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Five things that can ruin a wedding

Updated: Nov 1, 2022

Planning an African wedding can be tricky. You need to know specific cultural nuances to avoid drama and "faux-pas," especially if you are new to the African scene. To help you plan a wedding or social event, here are three things you should watch out for.

Printing the actual start time on your invitations

No, I am serious. Africans, predominantly west Africans, are notorious for being late. It's like they are always on "colored people time." So If 80% of your guests are Africans, they will be 1-3 hours late, depending on the group and event. You should never print the actual start time of your event. Instead, you should list a "fake" time, about 30 minutes to 1 hour early, so that most of your guests arrive on time. If you have guests (20% of your guest lists) who arrive on time, please make sure they are well taken care of by your hosting staff. For example, you can have light refreshments available, with a live band or DJ and appropriate seating. With that atmosphere, your guest will not mind waiting 30 mins to an hour for the rest of the guests to arrive.

Hiring your friends or family

On average, friends and family do not always have the same level of professionalism and work ethic needed on your big day. They easily get cut up in the festivities and forget they have an essential role. They lose track of time and can hold up the event program. For example, at one of my events where I coordinated the wedding, the bride told me she hired the maid of honor's husband to be the DJ for the wedding. That DJ ended up being an hour and a half late to the wedding. As a result, the wedding ceremony started almost two hours late. As an event professional with a solid work ethic, I would never hire that person again, even if he is the best DJ in Maryland. I am not saying that all family members or friends would behave this way. You should investigate them and evaluate how you can best utilize them at your wedding (without hurting anyone's feelings). However, the rule of thumb is to hire 3rd party professionals to manage the event and let your family and friends enjoy your big day with you.

Doing your seating chart at the last minute

My African people, please stop procrastinating on this! Your guest seating chart should be completed at least one month before the event. If you take the time to set your guests correctly, they will have a great time at your wedding. But if you don't, your guests may have the worst time.

I understand that you will constantly make updates and changes to make up to one week before the event. But those changes should be minor. The majority of the work should be completed a month prior. Here are the benefits why:

  1. If you would like to print unique acrylic place cards or produce a guest card, you have enough time to order one.

  2. Finishing the seating chart in advance will help you quickly finalize each guest's RSVP status. You may not have all your guest's responses in time, but you will have the majority of them.

  3. You can review your seating chart with your family and close friends to make sure that you have paired everyone appropriately. With the detailed information in front of them, they can better advise you properly.

  4. You can have a better idea of the final guest count. With this information, you can let your caterer, decorator, and event planner know if you will have more or fewer guests at the wedding. You can ensure enough chairs, tables, food, and beverages for your party.

  5. Most importantly, you can make sure that you do not forget anyone. I cannot tell you how many events I attended as a guest, where they did not have enough seating for the guests, and the bridesmaid/groomsmen had to give up their seats to accommodate the guests.

Not having enough booze, food, or dancing

My heart goes out to African Christians when the concern for not having enough alcohol gets presented. I know that some couples do not have alcohol at their wedding because they do not want anyone to get drunk. That's very honorable. In that case, I say stick to your convictions but be prepared to receive a lot of heat for it. Otherwise, If you can limit the quantity of alcohol distributed at your wedding, I encourage you to allow wine but limit two bottles per table. And avoid open bar altogether. If you don't have any budget constraints, I would say have an open bar and remind everyone to drink responsibly.

As food and dancing, please make sure there's a ton of cultural food and a great DJ to keep people moving for 4 four hours minimum. In a typical African function, dance is the highlight of the party.

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