As told to David Odunlami
After I wrote the story about the guy who attended a church that was essentially a cult, my appetite for telling stories of everyday people and their most random experiences increased even more, and I decided to go out in search of these stories. I didn’t find anything. Well, not until my friend reached out to me and said she had a friend who, between 2017 and 2019, made a shit ton of money writing.
A lot of people make a shit ton of money writing, I thought. What made his experience special?
The answer: He was writing wedding vows for people.
That caught my attention, so I contacted him, and we talked about how he went from being a regular UNILAG boy to making people cry at weddings.
“I used to write on my WordPress blog a lot in 2017. It was mostly poetry. I would think of some cheesy lines, write them and publish them. The feedback I got was always fantastic. People would always talk about how great a writer I was and how my words moved them. Sometimes I’d get on Twitter, find one of my followers who was also a writer and do a joint project with them. Those were fun times, but I was broke. I was constantly looking for ways to turn my writing into money-making opportunities, and I wasn’t finding any. I was getting frustrated.
Then one day, I got an email. At first, it sounded like one of my fans just being “extra” and sending their love, but I soon realised that this was different. The tone was different. This person was telling me she loved my body of work, but she was also advising me to try something I’d never heard about before: wedding vow writing. She sounded like she knew what she was saying and, at the end of the email, she asked for my phone number. I sent it to her.
About a week later, I got a call. The woman on the other end sounded like she could take away all my problems at the snap of a finger. I’d never heard such a beautiful Hausa accent before. You can hear money in people’s voices, you know. She was inquiring about my wedding vow writing services. Her sister had given her my number, and she wanted to meet to discuss plans on how I’d get it done for her. She was getting married soon. We made plans to meet up and set a date.
The meeting venue was the Lagos Oriental Hotel. I’d never been somewhere like that before, so I was anxious. My anxiety worsened when a front desk employee walked up to me, asked me for my name and took me to a reserved table. When I looked at the menu, I laughed. This place wasn’t for me. A few minutes later, the front desk employee came back and told me that whatever I wanted had already been paid for and that I should make my order. I didn’t want to overdo anything, so I ordered a glass of wine. I was early, so I had to wait a while.
About 20 minutes later, my client arrived. She looked exactly the way she sounded. Let’s call her Maryam. Maryam was gorgeous, I can’t lie. I didn’t even mind that she pronounced my name wrong. She spoke and moved with the grace of angels, but I digress. I had never done this before, but I’d planned for how the conversation was going to play out. It was simple: I’d ask them for information about their partner, record them speaking, and write something out of it. And that’s what I did.
She spoke for two hours. You could tell that she wanted to do something amazing. She told me why: her husband-to-be was a hopeless romantic, and she wasn’t. He loved public proclamations of love, and she didn’t know how to do any of those things. But she wanted to pull something off at the wedding that would blow his mind. I understood.
When we finished, she asked how much I charged and it was at that point I realised that that was the only thing I hadn’t thought about. So I panicked and said N50k. She laughed. I wanted to enter the ground.
“Do you want to pay now, or later?” I asked.
She wanted to pay now, so I gave her my account number. N100k. That’s how much she sent. And it wasn’t a mistake, Her reason: “You can’t put a price on creativity.”
So I went back to UNILAG and took my friends out that night. I was rich. I spent the next week putting all my best efforts into delivering the best wedding vows I could. She needed me to deliver it in person, so we met at the same hotel again. By the first read, she was in love with it. I’d done a good job, but now I needed to finish the job. She needed me to teach her how to say it to convey the message the best way, so she got a room for me and we spent the whole weekend together in the hotel doing drama lessons. Best weekend of my life.
When that was done, she gave me an invitation to her wedding in Abuja and paid for my flight ticket. A black Prado picked me up at the airport.
At the end of her speech, her husband was crying. Everyone was crying. And I sat in the back thinking, “I did this, and I love it.” It wasn’t about the money. It was about seeing people happy.
In the next two years, starting from Maryam’s circle of friends, I got referred over and over again. After some time, people started having me sign NDAs. I was charging between N150,000 and N200,000, and getting flown out for weddings.
The first man that ever contacted me was extremely rude. I’d suspected that he was a jerk from the way he spoke to me on the phone, but I met with him anyway. When I told him to tell me about his partner, he flew into a rage, talking about how I was a young man who should have been doing better with his time than scamming people into paying me so much for just writing wedding vows. I was so confused. Till today, I wonder what he said at his wedding.
Maryam and I still stay in touch. Sometimes she randomly sends me money because she remembers her wedding and wants to appreciate me again. Sometimes she gives me writing jobs. I’m super glad I met her.
Referrals started dwindling as 2019 came to an end. By 2020, they were non-existent. I think the pandemic had something to do with. In any case though, I’m honoured to have brought a beautiful spark to so many marriages.”