Rebekah + Yemisi | African Wedding Traditions in the Smokys | Gatlinburg, TN

Throughout my time as a Smoky Mountain elopement photographer, I have worked with some incredible couples, just like these two! Rebekah and Oluwayemisi (Yemisi or Yemi)’s African wedding traditions found throughout their Smoky Mountain wedding was one of the most unique and special events I’ve been to. There were moments of laughter, fun, and emotionally touching moments as well. Rebekah and Yemisi wanted to include all the traditions of both of their families and they did an incredible job.

A Romantic Airplane Proposal

Rebekah shares the romantic details of Yemisi’s proposal to her, and it was too sweet not to share. “In September 2020, we had an early flight to catch from Nashville, a three hour drive from Knoxville. We got up before the sun so that we had plenty of time to make our flight, but it was a stress-filled morning, to say the least! Then, once we got to the airport we realized Yemisi forgot his passport and we weren’t sure if he’d be able to fly …he NEVER does stuff like this, so this should have been my first clue that something else was on his mind!”

Things Are Taking Off

She continues saying that Yemisi was just acting ‘off’ and kept making excuses to disappear. Once they got on the plane he did it again, “But lo and behold, the VERY SECOND the pilot turned off the fasten seat belt sign, guess where Yemisi was off to? You guessed it. The “bathroom.” If you’re familiar with flying, you know that when the pilot turns off the fasten seat belt sign, he introduces his crew and gives a short weather briefing. This was all routine to me, and I was only half-heartedly listening as I continued watching my show. The flight attendant was going through her normal speech, but eventually mentioned a special announcement. It really got my attention, however, when she said “This message is for Rebekah.” I turned around in my seat and saw a slew of passengers pointing cameras in my direction and my soon-to-be fiancé walking down the aisle towards me. After he proposed, and I said yes, everyone on the plane cheered and the flight crew brought us champagne to celebrate. We spent the rest of the flight soaking it all in!”

This would be just the beginning of their surprises to one another!

African Wedding Traditions found in the Smoky Mountains

Rebekah and Yemisi eloped last December, but wanted a ceremony where they could celebrate with loved ones, and bring their two families together. First, we began the day with helping the boys get ready, and Yemisi is incredibly detail oriented, and had everything laid out for the African wedding ceremony, and the American ceremony, separately.

Later, the couple exchanged gifts and had a first look before saying, “I do”. They had a first look on their elopement day, but wanted to have an official first look while Rebekah wore her actual dress. It was an emotional moment for everyone around. Yemisi was having fun and dancing before the first look, but once he saw her, it was all over. He is such an emotional guy, it was the absolute sweetest. Then, it was time for their wedding ceremony, and it started sprinkling! Rainy weather can overwhelm some people, but I’m convinced it’s good luck on a wedding day.

Nevertheless, the ceremony was beautiful, and the couple were able to celebrate their marriage with tons of family support. They had the same officiant as their elopement, it was a cool way to bring their whole story together. During the wedding ceremony, they had a rope tying ceremony, Yemi was incredibly emotional during this as well. All of the little things made this event that much more meaningful.

Time to Party!

Next up was the big party, Rebekah and Yemisi wanted to incorporate as many African wedding traditions as possible during their day. Throughout their reception there were lots of special events to honor that culture and tradition. They had traditional African food being served; melon soup, pounded yam cooked with stewed beef, and more. The food was delicious! Another fun tradition was money was everywhere! When the bride and groom are dancing, guests throw money at them, mostly $1 and $2 bills. It was so cool.

Rebekah and Yemisi continually surprise one another, so throughout the day there were tons of little surprises. Yemi surprised Rebekah at the reception by dancing with her mother. It was a beautiful moment spent honoring her mom and welcoming him into their family. He also danced with another woman from the states whom he’s always looked up to as a motherly figure. Rebekah put together a special video for him to show during the reception. I love a couple who keeps everyone on their toes, and these two definitely did!

After all the surprises, the couple had a full outfit change to get prepared for the Nigerian ceremony. This being my first experience with this culture, I was enthralled. I loved watching how they honored Yemisi and his traditions. Later, Yemisi had another surprise for Rebekah! He surprised her with a unique and traditional African cake. After everyone jumped right back to dancing, and celebrating together. Money was thrown everywhere and it was definitely the definition of a party.

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Smoky Mountain Elopement Photographer
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