Nneka Ijeoma’s new book sets best wedding plans
• Says, ‘Be True To Yourself’
Surprised at some of the intrigues and laughable things parents, brides, bridesmaids and others around people about to get married do behind the scenes to make wedding ceremonies grand, Nneka Ijeoma has come up with what may be a standard. Having been part of different societies’ weddings, she has written about her experiences in her book, Memoirs Of A Professional Bridesmaid. Written in witty and humorous style, Nneka, from the first chapter to the last, gradually unveils the troubles, pains and dramas involved in planning wedding. She simply advises would-be couples to always be themselves.
The book gives a vivid account of what goes on before, during and after a wedding. On what motivated her to write the book, she said, “I have always wanted to write a book. I‘m a PR and Communications practitioner by profession, and I write formal papers for the company I work for. So, I knew publishing a book would be something I would do in the future, but I just didn’t think it would be at this point in my life. But in 2013, six of my friends were engaged at the same time and I had the honour to be their bridesmaid. 2014 became a year of wedding planning, I was on so many group chats at the same time, and also these weddings were all in different parts of the world. That was when I knew all that friends do during pre-wedding.
“I never really realised, but most of 2014 was consumed by wedding planning. Even my vacation was marked down based on my bridesmaid scheduling. These things are not really highlighted during wedding because when we talk about wedding, we usually don’t think of the bridesmaids as much.
“This was when the idea came to me; I thought it would be interesting to read about all the interesting and sometimes crazy things that go on behind the scenes through my personal experiences as a bridesmaid. It will also be a unique perspective, as this will be the first book of its kind. I shared the idea with my sister, who thought it was a great idea, and she really motivated me. So, I started taking notes until I had enough content to write a book. I literally documented all the activities, and then added the other weddings I had previously been a bridesmaid.
“I did not hold anything back. For me, it had to be something really fresh and out of the box, and taking into account the social media era we are in, I had to keep it current, which was my inspiration behind the ‘phone/Whatsapp conversation chronicles.”
Nneka said she experienced some challenges, while writing, which she took as part of her learning curve as a first time author.
“I wouldn’t really call them challenges,” she noted. “I just didn’t know where to start. This was my first publication; so, it was more of a learning experience for me. I thought the hardest part of the publishing process would be writing my manuscript… I was wrong! Writing is just the beginning. I had to research the right editors, send my manuscript to them and hope they contact me. I also contacted so many illustrators till I found the perfect illustrator, Penie Enchill, based in London. It took me months to decide on the cover, inner layout, font and others… I learnt so much during this process.
“However, what gave me the confidence to finish was sharing my manuscript and getting immense positive response with people, who said, ‘write more; it’s leaving us wanting more!’ And that’s what I still hear even after publishing. The fact that people want more means they are interested in my story, which is very rewarding.”
On whether ostentatious lifestyle has become a defining pattern of Africans in spite of the continent’s prevailing poverty, she countered, “Absolutely not! I like the typical Nigerian celebration. Nigerians love a good party, which is great. What I pointed out is that there are some people who really cannot afford a certain lifestyle, yet they get pressured, be it from social media or by their peers, to do something they wouldn’t normally do, which is what I address in Chapter 2.
“This, simply put, is to stay, be true to yourself. There is an added pressure these days to have a certain type of lifestyle, which is why some people feel obliged to buy or wear aso ebi and all that comes with Nigerian weddings, whether they can afford it or not. I have no regrets saying this. In fact, all the feedbacks I have received have been very complimentary, from those who know me and otherwise.”
However, instead of picking quarrel with her for exposing her friends as their bridesmaid, Nneka said her friends have actually commended for her for a good job.
According to her, “They all love the book! These ladies are all my dear friends and it was a huge honour and privilege to have been part of their big day. They agree with my views. In fact, after their weddings, we discussed a lot of things, which I put in my book. It’s refreshing to laugh about certain things that we all observed at typical big gatherings, but no one speaks about them.
“The book is a unique take on weddings and also a very easy read. Even those who are not particularly interested in wedding intricacies will be drawn to it. I have been getting messages from all parts of Nigeria, Nigerians abroad and even foreigners.”
What then is her advice for parents and would-be couples? “The book has something for everyone. It has tips for brides, bridesmaids, parents and even vendors, which I used to conclude each chapter. It is a book that everyone can take something away from – from finances to timelines, to professionalism – there is a bit everyone can relate with and take to heart.”
As much as Nneka would want readers to enjoy her book and plan their events within their means, so they don’t become a burden to anyone, including friends, she advises that Memoirs Of A Professional Bridesmaid is not a panacea to sick marriages.
“Honestly, I am not a marriage guru. Memoirs Of A Professional Bridesmaid was not written to dictate to people how to run a happy home or to judge anyone. Rather, it highlights how fast things are changing and how certain things, now seen as the norm, are actually not. In my chapter on ‘Vendors From Hell,’ I mentioned that a big wedding is great if and, I quote, ‘in wanting the wedding of the year, we don’t forget to pray for a marriage of a lifetime.’
“In this era of social media, there is so much pressure, not just on marriages, but on people to portray a ‘perfect lifestyle – to have the perfect job or perfect business, to be the ‘perfect’ size and others that people try to live up to certain unrealistic expectations that are really not attainable.’ I believe if you want to have a big wedding, and ‘break the internet by all means,’ this should not cloud our judgement as individuals.”
Also, Nneka stated that while social media is good, it should be approached with caution, noting, “I also stress on not focusing too much on social media, as most of what is posted is all ‘smoke and mirrors.’ Social media has been great for businesses, and so many other things, but setting a standard for one’s life based on it already makes for a very shaky foundation in all aspects of life, not just marriages!”