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Wedding Reception: Whose responsibility?


By Damilola Oyewole 
A common worry for people about to get married and others involved in the planning of the big day is reception or entertainment of guests. This is arguably an integral part of the ceremony or any other for that matter.
A great deal of attention is devoted to the planning as this important aspect is often used as a yardstick to measure the success or otherwise of the entire ceremony. For many, a ceremony is successful only when guests have had a relatively fair share of the food and drinks and even have extra to take home.
There have been cases of wedding ceremonies which have left in their trail, controversies and bad blood between families and even the new couple. Experiences from many wedding receptions which have ended up as a disaster have thrown up the question of who is responsible for sorting things out in advance to save any problems and misunderstandings later on.
For instance, a bride once actually left her seat on the high table and visited the serving point to slug it out with the caterers for not serving her family members and their guests. The groom’s family was in charge of the reception and they were only serving people who were known to them. From where she was seated on the high table, the bride had noticed that her family members and guests were being ignored.
She particularly saw one of the servers shove her grandmother when she tried to take a plate from his food tray. At another wedding reception, the groom’s family had to plead with their guests to disregard the selective treatment they had received in the hands of the bride’s family who were in charge of the reception. They had to organise another reception at their residence the following day. The bride’s family had asked for an exorbitant amount from the groom’s family as contribution to the reception expenses. In the end, the groom’s family did not live up to expectation and this caused a rift between the couple.
The groom, who could not hide his disappointment, spoke rudely about his in-laws to his wife. She, in turn, did not take kindly to the manner her spouse was speaking about her family and they had a fight. The fight lingered for several months and it took combined efforts of both families to bring peace and sanity to the new home.
The foregoing are a few examples of what could result from poor planning and xecution of a wedding reception. An attempt to find out who should be responsible for a wedding reception showed that the question varies from one culture to another.
Some people believe that the responsibility lies with the groom’s family, since the bride’s family would have fed guests during engagement ceremony. Although there are no rules as to who takes responsibility for the reception, many families see it as a duty of the groom’s family.
In the western part of Nigeria, it is believed that the bride’s family should cater for guests both at the engagement and at the reception. This is based on the general notion that the bride’s family is the host in any marriage ceremony. The logic therein is that you don’t ask your guests to take up the bill for their own entertainment.
In recent times, however, this responsibility has taken varying dimensions. Families now make arrangements to avoid placing too much burden on a single family. Some families draw up the budget for the ceremony, after which they decide on modalities to share the responsibility, with the bride’s family having the greater share.
A teacher and mother, Mrs. Olufunmilayo Osiyale, told Saturday Tribune in an interview that it had always been the duty of the bride’s family to feed guests at a wedding since the ceremony takes place at the bride’s homestead.
“You can’t invite people and then expect them to take care of their own feeding. The groom’s family is considered as guests because they are coming to ask for the hand of the girl in marriage,” she said.
She was, however, quick to point out that there could be an arrangement with the groom’s family to share the responsibilty. “The groom’s family might decide to be responsible for drinks or any other thing. Considering the fact that the cost of a successful wedding ceremony is huge, there is the need for both families to pool their resources together, irrespective of the number of guests they plan to invite,”she added.
In the south east, the practice is that bride’s family insists that all funds needed for the event must be provided by the groom. It is expected that the groom will be buoyant enough to take care of their daughter and probably, the only way to know if he can is to ask him to pay for everything needed for the ceremony.
This ranges from the clothes to be worn by the bride’s parents to the food and drinks, not forgetting the kolanuts and palmwine that will be served for as many days the event lasts. The groom is actually expected to buy a trunk stuffed with clothes for his bride during the traditional wedding, give money to her parents and siblings, apart from the required bride price, which runs into hundreds of thousands of naira and still bear the entire cost of the white wedding reception which follows the traditional wedding.
There are some things the bride’s family will not compromise at such events. One of them is money. The groom must be able to provide all that is requested from him. There is no room for negotiations.
According to an Igbo woman, Mrs. Chinelo Ugwu, the groom and his family foot the bill for the wedding reception. The entire event is the responsibility of the groom’s family.
“The white wedding and reception usually take place in the city, after the traditional aspect has been observed in the bride’s village. In view of this, many members of the bride’s family may choose not to attend. So, how do you expect them to pay for something they will not be present to enjoy?”
In the north, the groom’s family is expected to take up the responsibility of the reception. Apart from the celebrations that may take place at the bride’s residence, which the bride’s family will sponsor, every other expense relating to the entertainment of guests at the reception is to be taken care of by the groom and his family.
A civil servant, Mr. Danjuma Lawan, said the responsibility of catering for guests at a wedding reception lay on the shoulder of the groom, with possible assistance from his family.
Time has, however, made it possible for an understanding to be reached by both parties to work out modalities to pool resources to have a successful event and still leave the couple with enough to feed on after the ceremony. While the responsibilities vary from one culture to the other, many families now adopt measures to ensure that they are not burdensome for a single family. Both the bride’s parents and groom’s family now decide from the outset who is going to pay for what. They make a list of things they will need to buy or hire and sort out which things each of them is going to be responsible for.

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