I went for another wedding the other day. Please don't get me wrong - I love weddings, I believe they are wonderful feasts of love that come once in a lifetime (for most people in this part of the world anyway), and an atmosphere of unbridled joy and emotions (more of joy during the wedding, and more of the latter in the aftermath, after the cost implications have fully sunk in). When at a wedding, it is difficult not to be in a perpetual celebratory mood, except perhaps you are part of the catering team.
In any case, this wedding I went for was pretty impressive and lavish. I didn't expect such a spectacle from the unassuming groom I thought I knew well before. The reception was held on two floors of an events hall, with plasma TVs providing aditional audiovisual aid. The idea to take up two floors was a smart one as even that arrangement struggled to cater to the sheer number of guests that attended. Unlike it usually happens in scenarios like this, there was however no problem as regards food and drinks. It was overflowing, and no guest could seriously complain about not getting anything to eat. In all, it was a spectacular occasion - the type that stays long in the memory and I'm certainly glad I witnessed.
I arrived at the reception hopelessly late. I had been having that type of Saturday when laziness holds you by the belt-line and you can't motivate yourself to get up and go somewhere you really ought to go. During this process, your body and mind go through a familiar conversation in this manner:
Mind: Segun, you have a wedding for 10:30.
Body: Yeah I know.
Mind: It's already 8:30. Don't you think it's time you got up and started preparing?
Body: I still have 2 good hours. There's time.
Mind: Oh, ok.
(45 minutes later)
Mind: Segun, you have a wedding for 10:30.
Body: Yeah I know.
Mind: The wedding is in Ikeja, it's 9:15 already, and you haven't even taken your bath.
Body: Relax, I can be done with my preparations in 20 mins flat, and still make it well ahead of time.
Body: No buts please. I know what I'm doing.
Mind: Oh, ok.
(Another 45 minutes)
Mind: SEGUN, YOU HAVE A WEDDING AT IKEJA FOR 10:30. IT'S ALREADY 10:00. GET YOUR ASS OUT OF THAT CHAIR NOW!!!!
Body: Relaaax....I got it covered. I'll just quickly finish this game I'm playing, groom myself in half the time it normally takes me, and get to the venue just like 15 mins late. In any case, they are unlikely to start exactly at 10:30, n'est pas?
Mind: Ok oh! Ok oh!!!
(30 minutes more)
Mind: Segun [you can almost see the narrowed eyes and hear fingers drumming on the table], you had a wedding for 10:30, which a dear colleague was expecting you to treat with utmost importance, and you missed it. You were not there to witness his union. And the poor guy would be thinking you were not there because you had an emergency to attend to, not knowing you were here idling away precious time pointlessly.
Body: That's bad of me o. I can't start going now, can I? It would be insulting.
Mind: You already answered your own question.
Body: Ok, ok. Nothing do me. I'll just simply attend the reception. That's the best part isn't it?...
That was my story until I somehow got out of the house and made it to the reception venue. The reception had been scheduled to start for 1 pm. I got there like 2:45pm. It wasn't entirely my fault. I didn't know the reception hall. But given the fact that I knew the wedding church, and had been assured the reception hall was close by, I got on a bike and unwisely asked the rider to take me to the nearest events hall to the church. Where he dropped me seemed to fit the bill, and after querying a security guard at the gate, whom I unfortunately assumed had a remote awareness of what was going on around him, to ascertain if I was at Mr. A's wedding reception, I walked boldly in. I could've spent a couple of hours dining at the wrong wedding while wondering why I was surrounded by completely strange faces if not for the God-sent usher at the door who informed me that she had never heard of Mr. A before. And so I did what I should've humbly done before - I made a couple of calls, and after some time eventually found out the name of the hall. Another bike did the rest.
I got there to the news that the couple were just about to make their entry. Taking this to presume that the reception was still in its early stages and I wasn't so late after all, I had my illusion shattered when I went inside. There is a clear difference between when a wedding reception is just starting (aka when food has not been served yet) and when it has been on for a while (when a lot of guests have fulfilled their sole aim of attending by eating, and left with the sudden realization that they have other urgent engagements elsewhere). There is hardly any doubt which I prefer - arriving at the latter stages gives the inescapable ugly feeling that you have missed the best and dining on remnants, and there is unclean crockery and wasted food everywhere you turn. Moreover you get to be told that someone you had been dying to meet there had just left, moments after eating. In any case, I was awed by the spectacle I earlier described, and didn't feel too bad, except for the feeling of being a needle in a haystack with all of the crowd there.
Getting a seat was easier than I thought, and getting served food was remarkably easy too, considering some of the experiences I had had in the past with weddings generally. I didn't have to do the polite fixed staring at servants, or slight raising of the hand, or the rude hiss to get some attention. However, I had to do all of that, in addition to marching to the buffet table, all to no avail, when trying to get a clean glass cup for the fruit juice that was on my table. I had started eating and enjoying the well-prepared meal before realizing that all of the glass cups on my table had been previously used. I decided to reduce my eating speed and stylishly wait for a servant to pass by, whom I could make my request known to. However none of the food caterer's servants were forthcoming and the drink caterer's servants were unwilling to help me with my request. I can't say I was particularly surprised by this. The reception was around the point where, after suffering relentless harrassment from guests all day, the food servants generally go deaf, blind and unruly. With pressure building on my oesophagus, I might as well have behaved like a beastly woman I saw at a party once and collected a straw to drink what was obviously placed there for more than one person, but my couth got the better of me. I broke loose of its holds however, when I had walked up to the buffet table in extremis and had been informed that there were somehow no cups available. I calmly walked back to my table, looked around unsuccessfully for a drink servant to get a straw, and, realizing my last option to stay alive, walked outside to drink the juice directly with my mouth. I didn't get so many unsavoury stares from the crowd milling about outside, but I didn't care anyway. They didn't know what I had gone through. Unlike the beastly woman I described earlier however, I couldn't finish the juice.
That done, and some rationale restored, I was feeling good enough to go forward to say congrats to my colleague and take a few pictures as the traditional Flagrant Naira Abuse Session (aka the couple's dance) came on. Saying congrats was easy enough, but taking pictures was another matter entirely. In the first place, some genius had placed one of those bright halogen lamps supposed to aid photography facing the guests, so that taking pictures from a rational perspective by guests was impossible. Going round to take pictures from the other side did not immediately help either, as my view was obscured for several minutes by this woman in mint green, who spent forever abusing both the couple and the naira by pasting them with notes the same colour as her attire. Taking pictures at that moment would not have been very flattering for the couple, so I waited till she was done. But the other guests that replaced her in succession apparently thought it an amusing game to block the view of potential cameramen in their own bid to be seen. After trying from different angles and only coming up with blocked or blurry shots, and almost losing my footing a couple of times, I decided that it wouldn't be the end of the world if I couldn't take pictures, and, as such, shouldn't lead to the end of my life either; I gave up and walked back amongst the guests.
I didn't wait around for long though. My discomfort with the largely unfamiliar crowd around me, coupled with my having eaten and unsuccessful attempts to take pictures, left me with the distinct impression that it was time to leave. I followed my instincts and left, after wishing the couple a really happy married life. If the sumptous party was anything to go by, there really is little doubt about that ringing true.