Monday, November 26, 2007

Weddings in Kenya

I attended a wedding this weekend and was not so enthusiastic because I have known the couple for sometime. It wasn’t a new wedding; they were formalizing their marriage. Though I consider this is a good marriage where the couple has stayed together and know each other properly so nothing can make them change their mind (but in most religions one would be condemned for staying together before officially getting married). New weddings are more interesting because people want to meet the couple.

The other thing that makes weddings interesting especially for us ladies is to see the wedding outfits, the couple and their party. People admire, some come to copy and others just sneer (jealousy). If it’s a new marriage, people from the groom’s side will approve, but in most cases disapprove of the lady the man is marrying. In rare cases people from the bride’s side will criticize the man. There is always whispers and murmuring during the service and at the reception.

I have attended many Christian weddings in my life, but now I feel they have turned to be a boring affair. I don’t see anything interesting whether it’s a Victorian wedding, a mass wedding, a marriage renewal or whatever form of wedding. Unless it’s a wedding of someone whom people felt would never get married or has taken too long and was branded senior Bachelor or “Bachelorette” or one where I have not been involved in the tedious planning and only need to attend with a gift.

I think before the nineties weddings in Kenya were more interesting; most couples organized weddings within their means. I don’t remember many pre-weddings or goat eating parties, which turn out to be harambees (fundraising) like they are so many now. This and many other things have made weddings a boring and exploiting affair for those participating. During my mum’s days as a young lady, the couple marrying and their parents would do everything, including the dresses for the bridal party.

Many couples now don’t wed within their means, even when they can afford a simple wedding; they go for a big one and solicit funds from friends and relatives who form a wedding committee. Some couples look for a bridal and groom team (best couple, maids, grooms men and matron) who are in good financial position to support their wedding. This same group is in the wedding committee; sometimes they also include the best couple and matrons kids in the line up. Making it very taxing for the best couple and those in the line up.

I have participated in many weddings as a maid of honor or best couple with my husband, sometimes the whole family. We were also in the committee and finance heavily so I know what it means. Our duty as the best couple doesn’t end there, the next one-year even up to 5 years, we are like counselors or crying shoulders for the couples when they run into marital and some cases financial difficulties. Some are very petty, that every couple goes through during the first 5 years, but the young couples sometimes cannot take the small issue lightly and even threatening to part ways after a few months of staying together.

So after attending another wedding (at least I was not in the bridal team but had some duty to foresee that things are in order), I think I have developed a wedding phobia, but I will still enjoy some like the ones I mentioned above.


Ssembonge said...

I have no problems with weddings. Its the pre-weddings that annoy me. When I got married I held a wedding that I could afford. Though I never asked anyone for money, our parents and uncles chipped in though we never asked.

So it annoys me when people I hardly know or through their friends invite me for a pre-wedding yet they will not bother sending you a wedding invite.

Sue said...

I think the pre-wedding part and invitations to be part of a wedding committee of someone who doesnt know me well or was not close to me annoys me so much and that is why I have a problem with most weddings.

Just like you me and my husband organised a very simple wedding that we could afford, we didnt want to involve people financially, but they came to request if they could chip in, most of them our friends. The simple wedding we planned within 2 months turned out to be a bit bigger than we expected. We didnt organise a pre-wedding.

I have participated in weddings were the couple are busy organising the outfits they will wear, their parents transport, honeymoon and completely leave the big burden to the committee. Once you are in the line up and the committee you don't want thinks to get in a mess, so one is left with no choice but to shoulder the burden.

Its worse when the couple forgets you exist after the wedding, or don't even visit to say thank you.

Anonymous said...

My take is that if you are help in a wedding please remember that that were involved and who helped you. Visit them and appreciate them. That is Godly.

Anonymous said...

People help us in so many ways not only weddings, but we easily forget to say thank you and move on with our lives unaware that we are hurting someone's feelings. I learnt something from this.

Proud Kikuyu Woman said...

I've been a strong advocate of people living (and wedding) within their means. Some of my friends have advocated for the same but come their turn, they have a pre-wedding 'party'.
I think people are really abusing the spirit of harambee. Some buddies want you to start contributing money from when they pay dowry through the pre-wedding, the wedding and beyond (I mean hata mtoto azaliwapo, birthday and mpaka kwa mazishi after death takes them apart, there will be numerous opportunities for harambees). I think I will reserve my harambee spirit for hospital bills and school fees events.

Ssembonge said...

Because we never fund raised for our wedding, a lot of the visitors gave us cash presents. Much more than I had expected. I remember coming back from the honeymoon knowing that we had just enough money to see us through to month end. But by the time we finished opening the gifts and cards, we had gotten enough money to last us for a couple of months.

Just goes to show that Kenyans are sensible and generous. Since then, I prefer giving newly weds cash presents cause I know the financial toll a wedding can have.

Sue said...

I agree with all your views and just like Proud Kikuyu Woman has said people really abuse the spirit of harambee especially when it comes to weddings. Imagine those who start fundraising from dowry, pre-wedding, wedding ......... all the way to mazishi, people can run away from you, its too much.

Hospital harambee is a genuine cause, even mazishi but many argue about education harambee by saying you give birth to kids you can take care of and dont over burden people with your problems, unless its a special case of orphans or parents have become disabled through an accident or something.

True Ssembonge cash gift is very handy for a newly wed couple. Then one gets a lot of gift if you dont burden people with pre-weddings and harambees, I got many gifts.

Rozie said...

December is a wedding season in Kenya, many people do their weddings from August to December but mainly in December.

I hope those burdening their committees now will learn something out of this argument. Those who are not yet married and planning to wed should know many people don’t like wedding harambees in the name of pre-wedding parties. They don’t have a choice and I think people keep repeating the same things their friends did because its pay back time, I contributed for them let them, its now my turn. I wonder where this weird culture came from I don’t think its in any African set up, it should be stopped.

There are very many cheap ways of doing weddings depending on ones religion, for Christians, Churches do not dictate how many people one should invite or how many people to include in the line up. All they want is the couple and their witnesses and that the parents have given the couple a go ahead to wed (this is not strictly observed by many Churches today). Those who don’t want a religious wedding can got for marriage registration at the AG office, 2 witnesses are also required by the law.

So it is the couples who complicate matters by the number of crowd they invite, the expensive clothes and catering, if one can afford then its ok, but if someone cannot afford why burden people? If people willingly chip in then its another case and its up to the committee who are funding the wedding to work on a budget and not the couple themselves because they asked for help.

Anonymous said...


WeddingservicesKenya said...

I think weddings should never lead into a financial strain. Couples must learn to spend within their means. I don't see the need of stressing friends and relatives with committees and Harambees just so you can have the wedding of your dreams.I have seen couples spend a lot of money on weddings only to end up in huge financial difficulties which cause a strain on their marriage. At the end of the day, the main goal is to formalize your union so inviting just a few loved ones to share in that moment shouldn't cost you a fortune especially when you know you cannot afford it.