Written by Eric Dumo
The SUN. Sunday, July 10, 2016.
Sixty-two-year-old Adejoke Olawepo, a petty trader, almost died of shock as screams and claps went all around her. Commuting all the way from Oyingbo to Sango, Ogun State to see her daughter last Tuesday, she couldn't understand why the train she was travelling in suddenly refused to move again after dropping off some passengers at Agege, a densely populated suburb within the Lagos metropolis. The subtle screams and claps from people inside the train who could see outside, aroused her curiosity. Leaning over a seat to peep through the window beside her, the sexagenarian could not believe the sight before her.
The military-styled lovers
"I was afraid; I thought the train had crushed somebody," the elderly woman said during a conversation with our correspondent. "But when I peeped through the window, I saw that it was a young man kneeling and making gestures to a lady in front of him as if he was proposing to her. They were right on the rail track, just a few yards away from where the train stopped. I have never seen anything like that in my life," she said.
Lewis Omike and Ebi Boleigha, the pair Olawepo came across, chose the Agege end of the rail line as part of a series of photo sessions to usher in their wedding later this month. Apart from the shot that has since gone viral, the soon-to-be-married lovers also took amazing photographs on the Lekki Bridge and other remarkable sites across Lagos.
Omike and Boleigha share a special moment on the rail track
In a chat with our correspondent earlier in the week, Omike, the groom, said they decided to embark on such unusual act to spice up their love affair and also be in tune with modern trends.
He described the experience as simply exciting and unforgettable.
"We just wanted something special, me and my fiancée," Omike said. "Our love story is not what words can describe in a few lines, so to express this feeling we chose to do something really remarkable to make the days leading up to our wedding interesting," he continued. "The two of us came up with the entire concept and in fact if not for the bad weather at the time, we could have had more shots at other unusual places.
"On one of those days, we had to leave the Island where we stay for the rail track around Agege just for that particular shot. Though my fiancée was shy, for me it was a moment of pure joy and excitement. A lot of people looked and waved at us while some others clapped excitedly. Many of them urged me to hold on to her very well and always ensure there was a smile on her face throughout our lives. It is one of the moments I would cherish for the rest of my life," he said.
In the build up to their own wedding in August 2016 in Abuja, the nation's capital, Ndubuisi Obi and Jessica Okoli have visited more than 10 different locations across the country in an attempt to create the perfect pre-wedding photo.
A geologist and nurse respectively, the pair have been to remote and popular locations alike in Northern and Eastern Nigeria over the last two months since plans for the special ceremony garnered momentum. Like many of their friends and young relations, the two who have been lovers for around five years now, consider taking amazing photographs especially at unusual places in the days leading up to their big day as one of the most important part of the entire event. The shot of Obi pushing a visibly excited Okoli seated inside a canoe towards what looks like paradise has since got the entire internet and social media buzzing. It has been a busy and thrilling few weeks for the young lovers.
"Weddings are a once in a lifetime event, so we believe that it must be as memorable as possible," Obi said during a telephone conversation with our correspondent. "Moreover, as young people, we want to be in tune with latest trends as regards wedding and other areas of life. We realised that engaging in a lot of activities especially visiting different locations to take memorable photographs is one special way of bonding and refreshing our love before finally walking down the aisle. At the moment, we have visited at least 10 different sites in the Northern and Eastern parts of the country. Before our wedding in August, we'll surely be visiting other lovely places to take amazing shots as well. For me, this is where the fun really is," he said.
An increasingly rising trend, the two young couples are not the only ones now enacting some truly amazing and sometimes bizarre scenes in different photographs in the country today - they are only a fraction of the dozens who have since been bitten by the bug. Determined to add colour to their wedding ceremony in the best ways they can, embarking on all kinds of photo sessions have become a common feature for many lovers these days. While some have been quite scary, others have been splashed with humour, providing viewers with moments of comic relief.
'The hunt is over'
For example, photograph of a young man whose hands and legs are bound while his lover standing next to him holds a cutlass and a cardboard with the inscription 'The hunt is over', has since become one of the most circulated images on the internet in recent times. While some described it as bizarre, the couple and their friends label it one of the most interesting parts of activities put in place to usher in their big day later in the year.
In yet another unique and unusual shot, a young lady was seen standing over the boot of a car where her lover whose hands and legs are tied and mouth also covered, was inside. The lady could be seen smiling like a warrior who had just conquered a feisty battle.
A certain couple took their love affair to another level when they decided to go back in time by appearing in a secondary school uniform.
The unnamed pair, who are successful professionals in their own right, could be seen totally loved up in the various shots taken within a private school compound in Lagos while students watched excitedly at the background.
In other attention-catching photographs, young lovers on the verge of getting married who have embraced this rising trend can be seen taking different shots inside commercial buses, at open markets, busy roads and even underneath popular bridges across the country while assuming all kinds of funny and sometimes scary positions.
For instance, a man and his wife-to-be were captured in one particular photograph doing push-ups on a road while wearing a military vest. Another pair was seen carrying each other on the back under a popular bridge in Lagos. A different set dressed up in Indian attire, playing and dining inside a garden. The location and expressions have indeed been endless.
Interestingly, the rising trend has not been limited to Nigeria, in other parts of the world, amazing pre-wedding photo shoots have become a common feature, too.
Images of a young man carrying his 'massive' lover have continued to leave many around the world looking for new definitions of the word - love. The voluptuous lady identified as Abena met her lover known as Prince at the University of Ghana Hospital where she works as a nursing officer.
According to the medical worker, their relationship started after a chance meeting when the man visited a sick relative at the hospital.
"It all started a year and a half ago when I was at work at the University of Ghana Hospital. Prince came to visit a sick relative whilst I was doing my usual rounds as a nursing officer. He approached me with a prescription for help and I assisted him. He really appreciated everything I did for him that day. Soon we became friends and it moved on and on and here I have my Prince Charming," Abena said.
Now married, they will remain popular with dozens around the world for their hilarious and brave pre-wedding photos.
Hon Ike C. Ibe and his beautiful bride, Uche,
But apart from intending couples, lovers freshly married or those who have spent years as husband and wife, also engage in various activities these days to further bring some sort of excitement into their lives.
For example, a former Speaker of the Imo State House of Assembly, Hon Ike C. Ibe, andhis beautiful bride, Uche, have continued to enjoy massive attention after photographs of them buying roasted corn by the roadside just minutes after leaving their wedding service earlier in July, surfaced on the internet.
Decked in a fitted navy blue jacket and a glowing white wedding gown respectively with a black Sports Utility Vehicle parked behind them, the newly married couple chose the unusual location to add colour to their special day. They have received praises from many quarters.
In faraway Louisiana, United States of America, a couple celebrated their fifth wedding anniversary in one of the most remarkable and hilarious ways.
A couple arriving their wedding in a tractor
In the photographs that have become a big hit on the internet, the wife, Tynedria Meneweather Bell, could be seen sleeping over and even carrying her husband, Pendarius, like a baby on her back. Though funny to some, more than a few hailed the woman and her husband for expressing their feelings for each other in such an interesting way.
But beyond embarking on interesting and beautiful photographs before and after their wedding ceremonies, many intending couples now also adopt various means to make the occassion very memorable.
Away from the tradition of arriving wedding venues in posh and classy vehicles, some lovers, in an attempt to be distinct, hit such places in tricycles, powerbikes, horses, chariots, bicycles and even tractors these days. For them, such moves are ways of making their ceremony quite remarkable and memorable.
In December 2015, Benjamin and Blessing Okelue stunned many across Nigeria and beyond when they rode to their wedding venue in Enugu in a power bike.
The couple were escorted by a handful of bikers who doubled as groomsmen as they arrived and left the venue of the ceremony for their base in Jos. It was indeed an interesting sight to behold.
Also wanting to be distinct, Edo State Governor, Adams Oshiomhole, and his beautiful bride, Iara, arrived their wedding venue in 2015 inside a private chopper.
A sea of well wishers who had gathered at the venue and expecting them to come in a long convoy of SUVs, were however left stunned when the lovers defied tradition and touched down in the 'big bird'. The amazing sight certainly added colour to the event.
Also, couples now choreograph and dance to popular hits during their wedding ceremonies as a way of making the occasion truly special. Sometimes circled by guests, the groom and bride engage each other in a dance contest to the delight of all around.
Interestingly, while the new craze in town has brought many couples tremendous joy and happiness, it has equally left several others smiling as well. Photographers, make-up artists, fashion stylists, wedding planners and several others providing some of the essential services needed to make these occasions colourful, have been raking in cool cash in the process.
Mr. and Mrs. Okelue: The power bike couple
"There is no week that I don't make at least N100, 000 from shooting pre-wedding photos for young couples," a photographer based in Surulere, Lagos, Frank Nwata, told Saturday PUNCH. "This is aside the amount I usually charge for providing coverage for the wedding proper," he added. "To serve clients well especially getting them a good location and different positions to assume in the photo is not an easy task, it takes a lot of thinking and constant research to come up with these ideas. But at the end of the day, it is always fulfilling to see that your effort is able to put smiles on the faces of people. For me, the experience has been good."
Another photographer also making cool money from the growing trend, Abbey Da Great, told Saturday PUNCHthat since intending couples started embracing the practice, business has become 'sweeter' for him.
According to him, he has also introduced other related services like providing clients with costumes that fit a particular location and the concept they have in mind.
"Our job as a result of new trends has gone beyond just capturing people on camera. These days, you must be able to provide clients with a lot of other added services so as to win their trust and keep yourself in business.
"For instance, as part of my service to clients, I now also provide costumes especially for pre-wedding photo shoots when needed. Some customers want to appear in ancient Yoruba and Fulani attire while others want to appear like hunters and also footballers. I have all these different types of costumes with which I am able to meet up the expectations of clients once they share their idea with me. It has been quite rewarding I must confess," he said.
Chief Executive Officer of Dunamis, a seasoned events planning outfit, Funbi Akinyosoye, told Saturday PUNCHthat indeed weddings have gone beyond just having a man and woman exchange marital vows before a congregation.
These days, she said, weddings are usually a loaded package involving a host of different but related activities designed towards achieving a particular goal.
"Weddings are beyond what we used to know them to be in the past," she said. "Apart from pre-wedding photo shoots, a lot of other activities also take place just to make it a memorable one. But then everything depends on the theme for the wedding. The clients might decide to go local or foreign; this will determine the location and also costume to be used across the different stages. It is a way of letting people have a feel of what the real wedding would look like.
"In fact to serve our clients better these days, we do wedding proposals where we sell ideas to them. The response has been great. In fact these days couples now arrive at reception venues in a huge balloon. Guests can only see them but are not able to touch them until they come out of the balloon. It is usually a beautiful sight to behold.
"As part of latest trends also, some people are now even driven straight into the reception hall in lovely vehicles. These are all ways couples now embrace to make their wedding truly special. Everything depends on their budget and personality," she said.
Relationship and marriage counsellor, Nike Olaniyan, sees the rising trend as a way of helping couples improve on their love life.
According to her, coming up with different ideas like taking unusual photographs and also arriving wedding venues in tricycles, power bikes and even bicycles not only bond lovers but also remind them that only happiness matters in marriage.
"I see the different things people do before and immediately after marriage these days, for me it has a deeper meaning than the humour many see from such. I believe that engaging in some of these activities will not only boost their relationship but also help them appreciate each other better.
" No matter what some people may think, I feel it is a healthy development that will bring about a lot of understanding and appreciation in marriage," she said.