Just Add Plantains by Rugie Wurie

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As a London-based international wedding planner, I strive to celebrate the cultures of my diverse clientele through entertainment, fashion and wedding favours. But I’m continually shocked to find that top venues in our global city often fail to accommodate African tastes in their selection of food and beverages. Just adding one dish like plantains to the menu could unleash a whole new revenue stream from young, affluent Africans.

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I’ve suggested this to a few London venues, but have been politely dismissed. They’ve adapted menus to cater for Kosher and Asian tastes, but don’t yet appreciate African and Caribbean food.

At a recent wedding between a German bride and Sierra Leonean groom at Berlin’s prestigious Adlon Kempinski, I negotiated for Sierra Leonean cuisine to be included in the predominantly European menu. The hotel added jollof rice, roast meat, acara or puff puf (West African sweet doughy pastry) in the midnight bites selection and everyone was delighted: all the guests felt included, and drink spend went through the roo

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For most of my clients, the average budget for a London-based wedding with 150 guests is around £60,000. They usually max out room capacity with over-subscribed guestlists,matching this with a steady flow of drinks.

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The new wave of Africans – many from countries like Nigeria and Ghana - want guests to experience their culture without compromising on dream wedding locations. They hire us to make this happen by any means necessary.

Some big names are starting to take notice. For example, Millennium Hotel Mayfair, The Mayfair and Hilton Park Lane have added the likes of Favours Catering, Burrell, Myrtle, and Bekes Caterers to their preferred supplier lists.

Those that continue to neglect Afro-Caribbean flavours risk losing valuable business to less glamorous addresses that are more considerate of other cultures. Small steps towards inclusion

So how can London’s top venues adapt to this affluent market? Small pots of condiments could be a deal breaker, and hot pepper sauce is an easy compromise. Shitto (Ghanaian pepper sauce) and Jerk seasoning (scotch bonnet with thyme) are thoughtful nods to Afro-fusion cuisine.

Drinks menus can also benefit from an international spin. For instance, we hired Dash Concept to develop a cocktail that reflected one couple’s birth country, Sierra Leone. The Bounty Daiquiri featured ingredients including rum, lime, pineapple, coconut and apple. Other nice touches to a cocktail hour could include fermented West African palm wine or Jamaican rum punch.

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Representing a broader array of cultures in London’s wedding industry is something we can all toast to.

The Royal Wedding by Rugie Wurie

Today I have resumed blogging  because I was surprised at how interactive my posts were during my self appointed  Facebook live reporting on the Royal Wedding.  Admittedly, I was one of those wedding enthusiasts who wasted their whole day glued to the TV, analysing the tiniest detail with a few inaccuracies on some aspects of the wedding. My best mate was on standby emailing to-the-minute articles on the royal wedding. We were up at 6am in readiness for the big day ...

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First, massive congrats to Meghan and Harry for putting up a wonderful celebration of multi-culturalism! There were so many highlights but here are  a few of my absolute faves...

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Meghan's hair and beauty team including New York based celebrity hairstylist Serge Normant and makeup artist Daniel Martin  ensured she was every bit of herself with the most barely- there makeup and loose chignon look  I have experienced in modern times. Loved the emphasis on the eyes and the nude lip colour. She looked relaxed and youthful . Same goes for her beautiful Mum. 

When I learnt self taught British Florist Philippa Craddock was doing flowers, I braced myself for a showstopper. Her IG account days ahead of the wedding hinted of an English Country Garden inspired  look... but I wasn't quite ready for the visual impact of foliage on that scale. Scrumptious pollinator-friendly plants beautifully arranged into giant arch installations framed both entrances of St George's Chapel.  Full head white rose blooms added some prettiness to the whole look. The altar echoed the same  foliage styled arrangements suitably presented in  traditional urns and plinths. 

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Entertainment was breathtaking ! It was a fine balance of classical and  gospel performances appropriately reflecting the couple's heritage and their love for diversification. The dramatic and theatrical music prompted special moments in  the order of service. What a treat.... I also found the appointment of  black Cellist  Sheku Kanneh Mason , playing several traditional classical numbers quite clever ...frankly there couldn't have been a better representation of multi-cultural Britain.

The song choice of The Kingdom Gospel Choir 'Stand by Me" lifted the whole mood of the wedding ceremony. It was a mix between emotional and happy all in tune with the couple's body language  sending us love signals throughout.  Loved it... black culture / excellence at it's finest!

The Kingdom Choir   image via  Esquire

The Kingdom Choir 

image via Esquire

American Bishop Michael Curry of the Episcopal Church 's soulful delivery  peppered with civil rights nuances, humoured the  conservative nature of the royal family and Brits in general. I was in stitches as he grabbed the opportunity to bring important but uncomfortable reminders of  race relations and slavery to the fore-front.

Loved, loved Meghan's walk down the aisle! With the furore over the  father-of-the bride's no show at the wedding, Meghan's bridal  procession hushed all those negative news headlines and stereotypes of a dysfunctional family as she proudly owned her walk, gliding  solo..... until the half way point where she was met by Prince Charles. Now... that walk down the aisle overturned one of the most symbolic gestures of patriarchy in the church and royal tradition. So bravo Meghan for turning an awkward situation into a Feminist clap back moment. 

I could really go on...so yes to pomp and pageantry, yes to elegant simplicity, yes to the size of the wedding guest list ( ceremony 600 lunchtime reception, evening reception 200), yes to supporting self taught and  small business start ups including the former market stall cake vendor Claire Ptak of Violet Cakes, yes to barely-there make up, yes to a full display of black excellence, yes to  verdant floral arrangements,  yes to forgoing traditional presents in favour of donating to causes, yes to an interesting flavoured cake (elderflower flavoured), yes to ululations outside the church,  yes to marrying the sexiest Royal.

Finally  a big fat yes to  love undefined by privileged education, upbringing, race, or connections.We savoured every moment in my household, the tears the applause, the laughter... thank you for a wonderful day and may God bless your marriage!