Before Sydaiya and Sheriff Oladimeji ever met, they were preparing themselves to be in each other’s lives. For Sydaiya, a Boston native, she manifested her husband. Shaken by past dating woes, she began to do the internal work to be at her best for the man meant to find her and spoke his arrival into existence. She asked God, the universe and “all divine energies” for a good man. To be specific, a good man from abroad because she felt her match was waiting for her outside the States.
“Two days later I got an Instagram DM from this handsome Nigerian man living in Dubai and said, ‘ok God, ok!'” she tells ESSENCE. “I accepted the assignment, and boy was it divine!”
The man was Sheriff. Ready to settle down and find love, Sheriff also took action. A year before they would connect, he started paying towards the engagement ring he would give his future wife, whoever she was.
“Back in 2018 I was in the marketplace in Dubai and passed a window with this beautiful diamond ring being showcased in the glass. Without giving it a second thought I went in and put down a deposit on it,” he says. “At the time I was still single, but I was on the search for the woman who would wear it. Fortunately, before 2019 ran, I found the love of my life on Instagram.”
After connecting online, a significant spark was created between Sydaiya and Sheriff. For her, he was the man she manifested, a better partner than she could have ever hoped for. For him, the woman meant to wear the ring he’d been waiting to give. Three weeks after connecting, he told her that she would be his wife.
However, it wasn’t an easy road to get to that point. They met for the first time in person in Dubai in January 2020 where the two celebrated their birthdays together (January 10 and 12 respectively). They enjoyed each other’s company for 10 days and then found themselves separated for eight months. Covid-19 began to shut down most of the world and the couple, already long distance, worried about when they would have the chance to see each other again.
But after doing some research, they found that there were some places less impacted by the virus and still accepting travelers. They decided to flock to East Africa, in Tanzania, to come together. Once reunited in September 2020, they realized they didn’t want to be without each other and decided to move there with plans to marry.
On June 12, 2021, on a rooftop pool terrace overlooking the Indian ocean, Sydaiya and Sheriff said “I do.” She planned the wedding, heavily incorporating Sheriff’s Yoruba culture while also integrating nods to African-American culture (like jumping the broom). They said their vows in the ultimate destination wedding. About 30 loved ones traveled to be present for the extravagant celebration, which included handmade outfits, native drumming and a bilingual MC to carry out the ceremony in two languages.
“It was a brilliant merger of cultures all in one place,” she says. “It was truly stunning.”
The photos certainly affirm that. Check out the gorgeous images from the couple’s one-of-a-kind wedding and learn more about the love that brought them together.
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Bettering Herself for Her Future Husband
A believer in manifestation, Sydaiya knew what she wanted in a partner but she also knew what she needed to change about herself to be prepared for him.
“I believe we have the power to attract everything it is that we need and want if we learn how to do so. So I had been in transition for a while already,” she says. “I had committed to doing the internal work needed to bring my life partner TO me. I worked on myself mentally, emotionally, and spiritually so I could be in a place to receive him when it was time.”
After putting a deposit down for an engagement ring a year before meeting Sydaiya, he was able to give it to her when he proposed early last year.
“January 2021 I went back to Dubai to get the ring and I proposed at our favorite restaurant in Dar es Salaam, Capetown Fishmarket. I proudly went down on my knee in front of a hundred people and asked her to marry me,” he says. “She said a big YES! It was exactly what I pictured all those years back.”
How She Knew He Was the One
“This man was different, this man was the answer. He was consistent and he was true,” Sydaiya says of Sheriff. “He showed me more compassion, concern, [nurturing], support, dedication, and love from across the world than any man had ever shown me in my own backyard. He was present, he was consistent, he had no excuses. And I felt safe, finally. He told me three weeks in that I would be his wife, he said he knew from the moment he saw me on this phone. When it’s right, you know. The rest was effortless.”
“We looked at three venues and decided on Hotel Slipway in Dar es Salaam,” Sydaiya says of the space they chose. “The wedding took place on their pool terrace, which overlooked the Indian Ocean. It was a fairytale wedding. An absolute dream come true. I can’t wait to be able to curate this experience for other Black couples!
While the couple jumped the broom as a nod to African-American culture, Sydaiya was excited to have the opportunity to celebrate Sheriff’s Yoruba culture.
“I had always marveled at Yoruba weddings, I thought that they were so magnificent and royal, and in Yoruba culture it is expected to do the traditional ceremony so I was overjoyed,” she says. “Once I learned more about the ceremonial traditions I felt really honored to be a part of it.”
Honoring Your Elders
“It’s beautiful the way they pay homage and respect to the elders of the bride and groom. My husband had to prostrate (lay flat on the ground face down) in front of my parents to receive their approval and blessings to marry me. I had to also kneel and receive the same,” she says. “There are a lot of beautiful African traditions that were lost in the Americas and I felt honored to be able to practice them.”
In With the In-Laws
Sydaiya’s father did a speech at the wedding that was an emotional moment for Sheriff.
“After he finished up he turned to me and said on the microphone that he has never bowed to another man, but out of the love and respect he has for me, he would bow. And then he did, and of course I too bowed,” he says. “My heart stood still. It’s a moment I will cherish for the rest of my life.”
The Groom’s Most Memorable Moment
While that special moment with his father-in-law was significant, for Sheriff, so was seeing Sydaiya walk down the aisle in a traditional ensemble, embracing his Yoruba culture. She is pictured here with her bridesmaids, her six sisters from the States.
“In my head I thought to myself ‘Oh my wonderful God!’” he said of seeing her for the first time. “I knew when I met her that she would kill this African look, and she went beyond! She looked extraordinary, seriously mind blowing. I said to myself “That’s MY wife.” As a Yoruba man we cherish traditions and customs, so this was big.”
Pulling Off a Destination Wedding During a Pandemic
“Obviously having a ‘destination’ wedding during a pandemic made for some real challenges, but also made it really intimate and special,” she says. “We were blessed to have 30 African Americans fly overseas to be at a West African wedding, in East Africa.”
The Groom and His Guys
Sheriff is pictured posing in a traditional agbada along with his groomsmen. All of his pieces were sent from Nigeria.
I Dip You Dip We Dip
After a change of attire (Sydaiya wore two different outfits for the occasion by the way), the bride and groom shared quite the kiss.
Before the Ceremony
A shot of the decor during the day ahead of the big event.
Live bands and performers at Nigerian weddings are a must! Sydaiya is seen enjoying the sounds from their celebration, wearing a gown created by popular Tanzanian designer Mahuames.
The Bride, the Planner
The celebration was a success thanks to the planning of the bride. She coordinated details big and small, from the decor to the Nigerian traditional wedding cake. She looks forward to helping plan the special day of brides like herself in the future.