May 14, 2012


‘Nice day for a white wedding’: How Kenya does marriages and handles the bid day in style. We explore cultural norms on the topic.

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Nice day for a white wedding? How Kenya gets married

Nice day for a white wedding? How Kenya gets married

Have you been to a wedding recently? “Things aren’t what they used to be…”, not least when it comes to wedding culture! Weddings these days are perhaps more glamorous than they once were but they have come to be viewed as taxing events, not just to the happy couple but to everyone else participating as well.

Traditionally a wedding ceremony was a communal event that saw the people come together to make the “big day” a success. The burden of a wedding ceremony was shared joyfully by the community, from the bride price to the attendant services (transport and catering among others).

Not so very long ago the most important factor in a marriage ceremony was just having a simple white wedding since most marriages were conducted under customary law. Today, modernization and increasing affluence have led to an urge to impress and outdo each other and have taken wedding arrangements to different heights.


Brides now (since, let’s be blunt, a wedding is normally considered a woman’s affair) want everything done by professionals, something that automatically diminishes community participation. What is intriguing however, is that the community will be expected to help foot the bills to provide these professional services that once family, friends and community would given for free, or at least at a subsided cost.

A wedding nowadays is judged by the kind of gown the bride struts in, the outfits of her bridal party (the cost of which they individually incur), the

fleet of cars (the make and model having to be of a high enough standard), the number of tiers on the cake, the venue, its décor and the variety of food available to guests.

There is nothing intrinsically wrong when a couple wants to get the best for their big day, hire a wedding planner, catering services and a renowned interior and exterior designer for the décor, if they can afford it. What this Kenya Forum correspondent finds outrageous is when a couple wants to have a glamorous wedding that they cannot afford just to be at par with their peers.


The result of this wedding inflation is the much dreaded and numerous pre-wedding and wedding committees to help fund the extravagant event. It’s only in Kenya where a couple has 20,000/- in their bank accountants but can brag of a wedding budget of 500,000/-.

It’s no longer news to hear of couples securing loans to fund their weddings and struggle to put food on the table right after the honeymoon.

‘Mary’, a single woman living in Nairobi, says that she is just fed up with the numerous wedding committees she has been involved in. “The problem is that these people are my friends, so it gets hard to say no”, she said.


After all the hustle (and hustling!), the big day finally comes along and guests arrive to the venue in style. Looking at them one would think they were all there for one thing; to witness and celebrate the holy matrimony but that’s where you would be wrong. Save perhaps for the parents, the pastors and maybe one or two friends and relatives, most of the guest attend the event with different agendas.


There are those who attend just to spy, mostly on behalf of people who couldn’t attend the event because of differences with the couple. They come to see who was there, what went wrong, if the couple looked happy together, if the food provided had enough meat, fish, salt or trimmings.


Then there are those people that won’t be seen during the church service but appear at the reception. Their definition of a good wedding is determined by the cake and the food. They normally leave the event as soon as every morsel has been eaten and will often be heard inquiring if there is an after-party, i.e., are there to be more food and drinks.


Others, commonly referred to as ‘hunters’, are on the prowl for a potential mate. These people will attend the ceremony even when they don’t know the groom or the bride but at least they know one of the guests. Overhearing them you will always catch statements such as, “I was just invited by a friend to the groom/bride” in their conversations with their ‘catch’, that is, if they are lucky enough. They will sometimes even leave the event not knowing who was marrying who.

How can we forget the ladies who make up 80 percent of the guests? Are they dressed to kill or what? Most of them are there to show off their outfits and outdo each other. They too are ‘hunters’ of a sort and sometimes even the groom is not spared their attentions.

Is it progress? It’s certainly change when it comes to a nice day for a white wedding in Kenya.

“A successful man is the kind of man who can make more money than his wife can spend”.

“A successful woman is one that can find such a man!”


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