Wedding ceremonies in a lot of African countries, Kenya included, have remained as one of the few events where Africans can freely and proudly thrive in their cultural expressions such as music, dance, rights of passage & traditions.
Its interesting how terms like ‘Ngurario‘, ‘Ruracio‘ and Goat eating, have become part of the wedding planning process in most Kenyan communities and a standard wedding ceremony program where the parents to the bride and groom do not speak either during the dowry negotiations or during the wedding. Instead, both sets of parents appoint representatives to speak on their behalf.
Relatives have been known to mess the plans for many couples in their quest to formalize their union, going through the expected rituals prior to a wedding as well as have a proper church wedding.
I remember being angry at two of my grandfathers from my grandmother and grandfather’s side back in 2009 for being overly difficult demanding for all manner of things. What irked me so much was because I had been brought up by my grandmother an my mum single handedly. There were virtually no male figures in my life. I therefore found it quite manipulative of these men posing as my father to start demanding atrocious sums of money from my fiance’s in-laws.
What made it worse was the fact that, I was the only other person among my many cousins who had bothered to formalize her wedding and affording the courtesy of traditional rituals. All my other cousins who are in the tens have all chosen to co-habit with some not even bothering to pay their relatives the only maiden visit to say Mwari wanyu e gwakwa ( your daughter is now living with me)
At one point I remember telling my then fiance that we should just do away with the whole ‘Ruracio’ and just go to the Attorney General’s. I was simply fed up with all the drama. He was more level headed than I was and decided that he would stomach all the BS till the very end.
5 years later I look back at it and although am glad we went through the whole formality, I realized that relatives can actually mess your marriage even before it starts by creating resentment from your in laws or even from your husband if he is the kind to keep grudges.
Despite us being in the 21st century, we are yet to fully embrace certain courtesies that we should especially when it comes to weddings. Maybe its a generational thing and when we are marrying off our kids, we will not bother asking for dowry or feel the need to take over our kids’ special day by making it about us.
I have come to dread wedding ceremonies due to the predictability of the program as well as the need by inlaws to cause un-necessary drama on the D day. Here are some of the ways relatives have been known to wreck weddings.
1. Dowry demands from hell
Its like certain relatives keep a list of ‘The most crazy things to ask for from inlaws’ tucked away somewhere in wait for the day any of women in their family is getting married.
We had a friend who was asked for Merino white sheep specifically from Kinangop as part of the dowry. Go figure
2.Demands not based on any traditions
Most relatives still do not get that the paying of dowry is a dying tradition which is really just a token of appreciation to the bride’s parents. Thus, parents or relatives should desist from bringing out files showing all the money spent on their girl for education and upkeep. This is just wrong and it negates the whole essence of dowry which according to many African traditions is set upon certain guidelines. Yes most of us have taken the liberty to substitute things like ‘Mwatu wa uki’ (A hive of honey) to cash as most of these items are no longer readily available, however, it absurd to equate that hive to KES 300,000.
3. Incitement of bride
Women are notorious for this. Aunties to the bride have been known to incite the bride to demand a Jaguar or horse & carriage as her mode of transportation on the wedding day. Some unwise brides fall for this fallacy of ” This is to show how much he values you” given by relatives to justify such demands. This is not the best way to start off your marriage as it shows your husband to be that you will always make unreasonable demands oblivious to your financial status as a couple. If you are getting married for other reasons that have something to do with gold digging then by all means, knock yourself out.
4. Soda & Shuka based hostage situations
I am not sure if this just happens to the Gikuyu community but female relatives to the bride have been known to demand soda, shukas, an opener and wipe towels during ‘Ruracio’ and on the morning of the wedding. Woe unto you the groom if you had not been briefed and the bride’s home is miles from the nearest town. In most cases, the bride’s female relatives will not budge until the sodas or shukas are brought for them to release the bride.
5. D-day morning demands
The morning of the wedding is always full of drama and somethings its possible to see this from a mile away as the groom if the whole dowry negotiation process has been a pain. Even if you will have fulfilled all the requirements stipulated for you to be ‘given the wedding’, something always comes up on that morning. Just give your best man some emergency fund to use on that day. There have however been situations in which even the best man could not help. I know of a groom who gave the bride an ultimatum when such D-day morning demands became a whole dowry renegotiation all over again (more like ransom) He told her
I am headed to the church, if by 11 am you will not be there, this thing is over
Needless to say, the relatives got back to their senses by 11am and the wedding happened.
6. Transport & pick ups
Although attending weddings is optional and not a favour relatives are doing to the couple to require that the couple hire a bus, most relatives always get this wrong especially in cases where a bus has actually been hired. There are those who despite being told the pick up location will insist on being picked from their house only for the crew to find that’s the time she is taking a shower or such kind of ‘This wedding can’t take place without me’ type of behaviour.
They are the same lot that despite being told what time the bus will leave the wedding venue for drop offs will insist “Sijasalimia bibi na bwana harusi” ( I have not yet greeted the couple)
In some cases, some have been left by the bus only to go to the groom to start demanding that they be given a car to drop them home. Some people are just unbelievable.
7. Murphy’s law
This is given, if the wedding day starts off wrong, chances are, anything that could go wrong, will. The best man will forget the rings, the song mean to be played when walking down the isle will refuse to play, the caterer will bring bad food….. It usually just takes a trigger that morning.
8. Complaints on Food, music, venue, inlaws……everything
This is a classic one which I always hear in every wedding I have attended. Women will always complain about something, if not the food and how they were only served 1 piece of chapati and not 2, the music, the venue, theme etc.
The worst part of this is, the loudest ones are usually the ones who probably didn’t carry any gift, will pass on the envelopes or will probably put KES 50 in the envelope.
9. Relatives behaving badly with food
This phenomenon seems like the preserve of village based weddings. Although also depending on how many ‘shagz’ (village) based people are transported to the big city, this scenario can be enacted.
There are times when relatives just decide that queues are just for banks or when they feel the bride’s side should eat first leading to a stampede and scenes of ‘every man for himself’ around the buffet table.
Sometimes its good to just ask the videographer to record this moment in great detail and replay it to your relatives when they come to visit your home later in life.
10. Long boring Speeches & embarrassing tales
I decided to finalize with this one because its of those very annoying moments that, despite the guardians on both sides being requested to limit their words to a few minutes, most get carried away and begin a long boring speech with words of advise and telling all some embarrassing childhood tales about the bride/groom which, though meant for the couple, is usually a show on the speaker’s prowess as a marriage expert.
If you are reading this and at one point in your life you happen to be called upon to speak on behalf of the bride or groom’s parents, please note that, the event is not about you and limit it to 5 mins or less, everyone will love you for it.
We’d love to hear your wedding day drama stories.