Updated: May 16, 2021
Dear Africana Woman,
Hey Darling? How are you? One thing is for sure, Rona has laid waste to the wedding industry. Yet I wonder if this is our chance to reimagine what weddings should look like. African weddings have set the standard for bloated egos and poverty mindsets. Yes I said it, because only a poverty mindset would start a lifelong journey in debt. And then have the audacity to say that money is the root of all evil. No boo, you are the problem. You spent more time preparing for the wedding day than for your married life.
You have seen it. You know exactly what I'm talking about. A beautiful couple has the wedding of the century. Driven in luxury cars, popping champagne, they have hundreds of guests and gate crashers, drinking alcohol like it is water and dinning like royalty. The perfect day. Cut to the next day when the happily married couple move into their first home which is in a servant's quarters, oh I'm sorry 'cottage'. All the gifts cannot fit in the 3 roomed structure so they are locked up at mum's place. Reality hits so hard that meals are usually bread and water for months on end. So many couples are suffering in silence because no one speaks about this reality. It is so sad for me to attend a lavish wedding only to find out two years down the line the couple is divorced. Now don't get me wrong. Some people are crazy and leaving is most definitely the answer. However, if we spent more time preparing for marriage than the wedding with support of the family, we would see more marriages be in it for the long haul.
In the Bemba tribe, there is a ceremony called Matebeto. After a couple has been married for some years, the wife's family can initiate the ceremony as a way to thank the man for looking after their daughter and his married homestead so well. This is an example of how culturally more value was paid on the marriage. Yet somewhere down the line the focus primarily became on the wedding day. This pressure and expectation comes from society at large and we need to change that.
Here are a few suggestions for reforming how we do weddings and marriages in Africa:
When you look at how much money is spent on a wedding it is equivalent to what you would pay for land. Couples should be put through a financial bootcamp. In this modern era it is not enough to just cover money on one day during the marriage counselling. The couple needs extensive training on building their wealth, financial terminology, saving, investing, insurance and so on. To take it even further, the family's gift to the couple should be in the form of an appreciating asset and not a double door fridge that cannot fit through the door of your cottage or a washing machine that drains the electricity you can barely pay for.
Granted there are many men and women who have been dreaming about their wedding day since childhood. In fact, many parents are dreaming about it too. If that is the case, start saving NOW. Yeah whilst you are looking at your baby just learning to crawl start saving. If you have just started university and you have a part time job, start saving. The same way you put away money for retirement and university fees is the same way you should save for a wedding. The earlier the better. Stop expecting the village to fund your dreams.
Be resourceful. This looks like forfeiting paying for a venue through your nose and instead choosing to have the wedding at Aunty so and so's garden. This will require letting go of your ego and examining the intention behind why you are doing things a certain way. Ask yourself whether it is to make others jealous, to show off or to please someone else. All of these are the wrong answer. Do things that add value to your marriage.
My sister, I promise you if we did these things we would be saving marriages and giving the newlyweds a headstart in life. We are talking about building generational wealth. This requires fore site and planning. The wedding industry in Africa needs a complete overhaul. Reimagining does not detract from livelihoods it simply shifts the focus. Simple example, if you are a traditional drummer, is it not better to play the drum at the Matebeto than to play it at a ceremony before the wedding? As a wedding organiser wouldn't it be more meaningful to organise a small wedding for a couple and 5 years down the line organise the same couples ceremony to renew their vows in an extravagant event when they are established and able to afford it? I'm not coming for your jobs, I'm just changing your perspective. Imagine if a family said to each of their children, get married and when you make it to 5 years we will throw you a huge party.