Now that it’s crystal clear that hosting a big wedding at this time is just not possible due to the spread of COVID-19, we’re sharing the experiences of real couples navigating the re-scheduling, cancellation, and civil and commemorative wedding processes in an attempt to help others make informed decisions and to spread our support to all during this time.
Kessiana Edewor-Thorley moved her civil ceremony and reception from London to Lagos, Nigeria, due to the spread of COVID-19. Here, she’s sharing how she and her husband, Jide Odunsi, made the final call and live-streamed their event on Zoom.
The interior, fashion, and furniture designer and social entrepreneur originally scheduled their civil ceremony over a bank holiday weekend on August 30th in London at the Chelsea Town Hall, as most of their immediate family members are based in the U.K. They were also hoping to host a small lunch afterwards at Daphne’s in their private room.
As COVID-19 hit, there was also talk of a small service at a little church on Farm St. off Berkeley Square, followed by dinner and dancing at Annabel’s. From the beginning, the plan was always to spend time after the civil service organizing a bigger wedding for 2021.
For their smaller ceremony, Jide thought it would be wise to wait until July 1st to see how things had progressed in terms of the pandemic. If they could, they wanted to go home to Lagos for an intimate wedding. As their fathers live in England, it was a difficult decision, but the couple ultimately decided to move forward. They booked the weekend of the 18th in Nigeria. 20 guests were invited to attend in-person and 200 were notified to watch on Zoom. To help plan everything, they hired Timi Ejiwunmi of I Do Weddings.
Kessiana had already come up with a list looks she was interested in wearing to her civil ceremony planned for August, but was torn between silk dresses from Danielle Frankel and Markarian. Due to the time constraint, she ultimately had to shift her attention to local talent though. Her mother had a gorgeous champagne silk fabric, and the bride called on one of her favorite designers Abiola Olusola to custom-make a dress for her—the designer’s first wedding dress. They remade an asymmetrical linen dress that Kessiana already owned, which wasn’t easy as they only had enough silk to get it right the first time. Luckily, the gamble paid off, and the “Kess” style is now available on Abiola’s website.
On the day-of, the bride got ready with her sister’s makeup artist Onome, and put on kitten heels from Butter Shoes to complete her ensemble. Jide wore a wheat grain linen, double-breasted suit and white linen dress shirt by Okunoren with buckle Gucci loafers. Funny story—48 hours before the wedding, the suit was ready to go to the dry cleaners, but the cleaning process shredded the look, and it had to be made within a day.
The sister-of-the-bride, Georgina “Eku” Edewor Thorley, wore a linen dress by Abiola Olusola, and the best man, Ladi Delano, matched Jide in linen looks from Okuneren. “We wanted it to be organic, keeping with the tropics, so we chose linen, since it is a breathable fabric, and we live in West Africa,” Kessiana shares.
On Saturday, in-between curfews amidst the social limitations brought about by the pandemic, the two were married in the luscious banana tree garden of the mother-of-the-bride’s enchanting home in the port town of Apapa in Lagos. “I couldn’t imagine getting married anywhere more magical, and it was the perfect setting for an earthy and rustic safari aesthetic,” the bride says. Malaika Najem, owner of Flowershop, enhanced the space further with phalaenopsis, dendrobiums, eucalyptus, limoniums, lisianthus, and white roses.
“I have fond memories of watching the wedding in Father of the Bride on repeat as a young child and had always secretly wished to get married at home and take advantage of our beautiful family home similar to the Banks’s,” the bride remarks. “The silver lining of a wedding during a pandemic was that this suddenly became an option due to the restricted numbers.” For perspective, in Nigeria, a 100-person wedding is considered intimate, so a 20-guest event was unheard of.
Upon arrival, loved ones were given monogrammed, linen face masks by Kessiana’s close school friend, Banke Kuku, cinnamon-scented mini sanitizer sprays by Bath Kandy, and branded face visors for a safe celebration. Then the couple walked down the aisle together, and their ceremony was broadcast on YouTube and Zoom to the many guests that couldn’t attend.
After being announced as husband and wife, everyone was treated to an energetic cocktail bar behind giant banana leaves with “KJ”-branded Pimms bags, as a nod to the British parts of the couple’s upbringing. A spread of African and English dishes like lobster jollof rice, reconstructed and stuffed whole chicken, goose fat roast potatoes, vegetable efo riro, and whipped pounded yams, all made by Kessiana’s mother Princess Juliana Edewor-Izegbu Oliwe II’s restaurant, Chardonnay, were served and eaten at socially-distanced areas around the space.
Speeches were given by the couple’s fathers on Zoom and by Kessiana’s twin sister and Jide’s business partner. And the day was made complete with first dances to “Mr. Lover Man” by Shabba Ranks and Patsy Cline’s “Crazy.” After the cake from Livvy’s Twist was cut, the newlyweds left in an off-white Rolls-Royce, hired by the best man, headed to their new apartment before midnight to make the curfew.
Looking back at everything now, the newlyweds are glad they made their micro-wedding happen, even though there was little time to plan. “I still get people walking up to me to tell me how beautiful the wedding was,” the bride remarks. Jide adds, “Some said they enjoyed how different and intimate it was from the typical Nigerian wedding.”