Some years back, when I was still figuring myself out and what I wanted in life, I had this Kakibarua (small job) I was doing in my hometown of Nakuru and it so happened, that one of my workmates had a wedding coming up. He was a nice guy and of course all of us who worked with him got invited to the wedding. At the time, it was the advent of wedding shows which frequently showcased flashy Kenyan weddings on our TV Channels. Inevitably in our young, inexperienced minds, we expected such a grand wedding with an evening reception in tow.
The wedding turned out to be farely modest and ended by 5pm. We thought there would be a wedding reception afterwards which of course was not to be. Oddly enough, this is one of the weddings in my lifetime that I have attended dressed in jeans. I mean, literally all of us workmates to the groom who fell in the 20s age bracket, showed up in jeans as if we were attending a casual weekend event. I still have that particular photo on Facebook and it does not look anything like we were attending a wedding ceremony.
He must have been so disappointed in us although he made a good show of successfully concealing it. We didn’t even think of getting him individual wedding presents and only tagged along, to present the collectively bought table as the wedding present from the workmates of the groom. As if that was not enough, in our apparent disappointment with no wedding reception, we decided to spoil ourselves silly with drinks at a pub in town later on.
About a year back, I had accompanied my cousins for a goat eating party as we call them in our country. Now this, for my foreign readers, is a coated term for a wedding fundraiser. They call it goat eating party, just to attract more attendees since there will be nyama (meat) and Kenyans are known to love their meat.
If you have ever attended some of these parties, you definitely know how annoying they can get because you have to part with more money, than you had budgeted for. These are the kind of ceremonies where you get fined some amount of money for not introducing yourself loud enough for everyone to hear, speaking while the MC is speaking and just for being there.
This particular goat eating party was no different. And all because you want to fund a wedding that will be grand and remembered for years to come. By the time we left, we wondered why people didn’t simply save for their own weddings yet they could afford to hire an umarpket venue for a goat eating party.
I remembered these two incidents when one Kenyan man, decided to wow his in-laws by arriving in style for the dowry proceedings of his wife-to-be, complete with a convoy of vehicles and a helicopter, that caught the attention of Kenyans and the media. A flashy wedding would cap it all off. Just last Sunday, the guy in question was in the papers for all the wrong reasons. Apparently, he had made his millions to afford such a wedding, from swindling foreigners into buying gold. Well, we are yet to see how the story unfolds.
Kenyans will agree with me that there has been an over commercialization of weddings in recent times. A wedding nowadays, is gauged by how much money was used in arranging it and not so much on the value of a wedding, for a couple who have decided to spend the rest of their lives together. Kenyans are increasingly trying to outdo one another in just how they conduct their wedding ceremonies.
Since an increasing number of middle class Kenyans earn good salaries and are exposed individuals, a grand wedding is indeed made possible. But because we often have a budget beyond our means despite the good salaries we are earning, the annoying wedding fundraising cannot be totally ignored. So we will arrange for these and have disgruntled workmates and friends attend, some deciding not to attend the wedding out of their dissatisfaction from being forced to help in funding it.
We understand that African weddings are a community affair, but we do not want to part with our hard earned money, yet we can clearly see that both the bride-to-be and groom-to-be, have good jobs to sustain themselves. And so, in the wisdom that I have since attained over the past few years, I would gladly congratulate my former workmate for holding a wedding within his means. None of us was asked to contribute a dime to the wedding and therefore, it was shameless of us to come with our own selfish expectations.
Asking other people to fund your weddings and going overboard with the ceremony, just to make an impact, takes away the initial value of a wedding as a ceremony of being joined in Holy matrimony to the one you love. I have no issue with someone who can afford the helicopters, imported gowns and 10 tiered cakes on their wedding day complete with a honeymoon around the world. If they are making the money with their honest means, then it’s theirs to enjoy. However, it would indeed be a tragedy if stories such as the one mentioned above, came up just when they had settled down to start a family.
It kind of puts a dent in the perfect image that their weddings had created in the minds of the public whose attention they intended to capture. So if you intend to do a flashy wedding and lack the means to do it, why not scale down the budget a little bit? It may not be considered that entertaining or grand of a wedding but in the long run, it is the couple who matter and not what the attendees think or imagine.