I sighed deeply and flopped unto my couch and threw a throw pillow over my head as scenes from the Hollywood movie “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” flashed through my mind. I had just gotten off the phone with my fiancée and for the third time this week, she tried to calm me down after breaking the news to me that her parents wanted us to have their Methodist minister as one of the officiating ministers at our catholic wedding. Just this week, they had tried to blackmail her into having our wedding at a Methodist church.
“How can you follow a man to his own church and throw away all you have learned from your childhood?”, they had pressed. She had spent over two hours explaining that she’s been a catholic convert for over a year before she met me and that they knew that. Then the next day, her mother had called, complaining that the asoebi list had more people from my family than from hers. Now this. At this point, I’m exasperated. It’s been one issue or the other. However, these are mild. Way too mild for the one I fear is brewing and would probably blow up in our faces this weekend.
“Sigh”, I pushed all thoughts of wedding planning away from my mind and went to bed.
* * * *
It is a hot Saturday afternoon in Abuja, and Oreoluwa and I are driving towards Maitama, to my parents house. We drive in silence, wiping away at sweat beads which persistently keep forming on our brows despite the cool air blasting out of the air conditioner vents. Obviously, the 80 degree weather temperature wasn’t as much of the cause of our perspiration, as the dread of what was coming was. We were headed to a meeting with both our parents, to discuss further wedding plans. The truth is, we planned to break it to them that we are tired of the stress of planning a big wedding and that we have decided to have a smaller wedding. Sounds simple, right? Unfortunately not so with Nigerian parents.
Oreoluwa’s parents were late, so we whiled away time watching and discussing the news. I could feel Ore twitching tensely next to me. I patted and squeezed her knee soothingly. She calmed down a bit.
About thirty minutes later, the meeting began, as usual, with the parents making a roll call of items on the planning list that had been dealt with so far. We listened in silence as they exchanged feedback proudly. When it got to the matter at hand, the guest list and possible sitting arrangements, I took my cue and interjected calmly.
“ Ore and I have a little news”, I started. Before I could go on, my mother let out a loud gasp.
“Please don’t tell me you’re pregnant!”, she cried, staring at Ore’s midriff area with her palms on her face. “Arinze! Arinze oh! You have finished me!”, she wailed throwing her hands in the air. “Could you not wait just one more month?! Chei! What will the other Knights and Ladies in our parish say?!”, she continued, my efforts at refuting her statements falling on deaf ears. By now, Ore’s mother joined in on the party. Both women were wailing hysterically so I had to yell to get them to quieten down and hear me.
“No one is pregnant”, I said firmly. “We don’t want a big wedding. All this fuss is unnecessary and, quite frankly, expensive and exhausting. We have decided to have a small wedding.”
Silence fell. My father was the first to speak up.
“What do you mean by ‘a small wedding?’”, he inquired cautiously, like someone dismantling a time bomb.
“A wedding with strictly family members”, I answered.
“We plan to have a small quiet wedding ceremony in the small chapel of Corpus Christi Catholic Church where we first met, then a quiet dinner at a nearby restaurant”, Ore piped in courageously.
“In London?!”, Ore’s father asked incredulously, eyes almost popping out of his skull.
“Yes”, I responded. “The weekend after next, as a matter of fact.”
The effect of these words were unbelievable. The parents stared at us like we had just commited some sort of sacrilege. Ore’s mother began to sob silently, muttering words that sounded like “why must my own be different”.
“I’ve made all the arrangements”, I continued, unperturbed. “Thankfully, you all have valid visas, so I’d be needing the data pages of your passports so I can book your tickets.”
At this, the sobbing got louder. But it was Ore who spoke up.
“For God’s sake Mummy, pull yourself together! It’s just a wedding -my wedding- not the end of the world. You should be happy we didn’t just elope like I had suggested to Arinze.”
Her mother’s sobbing paused abruptly as her eyes widened in disbelief.
“So this was even your idea?”, she asked with a pained look on her face. “Why do you want this? Why do you want my own to be different? Why will you not let me shine in front of my friends? Did you not see Mrs Adeboye at her daughter Funke’s wedding? Why must my own be different? My only daughter’s wedding is supposed to be the happiest day of my life”
“No, it is supposed to be the happiest day of MY life”, Ore interrupted firmly. “It is OUR wedding”, she said pointing at myself and herself. “We should get to decide what we want to do with it. Our happiness matters.”
Ore’s sudden outburst encouraged me, and before either of the parents could speak, I said.
“The decision has been made. We would really love for you to be a part of our wedding, however, we’d understand if you do not share our sentiments. We would do what we can to keep you updated via photos.”
“God forbid”, my father said fiercely. “God forbid I’m not present at my own son’s wedding. Even if you decide to have it on the moon, I will be there to support you.”
“I’m with you on that”, Ore’s father concurred. Our mothers couldn’t be more startled. They were resigned to their fate. They had no choice now.
I smiled and exchanged a glance with my fiancée.
This battle had been won. We both got away mostly unscathed and would hopefully remain so until the next battle, whether the first child gets an Igbo or a Yoruba name. It will be a bloody one…