Why Nigerian Weddings are Expensive (and How to Save Costs)

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If you know what really makes weddings (in Nigeria and everywhere) so expensive, then you will know what to do to cut down your entire wedding cost to as low as you desire – this post will show you how. Maybe you’ve started shopping for your wedding things, getting price quotation from venues and the vendors, but the huge total cost is frustrating you because you can’t seem to get it down to your planned budget.  Guess what? There’s a single thing that every wedding planner swears by, that if you cut it down, an entire wedding budget will reduce, and you’ll still have the event quality untouched.  It’s the number of guests (list).  It’s the first place to start when looking to bring down wedding cost.  Read on to find out how you can apply this cost-cutting wedding planning technique and avoid overspending.

nigerian bride n bridesmaids
Photo Credit: Atunbi Wedding Photography

How Guest List Number Increases Food and Venue Costs (& What to Do When Planning)

Couples who are just starting to budget for their weddings, always wonder exactly ‘how expensive is a wedding?’.  Well, let me share a fun fact with you: the size of your guest list is responsible for how expensive your wedding will be, because it controls the cost of the most expensive part of a wedding (food/ drinks and venue).

  1. Food and Drinks (Catering): Food and drinks cost increase as number of guests increase.  More guests, increased cost of food (per plate cost, each guest) and drinks.
  2. Your Venue: Venue cost increases by the size of the venue space. The more guests you plan to invite, the more costly the venue you’ll require.

If you’ve already done your wedding budget and now wondering how to bring costs down, the two areas to look at is Venue and Catering costs.  However,  you only need to touch one single thing (your guest list) and the cost of your venue, food and drinks cost will immediately fall. Try reducing your guest list by, say, 10% and recalculate your food/ drinks cost, as well as price for a smaller venue – you should see that your entire wedding budget will drop down like magic.

Every single guest costs money – cost per plate of food, cost per portion of venue space.  From the above explanation, you can see that by cutting down the number of guests in your plan, your required planning budget will be lower – because you’ll need less money for venue, food and drinks.

The Secret: Cut Down Only Your Guest List to Get A Lower Wedding Cost

When planning your wedding budget, keep this in mind: YOU have the power to reduce the variable cost items, but you don’t have the power to reduce the fixed cost wedding expenses.  Most good wedding vendors have almost-fixed rates, as there’s a limit to which they can discount their prices.

If you’ve already found wedding vendors who’ll organize your event, you know that it’s not in your power to control or reduce vendor services costs (beyond a certain limit they agree to discount).  What you can do is to cut costs from where you have power to control – and that is NUMBER OF GUESTS. Reduce that a bit, to see how food and drinks cost go down (which brings down the entire wedding cost).  After doing that, and the wedding cost is still high, trim down the guest list again, and check. if there’s a need to still cut down the budget, repeat that process until you arrive at a total wedding cost you can afford to pay for. 

Now that your guest list has reduced, you’ll require a smaller, lower-cost wedding hall.  So, you need to find a smaller sized venue, which usually cost less than bigger ones. Wedding event venue managers always tell how many people (maximum), their spaces can seat, so be sure to ask or tell them how many people you plan to host – they’ll show you the halls or outdoor space for that number, and price.

Why Are Wedding Venues and Food So Expensive? Fixed and Variable Wedding Costs Planning Tips

Fixed Wedding Costs: With weddings, there are costs that remain the same no matter the number of guests you have – such as vendor service charges e.g. DJ or music band, MC. Other costs (such as venue, food and drinks) increase based on how many guests you have. 

Variable Wedding Costs: The number of guests you have is the main thing that increases a wedding budget, and it determines how much you will spend on venue and wedding food. For example:

  1. Wedding Food and Drinks: The more guests you plan to invite, the more plates of food your caterer would charge you, and the more drinks you have to budget for. Even if your family members are cooking the food, you still have to buy more bags of rice and more drinks.
  2. Wedding Venue: Venues are costed by how big/ small the space coverage is. Some hotels or event centers have small halls and big halls and each has the maximum number of guests it can accommodate – more money for bigger wedding halls. Some locations generally have expensive venues (village vs city; GRA vs regular areas).
  3. Wedding  services: Some wedding planners charge by a percentage of your overall wedding cost, meaning that you’ll pay them more if your total wedding cost is high. Similarly, some venue decorators would charge you more for decorating a bigger wedding venue. Can you see how the size and cost of a venue can shoot up your wedding budget?

Technically, how big the number of the guests you plan to have, will determine the most part of your overall wedding budget. Therefore, your guest list number is the first and best place to start cutting things down if you’re faced with a huge wedding budget. It may even be the only thing you reduce.  If you don’t have an unlimited supply of money (well, no one does), a good idea to reduce wedding expenses is to cut your cost according to your pocket size. And that begins with controlling your guest list size.

If you can control those two, you can drastically reduce your wedding cost, and be able to have a low budget Nigerian wedding.

How Wedding Catering and Venue are Priced

Event halls as well as outdoor venues are priced by the size. So, if you have a large guest, you will require a bigger hall or outdoor venue, and be prepared to pay the price that comes with size.

Caterers price their services on per plate of food, and sometimes include additional charges for serving the guests. When planning for how many people to invite, think of each guest as a per-plate-cost, and calculate how much the catering cost would be.  So, you see, inviting plenty guests increases the cost of wedding food. The more guests, the more mouths to feed, and the more money you need to fork out of your pocket.

How Much Should You Spend on Wedding Food and Venue?

How much you spend on food or venue should be determined by how much food and venue size would be enough for the number of guests you are planning – go out there to ask venues and caterers for price quotation.  Cut down guest list or increase your budget, whichever is comfortable to you, to pay the cost of the food and venue.  Now that you know that a big part of your wedding cost is controlled by how many people you invite to your wedding, the question now is how much should you spend on wedding venue and food?  You may also ask: how many people should you invite to your wedding?

The answer is to invite the number of guests that your money can afford to feed; and that you can afford to pay for a venue that is big enough to accommodate all of them.

Why You Should Not Invite Everybody to Your Wedding

While it’s great to have a big fat Nigerian wedding that is talk of the town, you should know that what makes a classy wedding is not the guest size. Instead, it is how well you took care of your guests.

You’ll appear stingy and wicked if you invited 400 people to a hall where 100 are standing and only 200 got food. Your guests will definitely bad-mouth you. No be by force o.

How Many Wedding Guests to Invite: A Quick Guide to Knowing

The right way to go about determining how many guests you should invite to your wedding is to first set aside a food budget. You get that by splitting your entire wedding budget and setting aside a portion for separate things, including food.

  • 24% of entire budget for Bride and Groom’s outfits plus wedding rings
  • 21% for reception (food, drinks, cakes, small chops)
  • 18% for venue and decoration (including rentals such as chair covers, canopy tents etc)
  • 14% for entertainment and visuals (MC, DJ/band, Photos and/ or Videos)
  • 6% for Stationery and Souvenirs/ wedding favors
  • 17% for miscellaneous expenses – for just-in-case anything comes up later

You can read our in-depth article here, about how to make a Nigerian wedding budget, including how to breakdown the budget.

PLANNING TIPS: Once you have determined your wedding food budget, find out how many guests that amount of money can feed. You should be able to get this by asking a few wedding day caterers. You can further spend less on food by serving a few menu items – focus on the usual occasion favorites of Nigerians, such as jollof rice, moi-moi etc.

Ensure to make your wedding plans (food, drinks, venue…) to match / fit your spending budget.  If you invite many but have a small venue, there a problem,  If you invite many, and the food and/ drinks are not enough, there’s a problem.  Don’t make the mistake of trying to plan a ‘big wedding’ with a small budget – coupled who went this route confessed to hating to remember their wedding day.

Lastly on Wedding Food, Drinks and Venue Budgeting and Planning

Controlling the guest list size and the venue cost is one of the best ways to cut down wedding budget and still have a glam wedding in Nigeria. You don’t have to invite everybody. Ask yourself this: is it more important to have many guests attend or to give an unforgettable treat a smaller amount of people with a sumptuous meal, great dancing and an unforgettable party experience?

You can find ways to take care of people who you could not invite. You can decide to have an after-wedding  house party for neighbors and relatives, or send souvenirs/ wedding favors to colleagues.

The bigger your guest number, the more you’ll pay for food/ drinks and venue.  If you manage to cut down your huge guest number, you are not likely to overspend on your wedding, even if you do not cut down other areas of wedding expenses. But if you didn’t how planning for too many guests is the main reason why wedding costs are high, you risk over-spending on food, drinks and venue space; and later managing the leftover money to hire cheap, unprofessional vendors.  That is what happens when couples host shabby wedding events. Don’t make that mistake – because you now know better.

Now, Over to You

That’s it on how to have a low cost wedding by controlling the two biggest wedding costs – food and venue (determined by size of your guest list). And you now know that reducing your guest list number is the quickest way to cut down a wedding cost. 

Now, it’s your turn: tell me, how many guests do you plan to invite to your wedding? What are you doing to keep the cost of your wedding food and venue within what you can afford? Tell me in the comments down below.

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About Stella Anokam

Stella is the founder and Editor of this blog (NaijaGlamWedding). Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest. Submit your photos to be featured - it's FREE, because we love everything weddings, bridal showers, engagement shoots.


  1. junior jake says

    My guest would not exceed 500 people can 1million take care of every aspect of the wedding.. ?

    • Hello Jake. I don’t think 1 million naira budget would be enough for a 500-guest wedding in Nigeria (due to inflation and recent high cost of things). Wedding cost for 500 guests varies from Mr. A to Mr. B, depending on whether you are planning a big society wedding, a moderate wedding or a low-key wedding. A venue in a high-profile location for 500 guests is sure costlier than a similar sized venue in a regular area. And, depending on whether you want to serve your guests expensive drinks and food, or regular wedding party food. >So, you see, there is no fixed amount for a 500-guest wedding.

      You have to sit down and work out your cost. The only way to know how much would be enough for your own wedding is to make a list and visit venues, vendors and the market to obtain current prices. >Add up the prices and you have your wedding budget. We have the following articles to help you out:
      How to Calculate a Wedding Budget
      List of Usual Wedding Expense Items
      What a 1 Million Naira Wedding Looks Like (Sample)

  2. Pls I need ur advice….my fiancé said he want a simple wedding like wat is don in Las Vegas….n dis is naija..was thinkin of inviting 500-1000guest

    • Hello Dorcas, number of people to invite is a common cause of pre-wedding quarrels among about-to-wed couples. That’s because it all boils down to more expenses/ cost. My advice: COMPROMISE on any areas of disagreement during wedding planning – you may arrive at a middle ground, so that you get a bit of what you want, AND he also gets a bit of what he wants (50-50). You two should sit down to discuss his and your point of view on this issue, and then COMPROMISE.
      *Recently, a lot of Nigerian couples and celebrities seem to want smaller weddings, choosing to invite fewer people AND using the savings to achieve a classy wedding, as well as a grand honeymoon. So, smaller weddings are gradually becoming a ‘Naija thing’.
      **We wrote a couple of posts about this low-key, classy wedding trend and you may want to read this post for inspiration.

    • Tnx very much Madam?

  3. Thank you soo much. This is the best nigerian read I have come across as per weddings. Everyone else just talks jargons. very helpful and practical tips.

    My guest list is 200.

    I’ll just follow the links you gave Grace for what next to do!


  4. Thanks 4 d advice. I cut my guest from 300 to 150, advice me on what next to do. Tnx.

    • You’re welcome, Grace. If you’ve not made your budget yet, you should start doing it right away. Here’s the tutorial on how to do that https://naijaglamwedding.com/how-to-budget-nigerian-wedding/

      To know the things to do after what, use this our handy wedding checklist/ to-do list for brides https://naijaglamwedding.com/nigerian-white-wedding-checklist/

      Feel free to ask, if you have more questions. And, have fun planning your wedding.

      • My hall can accommodate is much as 700 guest being a church hall and I intend having a 200 guest wedding. Reading ur post now I feel ve made a wrong choice considering d Deco part. Pls advise me further. Thank you

        • Hi Jane, thanks for reading, and for asking your question. Can you explain – what is the problem you see with your decor part? help me understand you better.
          About your hall size: As long as the hall size is not smaller than the number of guests, you’re okay. The only problem is if the hall is too big, it could cost more to decorate it (but if it’s affordable in price, go with it). Another possible problem with a too-big hall is that it could also look like it’s swallowing up the wedding. But then if you have a good wedding planner or event decorator, they can suggest great seating arrangement, and may even create lovely side areas for things like the food serving area, drinks bar, dancing space etc.
          *So, for your hall, I think you should do a nice seating and table arrangement that will incorporate the big space. Your decor vendors can help.

    • 150? that sounds like only the family of yourself and your spouse, then like 10 friends.

      • Hi Toju, believe it or not, many couples are opting for very small low-key, private weddings – not only celebrities (like Toke Makinwa, Stephanie Okereke). In In some cases, affordability forces couples to trim down their wedding size; why invite everyone if you can’t feed them. And, there’s nothing wrong with the usual big, Nigerian weddings with huge guest list. It’s your wedding and only you (and your budget/ pocket) can decide how big or small your guest list should be.

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