Each family is its own culture, so all weddings have a multicultural element. However, at weddings such as Emma and Damola's, where their family background starts in different continents, many multicultural couples choose to celebrate their weddings in a fusion event. For example, Adedamola comes from a lineage of Nigerian immigrants, so they opted for a two-day celebration: a Nigerian engagement ceremony and a Western wedding. Today I'm showing you their Nigerian Wedding in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, as part one of a two-blog series of their wedding.
Planning a Nigerian Destination Wedding in Puerto Rico
Emma lived in Puerto Rico for nine months following Hurricane Maria while working with a medical humanitarian organization. She fell in love with the Islands. When planning the wedding, she and Damola decided to share the beauty of Puerto Rico with the rest of their friends and family.
Originally a 2020 New Years' Eve Wedding, COVID-19, of course, changed our plans to a 2021 summer event. They stood firm on their decision to celebrate a destination wedding with as much family and friends as possible. Honoring both cultures and celebrating the diversity of the new family they're creating together is vital for multicultural families,
and the fact that their guests would travel from almost every continent in the world made it necessary to wait.
Nigerian Wedding: Engagement Ceremony at Hotel El Convento
Finally, Summer 2021 was here, and our festivities started with their Nigerian ceremony. A few minutes before their event started, we met for a first look session, couple portraits, and wedding party portraits around El Convento Hotel and Old San Juan.
Engagement Ceremony in Traditional Yoruba
Theirs was only my second African wedding, so I'm by no means an expert on the Yoruba wedding rituals. Still, I'm grateful that Damola's family was intentional in introducing all of us to their traditions; at every part of their ceremony, the emcee explained the purpose or meaning of each ritual.
First off, the Bride's family makes their entrance, dancing in to the rhythm of music, and the key members (parents, godparents, aunts, uncles, and siblings) wear identical colors and fabrics and get a special seat in the center row.
After some funny banter exchanged by the bridal moderator and groom moderators (Alagas), the bridal family allows the groom's family to enter the room, also at the sound of music.
Both Alagas offer introductions of their families, after which the groom's Alaga presents a Proposal letter to the Bride's family.
Reading of Proposal Letter
Besides the color, the music, and excitement of the Yoruba rituals, this is my favorite thing about the Nigerian ceremony: the intentional effort to write several letters from different family members. As an avid reader and writer, I believe handwritten notes become historical documents of each family and relationship.
The proposal letter is read to the bridal family, after which the groom and his party make their entrance.
Money-Spraying During Performances, Readings, or Dancing
In Yoruba culture, the money spraying represents a showering of love, blessings, good fortune, and happiness to the person.
Groom and Bride Entrance
When Damola enters, he presents himself to the Bride's family, prostrating in front of them as a traditional symbol of reverence and respect. Then he presents himself to his parents, who pray for him and wish him good fortune in his upcoming wedding. Finally, he sits down at the ceremonial table, and the Bride is ushered in.
Emma and her bridal party make an entrance to the sound of music, and after a crowded dancefloor, she greets her parents, and in this turn, they pray for her. She then gets formally introduced to the groom's parents, who do the unveiling and pray for her as they officially welcome her to the family.
At this point, the energy in the room is indescribable, and all of our hearts feel so full. Then, there is a reading of an acceptance letter by the groom's family, a presentation of gifts. Next, the minister comes in and performs a blessing and ceremony of engagement. Then, with a closing prayer, the dinner and party commence.
I left the hotel feeling so excited for this event, getting to know Emma and Damola as more than just a couple, their families, and all the beautiful traditions that brought us all together as one. Next up, their Western Wedding. Stay tuned!
Puerto Rico Wedding Vendors
Wedding Venue: El Convento Hotel, Old San Juan
Photography: Camille Fontz
Music and DJ: GF Sound