I attended a wedding with my aunt and uncle a few weeks ago in Lagos. After a few hours, I commented to my aunt that I had noticed that at Nigerian parties, there is constant flow of different kinds of food. She replied saying, “Yes, without it, a party would be boring.” I said “Well, let me prepare you, when you come for my wedding in London, there wont be this much food” To which she replied, “Even if I have to bring a caterer from Nigeria for your wedding, there must be a constant flow of food.” I laughed then but it got me thinking.
Truly, at parties in Nigeria, food and drink pretty much makes the event. Let me give you the breakdown
-As guests arrive and are seated, they are immediately given bottles of water
-Following that, waiters start to take orders, and plates of food are distributed
-Then soft drinks like coke, fanta, sprite and malt start to make the rounds
-If alcohol is being served, bottles of wine, beer etc also come round.
-After the main meal, dessert follows – all types of milky, creamy goodness
-Then smaller plates of small chops begin their rounds – think puff puff samosas, spring rolls and musa
-Not long after that, cocktails begin to go round – chapman, pina colada, fruit punch etc
-Somewhere down the line, food like ofada rice, tuwo, amala begin to go round
-By now, champagne would have made an appearance on some guest tables
-Asun and/or pepper soup, fish and chips, BBQ chicken and chips will also be introduced into the mix (chips can be swapped with fried yam or plantain)
-Meanwhile, drinks continue to flow
-I even saw an exotic dish of salad with meat on skewers, king prawns and ribs served at a recent reception
So there you have it folks; Nigerian weddings are what people have in mind when they talk of ‘feasting’. In order to make this ‘feast’ a success and please this nation of foodies, a great amount of planning and coordination is required. From an event coordinator’s point of view, here is my experience of what is required for the feast.
1) Experience of vendors – the kind of feast I have described requires fast service. Guests at Nigerian weddings wont accept that the caterer is still frying or plating up, they want service NOW. So be clear that a particular vendor can deliver this for you before you engage them.
2) Ensure vendors attend a vendors meeting at the venue at the latest the week before the wedding – here you brief them on the wedding details, guest numbers, numbers they are specifically catering for, colours, expected arrival times etc
3) Arrive early on the morning of the wedding (7am) to receive your vendors
4) Allocate different spaces to vendors inside the venue and outside. We’ve talked about a large variety of foods meaning lots of food vendors, ensure those serving larger numbers of guests, and earlier are given more prominent/closer places.
5) If vendors are being placed outside, consider canopies being erected to protect them and the food from the elements.
6) It is essential to having running water as invariably there will be a need for caterers to wash dishes, cups and cutlery at some point during the wedding.
7) During the event, various coordinators have to be put in charge of the various food vendors, so that the distribution of food is kept under control and things don’t run out too early. For example, if a caterer has been commissioned to do small chops for 300 guests. They should ideally start by frying for 150 guests so that they have more for later.
8) And finally, prepare for the attitude you will invariably get when you tell some guests that certain foods are no longer available or not immediately available.
There you have it, a coordinator’s helpful guide to serving and pleasing what I can only describe as a nation of foodies.