Business

12-tier cakes and VIP toilets: Inside Nigeria's lavish wedding industry

By Milena Veselinovic, for CNN

Updated 9:42 AM ET, Fri December 15, 2017
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If inviting a couple of hundred of your nearest and dearest to your wedding sounds like a big gathering, then you are probably not getting married in Nigeria.

The country's extravagant celebration culture often sees up to 1,000 people coming together to toast the happy couple at a lavish party whose every detail has been meticulously planned months in advance.

Now, a wave of new startups is looking to tap into the booming industry and provide services especially tailored to the needs of the country's large-scale marriage celebrations. From wedding planner schools to VIP mobile toilets equipped with flat screen TVs, CNN's African Start-Up profiles six businesses which want to get a slice of Nigeria's wedding industry cake.

Illustration by Jason Kwok and Inez Torre, CNN.
Jason Kwok/Inez Torre/CNN
Mai Atafo

Few would deny the importance of a wedding dress, and in Nigeria most brides elect to wear the traditional bridal garment before changing into a white gown.

Mai Atafo, one of Nigeria's foremost fashion designers, creates dream-like dresses coveted by brides across the country, which account for 60% of his business: "The white wedding has always been popular in Nigeria, but in the last few years brides spend a lot more on them, and the styles have now become more elaborate and edgy," says Atafo, whose dresses sell for between $1,500 and $6,000.

So, is having a glamorous wedding gown a matter of prestige in Nigeria? "Oh yes," says Atafo, "and this is exactly what drives my business -- and I love it," he adds.
Courtesy Mai Atafo
Dainty Affairs Bakery

No wedding is complete without a multi-tiered cake, and in Nigeria the size and elaborate details of the sweet treat have a particularly competitive aspect.

"Wedding cakes are a huge part of our business," says Lolade Ogunjimi, owner of the Dainty Affairs bakery which supplies fairy-tale cakes to some of the most high profile weddings in the country. "A Nigerian bride is really aware of what's happening around her, so she always wants a bigger cake. That's why I call it the bread and butter of the bakery," she adds.

Ogunjimi is currently working on her most extravagant commission yet -- a 12-tier creation which will sit on a custom-made table, all for a lavish, Cinderella-themed wedding.
Courtesy Dainty Affairs Bakery
Drinks.ng

"Weddings are the new nightclubs of Nigeria," says Lanre Akinlagun, founder of Drinks.ng, a start-up which enables customers to order drinks online and have them delivered to their door.

Akinlagun got the idea for his company after a difficult experience trying to obtain drinks for a friend's wedding at an open-air market, where most beverages are sold: "It was raining, it was muddy, and it took almost six hours to get it sorted out," he says.

The entrepreneur wanted to find an easier way to supply drinks for big celebrations, and weddings now account for 60% of his business. "Every single weekend there will be a wedding to attend," he adds.
PATRIK STOLLARZ/AFP/Getty Images
Africa Dream Wedding Company

For those who want to ensure that their big day passes without a glitch, hiring a wedding planner is an increasingly popular option, carving a space for a relatively new profession in Nigeria.

Elizabeth Badejo's business, the Africa Dream Wedding Company, trains budding wedding planners through a six-week course costing around $500. Badejo worked as a wedding milliner for ten years, before pursuing a qualification in event planning and setting up her business: "Having a lavish wedding is a matter of prestige in Nigeria," says Badejo, "those who really want to impress look for venues for 1,000 people, and decorations that will blow their guest's minds," she adds.
Courtesy Akin Eso/WED Magazine
WED Magazine

When several months of meticulous planning culminates in the perfect wedding, many couples want to publicly show off their nuptials in one of Nigeria's many wedding-focused magazines. Hiring a page in WED Magazine, one of Nigeria's most popular bridal publications, costs $1,000, and the minimum a couple can take is four.

"It's part of our culture," says Akin Eso, the magazine's publisher. "People want others to see how beautiful their wedding has been -- it's a sign of pride," he adds. "The difference between Nigerian weddings and those abroad is that here people usually live with their parents before getting married, so in a way it's like saying good bye," he says, adding that the booming wedding industry is providing fresh jobs for young people.
Courtesy Akin Eso/WED Magazine
DMT Toilets

When Isaac Durojaiye worked as a security expert, he was asked to procure mobile toilets for a lavish wedding organised by his boss. This gave him the idea to develop it into a business, DMT Toilets, which is today run by CEO Caje Oleforo.

"Mobile toilets have become a status symbol," says Oleforo, "You cannot imagine a wedding without them anymore." Marriage celebrations account for about 40% of DMT's revenue, and the exterior of the units is often decorated with pictures of the happy couple.

For those who want something extra special, the company offers a range of VIP toilets equipped with red carpets, flat screen TVs, air-conditioning, mp3 players and plush interiors, costing between $900 and $2,700.
Courtesy DMT Toilets