“Love and Sports Unite: WNBA Star Chiney Ogwumike and Boxer Raphael Akpejiori’s Epic Four-Day Wedding Celebration”

Ogwumike Chinenye “Chiney” has tied the knot!

The 31-year-old ESPN anchor and two-time WNBA All-Star revealed on Monday that she had tied the knot with 33-year-old heavyweight boxer and mechanical engineer Ethasor “Raphael” Akpejiori, via The Knot. The couple’s extravagant four-day celebration of their marriage featured not one, but two wedding ceremonies as well as an astounding ten different bridal ensembles for Ogwumike.

On November 15, Ogwumike’s family had a welcoming party at their home. The next day, almost 900 people attended a traditional Nigerian ceremony at the Igbo Catholic Community Center in Houston, Texas. Akpejiori was born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria, while Ogwumike is a first-generation Nigerian-American.

According to the athlete, “It was a royal celebration of Nigerian culture, family, and community,” PEOPLE can learn. She collaborated with The Knot and wedding planner Doyin Fash to pull it all together.

Ogwumike went on to say, “The Knot helped tremendously, particularly with vendors and the invitations.”

Three phases made up the ceremony, which started with the bride’s welcome and groom’s introduction in accordance with Ogwumike’s Igbo tradition. Ogwumike went “on a search” for Akpejiori during the “Wine Carry” stage of the operation.

“He’s hiding in the crowd, she finds him and offers him palm wine to drink, he drinks it and they go receive a blessing from her parents,” she continues.

Following their marriage, the bride and groom were formally introduced as a married pair. At that point, Ogwumike adopted her husband’s culture and became an Edo bride.

Other Nigerian wedding customs were also included in the ceremony, such as the giving of the kola nut, a prayer of gratitude to the couple’s ancestors, and the parents’ blessing of the newlyweds.

In a heartwarming little detail, Ogwumike’s mother worked with two “top-notch” Nigerian tailors to draw and create many of her wedding-day outfits. Ogwumike continues, “My mom also sourced all of the wedding fabrics.”

The bride wore a blue outfit by Anulika Ugwu to represent her “maiden” status, and then Sapphire Lily’s traditional white beaded Igbo outfit to demonstrate that she was “ready for marriage.” Following their marriage and the approval of their parents, Ogwumike donned a traditional Edo crimson strapless gown designed by Anulika Ugwu and embellished with coral beads.

A buffet of typical Nigerian fare, such as coconut rice, rice with stew, yam porridge, abacha, moi-moi, puff puff, meatballs, egg rolls, and plantain chips, was served to guests after the ceremony.

Ogwumike and Akpejiori, who got engaged on Christmas Eve of last year, went to a Burna Boy performance at the Toyota Center on November 17 with a few of their loved ones in the midst of their wedding festivities. The couple has a unique bond with the Nigerian artist because they first connected on a dating app and went on their first date to one of his gigs in Los Angeles. It was also on their first anniversary together when they saw him play in Miami.

Ogwumike tells PEOPLE of the Toyota Center adventure, “With help from the Houston Rockets, we surprised our wedding party, family, and friends with tickets to the concert.” “I got to present Burna with his own custom Houston Rockets jersey after the concert alongside my older sister Nneka Ogwumike and my guy!”

Ogwumike donned a specially designed two-piece outfit by Anit Cuts for the event. “I went with a pant set combo so that I could move and have fun at the concert,” she says. “Also, I was wearing dresses all weekend so I wanted a different look for Burna Boy.”

The couple remarried the following day, Nov. 18, Nov. 18, this time saying “I do” in front of 700 guests at a “white wedding” ceremony at Christ the Redeemer Catholic Church. Ogumike collaborated with Brides by Nona’s Nigerian designer Nneka Alexander to make a unique gown for the event.
She laughs at the virtual design process she and Alexander went through, which ultimately came down to the wire, saying, “I said yes to the sketch on WhatsApp!” “I tried on the dress for the first time just 10 days before the wedding.”

Ogwumike also wore a traditional Nigerian garment, which had a 10-foot detachable train and was yellow in design, as a way to commemorate her culture. Later, she changed into a black party dress embellished with ombré beads and hip cutouts.

Happy Jewelers in Fullerton, California created her engagement ring and wedding band, among other pieces of wedding jewelry.

The Sans Souci Ballroom in Tomball, Texas, the town where Chiney was born, hosted a banquet to honor the newlyweds. Former WNBA player Lisa Leslie, singer Tamar Braxton, congressman Sheila Jackson Lee, and retired NFL player Emmanuel Acho were among the celebrities in attendance.

The buffet dinner included Italian butter chicken, jollof rice, coconut rice, sweet yams, veggie lasagna, Singapore noodles, southwest cabbage and greens, beef pie, and suya nibbles. The meal was a combination of southern cuisines with Nigerian specialties.

The couple’s decision to forgo a honeymoon in favor of several “mini-moons” throughout 2024 was prompted by their hectic work schedules. “Long weekend getaways to Aruba, Bora Bora, and other locations. We are eagerly anticipating it.” Says Ogwumike.

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