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Lagos, Nigeria(CNN) As the year draws to a close, wedding season in Nigeria begins.
Getting married in Africa's most populous country is big business and said to be worth millions of dollars, according to market research group, TNS Global.
Nigerian wedding can cost up to $9,460-$13,515 with guest lists matching the super-sized budgets.
Some weddings in the country cater for an average of 1000 guests.
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"You can have five million Naira ($13,869.65) at one end of the spectrum, 20 million Naira ($55,478.60) in the middle and it can even get as high as 100 million Naira ($277,393)," prominent wedding planner Funke Bucknor tells CNN.
When the son of one of Africa's richest women, Folorunsho Alakija, got married in June, he had a lavish $6 million wedding at the prestigious Blenheim Palace in the United Kingdom.
UK media reported that the ceremony featured one million roses by celebrity florist Jeff Leatham, a 12ft-tall cake and a performance by American artist Robin Thicke in the $43,000 venue.
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.
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.
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.
"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.
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.
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.
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.
"Nigerian weddings are constantly evolving and each is peculiar," says events planner Leslie of 3a Event Solutions.
"Oftentimes the average number of guests expected differ from the actual number that turns up because Nigerian weddings are typically a communal affair and gatecrashing is presumed normal."
Fastest growing industry?
The wedding industry is considered one of the major contributors to Nigeria's economy.
It is credited for creating entire industries that didn't exist or were previously unprofitable, such as makeup artists and luxury toilet hire companies.
Nigeria recently played host to the largest wedding related gathering in Africa, Wed Festival attracting around 10,000 attendees.
"The wedding industry has played a huge role in makeup artistry and it's something we should be thankful for," says Jide of St. Ola, a celebrity makeup artist who says he charges a minimum of $1000 for bridal makeup.
Fashion designers have also benefited hugely from Nigeria's wedding boom. In previous years, wealthy brides would travel abroad to buy their wedding gowns but they are now turning to homegrown designers such as Mai Atafo and Ogugua Okonkwo of Style Temple.
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It has also become fashionable for Nigerian couples to create hashtags around their weddings. Social media savvy couples want their weddings to trend on the various platforms such as Instagram and that means creative images, which can cost up to $1500 to $5000, according to wedding photographer Bayo Lawson.
Big budget brides
Some believe the trend for grand weddings in the country is driven by a desire to appear on aspirational online blogs and wedding magazines such as Bellanaija and Aisle Perfect where society weddings are featured regularly.
"Aisle Perfect caters to tasteful, glamorous weddings so I can see how it has fueled some of the desire," says editor-in-chief, Kunbi Odubogun.
"I think it's more of a mutually- fed relationship of demand and supply."