating joy that colours not just the wedding but the marriage thereafter?
A word of balance, though.
I’m not by any means saying that you shouldn’t make your day SPECIAL. It is YOUR day — both of you — and you get to determine HOW you want to make it special. And surely, it won’t just be about colours and clothes and venues and music. That’s what everyone else does, init? So what’s special about that? For us, ‘special’ was the fact that we pulled off two major celebrations with the price of one... — a wedding and a graduation (plus, she finished with a First Class!). For us, ‘special’ was the fact that we had our FIRST KISS before men and God. (You should have seen the drama that ensued in persuading my shy wife to loosen up and let’s give it a go). For us, ‘special’ was the fact that we didn’t invite more people than we intended to cater for. ‘Special’ was the fact that we could look into the audience and see just the kind of people we wanted to have at our wedding — those that had been a blessing to us in our sojourn in a foreign land.
In a recent premarital counselling session my wife and I conducted for one of Alive Mentorship Group members, I emphasized that she shouldn’t let the fact that she had a child before her marriage diminish her joy on her wedding day. I was glad when she told me how helpful she found that counsel. Hearing me say that to her made her change her wedding dress. (She had earlier opted for a non-white wedding dress partly because she felt undeserving of wearing 'white' on her wedding — just because she had a child before).
So, Patricia, my candid advice to you as a millennial myself is to EMBRACE THE CULTURE OF SIMPLICTY — not just in planning this wedding together with your partner, but to make that a lifestyle! It is counter-cultural to the social-media world in which we live. However, we (as Christians) are not called to a showy lifestyle; we are invited to show forth the simplicity that is found in Christ.
Such counsel can save you some naira (or pounds!). But much more, it can save you some heartaches.
I hope this helps.
Notes 1. Alive Mentorship Group is a private Facebook group basically for teenagers and young adults that, by God's grace, my wife and I are trying to pour into. If you will like to be a part, just click here:https://www.facebook.com/groups/alivementorship/ . 2. A link to the referenced wedding post that Patricia stumbled upon: https://www.facebook.com/josephkolawole/posts/10210131303063802 3. Links to even more resources from either or both of us can be found here: https://linktr.ee/josephola 4. Referenced: 'Preparing for Marriage' by John Piper, pp. 14-15