Wedding Souvenirs: The Pains and Excitement
The culture of giving souvenirs at weddings have been an age-long practice. For many couples, giving a little parting gift is not only a way of appreciating guests for taking out time to be a part of their big day, but also, a way of leaving memories of the wedding with the guests. In the early 80s and 90s, everything plastic formed gift items. Plastic bowls, buckets, spoons, cups, trays and plates were all the rage and it was such a joy to return from a party bearing one of these items.
In those days, weddings were simple and people organized their reception in tune with their personal economic situation. And so, when such gifts were given out, they were usually reserved for guests who also brought wedding presents for the couple. If it turned out that the souvenir is quite weighty like a bucket, people get desperate to want to have a piece of the action. One of the things some greedy guests have learnt to do in other to ensure they get the souvenir, is to quickly look for a shop, buy an envelope and seal it like it contained cash gift and go present it to the couple. By the time the bride or groom would find out, it would be impossible to remember who exactly had given them that particular empty envelope while the culprit would be miles away, enjoying that which he or she had crookedly obtained.
But through the years, guests have learnt to reciprocate this kind gesture of couples by also bringing to the wedding reception, their own sets of souvenirs which they share to friends and family. This way, guests are not dependant on the couple to get something. Family members close to the couple, make their own gifts and share during reception to ensure that their guests are well taken care of. Today, at most weddings, beside buying aso ebi, guests have had to cough out money to make souvenirs which they usually share to other guests particularly those who belong to their social click like work, church, club, society or Alma mata.
With sophistication and the development that the fashion industry and the glamour that event planners have brought to bear on weddings, souvenirs such as plastic bowls, trays and cups have become plain and mundane. Whatsoever one can imagine, can be shared at a wedding particularly if the couple are people of means. From sharing everything plastic, it seemed Nigerians got fed up with getting the same gift every time they went for a wedding. Many homes were also littered with unused plastic cups and bowls. And so the switch came. From plastic items, we moved to sharing ceramic items- mugs, plates, trays etc. This also passed and we arrived at usable household items, mini bags of sugar, salt, satchet powder and liquid soaps, packets of matches, toilet rolls, scrubbing sponge, sachet tomatoes puree, toilet rolls, mini bottles of vegetable oil, satchet toothpaste, cooking condiments etc. During the rains, umbrella held sway as gifts while during the hot weather, hand fans were shared. Through these years, bath and face towels as well as kitchen and table napkins remained a recurrent decimal.
Some years ago at a high society wedding in Lagos, what myself and other industry colleagues who attended the wedding got, was more than we bargained for. The families of the couple especially, the bride’s family, brought their A game on. Thankfully, some of us were lucky to have bought and adorned the aso ebi (wedding uniform) of the day, which was like ticket to a private viewing of a blockbuster movie. When the gifts started going round, we were well qualified and positioned to receive whatever was being shared. It was like the heavens opened and showered us with blessings. But then, that was when the drama started and this also applies to many other weddings.
As mentioned earlier, the family brought their A game on. There were gifts of all sorts. For example, around my table and environs, guests got mini dinner set of plates plus pressing iron for those in uniform. While we were receiving this, guests on other tables to our left, were getting sandwich toasters while those to our right were getting ankara print fabrics by one of the popular brands. This is excluding of other gifts that some people on our table also shared. The gifts were so good that nobody wanted to miss out on each one and that was when the scramble started. People forgot their dignity and went after the people sharing the gifts, begging and calling out to be given something from the other group. I was a little taken aback by this conduct but to some others, if you don’t hussle, you get nothing. The commotion that ensued was indescribable. But a lady on the table who saw the irritating frown on my face, gave me my first lesson on how to party the Lagos style. Call it party 101.
She herself was well prepared for the reception. She had an extra bag under the table where she dumped every thing she got and then sat calmly like she had not been given anything. Out of the three bottles of wine on the table, one had disappeared into her bag as well as two cans of malt and a pack of juice. Anyone seeing her sitting calmly assumed she had gotten nothing and gave her whatever she was sharing. As she received she dumped in her carrier bag under the table. At the end of the day, it was a huge goodie bag she took home. But while chatting with her, she had revealed that when attending a party of people of higher social status, it is expected that their family and friends will shower guests with gifts. The first thing is to “ensure you sit among or around important family members of the bride or groom. Then also make sure you have an extra bag with which to carry your booties”. That made a whole a lot of sense I thought to myself, as I seemed to be the only one lost as to how to carry my largesse home. Sharing her ordeal at a wedding in Asaba, Chinyere, said little gift items like plastic thrash parker, was enough to cause commotion not to talk of sharing exclusive gifts like ankara. That she says, “is an invitation to chaos”. Narrating her ordeal at her niece’s wedding, she said she was almost eaten alive by aggrieved guests who struggled to get apiece of the gift item meant for only colleagues from the bride’s office who bought the uniform for the wedding. “The people almost lynched me. One lady in particular kept following me from table to table asking me to come give to people on her table. All explanations to the effect that the gifts were meant for the bride’s colleagues fell on deaf ears. When she could not bare it anymore, she pounced on me and started pulling one of the salon bags I was distributing. It was like a tug of war. She refused to let go and kept pulling and tugging until she was able to pull out two bags for herself”.
“My experience was not a pleasant one” says Funke, who was in charge of gifts at her uncles wedding in Edo state. “Folks back home take these things very seriously. In fact, to exclude anybody from whatever is being shared is not advisable. Some people take offence. And those who can’t bear it come to wrestle it out of your hand. In fact, on this occasion, I fell flat on my face. It wasn’t funny at all”
Situations like this are sometimes rare and sometimes common at parties whether it’s a wedding reception or funeral reception. It was Shakespeare in his famous quote that says “there is no art to find the mind’s construction on the face” how true! People turn up at weddings gaily dressed, make up on point, gele at the right angle, smell sweet and all but you never can phantom what they are capable of. A little thing as a towel denied her can bring out the monster within. Not everyone has self control. But they can be helped. As long as man lives, weddings will continue to happy and this culture of sharing souvenirs has come to stay. It is only fair that everyone who attends a wedding, should be given something. Some have tried to avoid this chaos by adopting this strategy.
All those who buy aso ebi get their special gifts when they pick up the aso ebi. So they get it before the wedding. Then on the wedding day, buy a common gift and buy enough to go round. This way, every guest gets the same thing and the chaos can be averted.
Note: please if you have any experience you’d like to share please send to: [email protected]
By Jemi Ekunkunbor