Exclusive: How WNBA Star Chiney Ogwumike Planned a Surprise 1,000-Person Wedding Week
In case you missed it, WNBA star Chiney Ogwumike married Raphael Akpejiori on November 13, 2023, and The Knot had the first look inside their five-day, 1,000-person wedding in Houston, Texas. Now, you might be wondering: How does one person plan a five-day, 1,000-person wedding? We'll let you in on a secret: Chiney didn't do it all by herself! The athlete, who also serves as an ESPN host and analyst, planned her wedding (which was a total secret, we might add) during her latest WNBA season with the Los Angeles Sparks. So, in order to bring her dream Nigerian fusion wedding to life, she relied on her family *and* her incredible team of vendors.
Ahead of the big day, we sat down with Chiney to chat about her 11-month wedding planning experience. Plus, we got the scoop on what she and her husband registered for, along with the invitation designs they love. Get her top wedding planning tips below, and let Chiney's wedding inspire your own nuptials.
In this article:
The Wedding Vendors Chiney Ogwumike Couldn't Live Without
Chiney Ogwumike and Raphael Akpejiori got engaged on December 24, 2022. Considering their wedding was in November 2023, they had less than a year to bring the plans together. Chiney considers her mom to be the very first wedding vendor she "hired"—but she was just one of many pros who had a hand in bringing this lavish celebration to life. Here are five wedding vendors Chiney couldn't live without.
An Experienced Fusion Wedding Planner
An experienced wedding planner was a must for Chiney and Raphael. Though they're both Nigerian, they come from different cultures that have nuanced wedding traditions. To ensure they properly highlighted both, they enlisted the help of Doyin Fashakin, owner of Houston-based planning company Doyin Fash. Given her own Nigerian background, she understood the couple's vision and had plenty of experience when it came to executing multi-day celebrations. "Doyin is known as the 'Calm Queen,' which is the perfect quality for a wedding planner," Ogwumike says. "I also love that she's known as the 'Fusion Queen,' because she's great with cultural weddings." Fashakin collaborated with Nkem Igwebuike and 3Gems to bring the five-day event to life.
A Luxe Wedding Photographer
With five days of events, Chiney and Raphael needed a media team to capture every single moment, including the welcome party, two wedding ceremonies, the farewell brunch, and a surprise Burna Boy concert. Their search for a photographer led them to Stanley Babb of Stanlo Photography, who's recognized as one of the top wedding photographers in the world. (Psst: You might recognize him as Simone Biles' wedding photographer!) "Stanley started off as my dream luxury wedding photographer," Ogwumike recalls. "But I am so grateful that through this process, I can now call him my friend." They also hired the groom's close friend Enny Olamide, owner of Bricks Media Group, as their wedding videographer.
A Personal Venue
Although they couldn't host their wedding in Nigeria, the couple honored their heritage by selecting the next-best location for their traditional ceremony: Texas' Igbo Catholic Community Center. "Houston was the perfect city for our wedding. Not only is it my birthplace, but it's also affectionately known as Baby Lagos, and it houses the largest Nigerian population in the US," Ogwumike explains. "It gave us the feeling of home."
The couple's luxe reception venue, Sans Souci Ballroom, also had a significant personal meaning. It's located in Tomball, Texas, the exact town where Ogwumike was born.
Fabulous Fashion Designers
Of course, Chiney needed an incredible wedding wardrobe for the five-day span of events—and her looks were nothing short of iconic. "Everything is bigger and better in Texas," she says. "I had around 10 unique looks to showcase my personality and love for my culture."
One standout look was the strapless red dress she wore at the end of the Nigerian ceremony, which signified that she was officially married. Chiney also loved the vibrant blue gown worn at the beginning of her traditional ceremony, which was designed by her mom and later brought to life by Kristine Anigwe, a fellow WNBA player who often styles Chiney and her sister, Nneka Ogwumike.
Another one of the bride's favorite looks was her white wedding dress, which was created by Nneka Alexander of Brides by Nona. After they began working together, they discovered that the fashion designer went to Queen's College in Lagos—the same school that Ogwumike's mother and wedding planner attended.
It's not a party without incredible entertainment, so musicians were crucial vendors for the couple. "Since we had two weddings, we wanted to use music to differentiate the tones between them," Ogwumike explains. "The traditional wedding on Thursday was full of dynamic, cultural music curated by my friend, DJ Prince."
Chiney Ogwumike's Must-Have Wedding Registry Essentials
Given their busy careers on opposite sides of the country, Chiney and Raphael's "home base" is split between Los Angeles, Houston and Miami. Since they're always on the move, they used their registry to ask for non-tangible items instead of physical gifts, like kitchenware or home decor. Here are the three items that were absolute must-haves on their newlywed wishlist.
A Honeymoon Cash Fund
Although the newlyweds hope to enjoy a honeymoon in the future, an extended vacation isn't in the cards right now. "As professional athletes with multiple jobs, we might not be able to get away right after the wedding for a long time," Ogwumike explains, saying they established a minimoon cash fund to help them enjoy smaller vacations with the free time they do have. "We've decided to extend weekend getaways to as many destinations as possible."
Date Night Experiences
When they do get to enjoy quality time in the same city, Chiney and Raphael prefer to spend it out and about rather than at home. "We lean in heavily on experiences. Between practices and work, we don't have much time for anything else," she explains. "Whenever we see each other, we always enjoy hanging together." To plan for future date nights, Chiney registered for unique experiences like yoga classes, African cooking classes, and concert tickets at the Toyota Center in Houston.
As a nod to their shared Nigerian heritage and their equal love of sports, Chiney and Raphael also dedicated part of their wedding registry to giving back. They added a charity fund to their wishlist to support Giants of Africa, a non-profit that aims to "empower the next generation of African youth through sports and education," Ogwumike says.
The Wedding Invitations Chiney Ogwumike Loves
Despite having such a large lineup of events, Chiney had a clear, overarching aesthetic for the entire wedding week: "Royally African." Leaning into her reputation as a "bling girl," the bride's vision was all about rich tones of gold and silver accented by shades of green and ivory (a nod to the Nigerian flag.) Plus, considering that African wedding guest attire is typically very vibrant, the couple kept their palette neutral so that "the guests could be the color," she explains.
One of the best ways to communicate a cohesive wedding vision is to introduce the theme through stationery, giving guests a hint at what your wedding vibe is all about. We asked Chiney to share the wedding stationery designs she absolutely loves, and they didn't disappoint. The best part? You can buy all of Chiney's favorite wedding wedding invitations right now.
Opulences Wedding Invitations by Vera Wang
It doesn't get more regal than this. Chiney loves the Opulences Wedding Invitations, and it's not hard to see why. As part of our exclusive stationery collection with Vera Wang, this luxe invite features an ornate gold foil frame wrapping around the border. We love the custom monogram at the top, which adds a lovely touch of personalization.
Polished Frame Wedding Invitations
The Polished Frame wedding invitation will easily stand out in the mail pile. With an inky black background and a shimmering gold foil frame, the important details *literally* pop off the page. Together, the clean modern font and elegant calligraphy create an aesthetic that's classy and oh-so-sophistated.
Monogram Leaves Save the Dates
Those gorgeous engagement photos deserve some love, don't you agree? Chiney has a soft spot for the Monogram Leaves Save the Date cards, which feature your favorite couple pics in black and white below a beautiful wreath of shimmering leaves—in gold foil, of course.