A Week in the Life is a weekly Zikoko series that explores the working-class struggles of Nigerians. It captures the very spirit of what it means to hustle in Nigeria and puts you in the shoes of the subject for a week.
The subject of today’s “A Week in the Life” studied animal science in university but now plans weddings for a living in South East Nigeria. She explores the challenges of dealing with Nigerians who love to party and why she loves her job so much.
The first thing on my mind when I wake up at 8 a.m. today is that I’ve been doing this wedding planning thing for two years.
It feels like two lifetimes ago when I stumbled upon this line of work by chance — I studied animal science at the University of Maiduguri, so what’s my business with weddings?
My faith led me to event planning. I was in a Christian group back in school, where I organised and planned its events on campus. After youth service, I met a woman in Abuja who was an events decorator and started to help her out. After some time, I grew to love the business, so she took me on as an intern. My experience with planning events in uni made me confident that I’d be good at it professionally, so I also enrolled in an events agency for a training programme and got certified.
When I completed my training, I didn’t get any clients. People didn’t want to take a chance with an unknown, fresh-faced lady. But one day, a relative asked me to plan their big wedding — for free. The thing with family is that they always want to use people for free. I needed to get my brand out there, so I took the job.
In that first gig, I ran into problems. The decorator I hired was supposed to be at the venue on Thursday, but he didn’t show up until Saturday at 3 a.m. He stopped picking up my calls. I couldn’t sleep. The decorator was meant to set up a cabana for the groom and bride, amongst other elaborate things as it was a big-budget wedding — and cabanas take so much time to make. I still don’t know how I managed to pull through, but the wedding turned out successful. Since then, I’ve built my business with sheer determination. If you’re faint-hearted, you can’t succeed in this business. Nigerians like to do anyhow.
And as I wake up today, I’m thanking God. I take some minutes to mentally prepare for my day which will involve a lot of calls with vendors and soon-to-be-wedded couples, then I rise from bed and freshen up.
The thing that stresses me the most about planning weddings is the unpredictability of it all. I got five proposed weddings in the first quarter of 2022 and only completed three.
People cancel weddings all the time for several reasons. Someone could’ve cheated or is hiding a child somewhere. There was this client who reached out to me and we started planning. Everything was going smoothly, but suddenly, there was a problem with the families. Someone didn’t pay the full settlement of the bride price. They called off the wedding.
Anything can happen at any time, so I’m always prepared. Though I hate when this happens because I don’t receive my full pay if a wedding is called off. I also have to make refunds. And the biggest disappointment of all: since I can only book an event for one wedding at a time, I’ve lost out on other clients.
But when a wedding goes according to plan, it’s beautiful.
I have a wedding billed for this Saturday. Thankfully, this client booked me about five months back [in late 2021]. I love clients like this because they give me enough time to get the best possible venues and vendors. This couple knows what they want and it’s an absolute joy to communicate with her.
I met this client at an event I planned we got talking. She was a guest and loved the decor and the orderliness of the show. She later reached out on Instagram and said she trusted I’d do a great job for her wedding. She’d been dreaming of her wedding forever. She had a mood board and a clear idea of how she wanted the ceremony to be. So I knew I’d enjoy working with her, and we’d become good friends.
I’ve covered all the bases ahead of Saturday. I’ve hired the best decorators and the ambience we’re working on will blow everyone’s mind. All I need to do until Saturday is make calls, send reminders and make sure all bookings and logistics are sorted out. Photographers are one of the most important aspects of weddings. The pictures are going to like last a lifetime. So if you don’t have good photographs, you might end up regretting your big day. But my photographers are tested and trusted, so we’re good to go.
We’ll have a bachelorette party and pre-wedding games the night before the wedding day. We’ll also do a dress rehearsal of sorts. It’s all going to be stressful, but I know I’ll have a lot of fun while at it.
I’ve been burnt a few times by people. Now, I don’t even let people try rubbish with me. Every time I communicate with a client on phone, I record it on my notes app and send a copy to the client on Whatsapp. I also never let clients arrange logistics [feeding, accommodation] for me. I prefer to do it myself.
There was this client that frustrated me in 2020 ending. I live in Imo State but regularly plan weddings outside the state. This lady’s wedding was going to be in Aba, and she booked hotel accommodation for me. When I arrived at the hotel, it was bad. I called her and she told me that she booked ₦10k rooms for me. But when I went down to the reception and asked for their price list, I found out that my room was the cheapest room at the hotel at ₦5k. I was so mad.
Then, she refused to pay me the full price. I’d charged her ₦250k, but she paid ₦80k upfront and said she’d complete it just before the wedding. The day before the wedding, I asked her about it, and she claimed she was only owing me ₦40k because she’d booked my hotel accommodation. I was furious. Was it ₦120k that would make me travel all the way to Aba to stay in a rubbish room and plan an event that was already stressing me out?
When she saw that being aggressive wasn’t working, she started begging me to quietly accept it so her husband wouldn’t hear. When I noticed that she didn’t want me to involve her husband, I pounced. Me? I was ready to cause wahala o. I even refused to attend the reception ceremony unless she completed my money. I had receipts to show that this woman was trying to defraud me.
The groom later decided to pay me in full. I laugh when I remember the bride shooting me daggers with her eyes. And nowadays, I make sure all my clients sign contracts before we even start working together. Then I ask for 70% upfront and collect the remaining 30% two weeks before the event.
I used to live in Abuja, then I moved to Port Harcourt after I got married. When I got pregnant with my first child, I and my husband moved to Owerri in late 2019 — just before the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown. That lockdown made me pause my business for months. I say I’ve done event planning for two years, but that’s because I don’t count 2020. I didn’t do much during the pandemic. So when the country opened up again, I was the happiest person in the world.
I’m grateful for a supportive husband. My job is chaotic, and he calms me. His mum is a caterer so he understands the business. He’s the one who got me my first, second and third paying clients, and I love how he carries my matter on his head.
I’m also grateful for the woman I first interned with when I was starting out. That woman showed me I stood a chance. When I started branching out on my own, she gave me as much support as I needed. She always believed the sky is wide for everyone and never saw me as a competitor. She used to say that my clients are not her clients even though we played in the same market.
As I head to tomorrow’s wedding venue to make final checks, I’m daydreaming of the future. Business is growing steadily; I currently have two coordinators and one intern, and I want to expand. I want to diversify my event coverage bandwidth and go into the events industry at full blast. So help me God.