It is that time of the year when I proclaim; my diary is fully booked! I have weddings to attend for the next six Saturdays. Luckily, the first four weekends, I do not have teaching classes at Kibera. The pupils are on holiday and so am I. This means, I get a chance to attend all the weddings on time.
April, August, September, November and December are Kenya’s wedding months. It is at this time, when pastors and priests are consequently quite busy; some churches would conduct up to four weddings a day!
So far I have attended five weddings since the year began. Due to unavoidable circumstances, I was unable to attend two of them. Weddings are interesting and as Kenyans we love them. They have now turned into a flashy affair and a show off.
I recently watched a Kenyan wedding on NTV (Kenyan TV station) and I still remember this couple saying they spent over 30 million Kenyan shillings on their wedding. “We have been saving for this wedding for the past 10 years. We ensured that we will have a grand wedding in all aspects,” the lady announced. I watched them in shock!
It was an extremely flashy wedding. They travelled abroad to buy most of the things and yes, they wanted a wedding similar to the Royal family’s Prince William and Kate Middleton.
They spent so much money to duplicate some people’s wedding, that already to me was the highest level of mediocrity. They even dressed like the royal family. How uncreative can people get?
Once a lifetime event
Before you get all worked up, hear me out. My thinking has always been that a wedding is just a one day event, therefore, I do not see the essence of spending so much money and then starting all over a fresh. I know it comes once in a lifetime, but then again, let’s try and be a little realistic. I agree, we all have different tastes and preferences; you have a choice about what pleases you and so do I. But I still think we can live a little more on earth!!!
One thing that has always bothered me and I still haven’t gotten a proper answer to, concerns wedding gifts. I know this is a tradition that has come a long way. Upto this point, there are plates that my mum still holds very dear and she clearly remembers one of her aunties giving them to her as a wedding gift.
It’s now 31 years since my parents wedded and nothing has changed concerning wedding gifts. Go to the supermarket on Friday evenings or Saturday mornings and you won’t miss a number of Kenyans busy shopping for newlyweds. “According to me, weddings are a public proclamation that, (See all ye who would otherwise not believe, we are now married!) That’s it. It’s basically a societal symbol and a time to celebrate a milestone in life. Not an opportunity to receive gifts from people.” Remarked a close friend but I begged to differ.
In Kenya, you can almost accurately predict the gifts. They will always include a dinner set, cutlery set, matching glasses, sufurias and lots of other kitchen ware; of course all nicely wrapped. Then, depending on different tribes and traditions, the immediate family will always buy huge gifts like a full bed set, cooker, fridge, dinning set and the like.
Now, since I came of age, I stopped shopping for wedding gifts. Interesting revelation, I know. I have good reasons to support my decision though.
This is the scenario. Early this year, when I finally got a house of my own, I had to shop afresh. Lucky me, I have girlfriends who have been married for long now. Take for example, Rita has been married for 9 years, she still has wedding gifts that she has never found time to open. So she called me and said, “Please do not shop for plates and cutlery, I have whole sets and I would like you to come and check the ones you would like from my store.” Of course I got a full dining set free of charge, cutlery and even extra mugs.
Scenario 2, Brenda has been married for four years now. In her kitchen, she has boxes and boxes of utensils that she has never opened. So she asked me to go to her kitchen and sample anything I would want. I ended up picking 6 glasses and a matching jug. She has a double set of these, from different people. Now you get it.
My disguise on wedding gifts
This is what pisses me off. One, when it comes to wedding gifts, we are still very traditional in our thinking. We don’t seem to get out of the box. Honestly, if you cannot go past glasses, mugs, plates, sufurias, beds and the like, I think you shouldn’t buy a gift at all.
It’s such a waste to have to hold onto such gifts for over 9 years without using them. Tastes and styles change. While you imagine your cutlery set was the best in the year 2005, in 2014, things will have changed. We all have individual tastes, if you cannot ask the bride and the groom what they would prefer as their wedding gift, then I think it is wise to stay away from making all the wrong guesses. These end up becoming a waste of space in their new home and a source of unnecessary costs such as transport from the wedding venue.
“You can sell them Patience and keep only what you like,” remarked a friend. This was my reply. “I personally have a policy with gifts, I never give out my gifts, whether I like them or not and I will never sell a gift.” Imagine if I came to your place one day and I realize that you sold my wedding gift. I honestly will feel very hurt.
I therefore, came to a conclusion I do not do specific wedding gifts. Instead, I give gift vouchers or money in an envelope or money inside a wedding card. So all I shop for is a wedding card, ensuring that the words on the card are personal. I then wrap money or a voucher and that’s my gift.
My opinion is this: Weddings, especially in Kenya are such a huge affair, people are spending huge sums of money to ensure that their one special day is memorable forever. Many are taking loans to meet the needs of this specific day. “I did not want to bother friends and family members with my wedding expenses, so together with my fiancé we took a loan of Kshs. 300,000 each, four months down the line, we are still re-paying our loan” said Lorna.
Now this is where I think gifts in form of money will do. One, I think this would have helped this young couple pay back their debts. Many will have last-minute payments to do and some suppliers will be paid after the event. Gifts in form of money will come in handy at this point.
Two, if they did not have any debt, I think by giving them money as a gift, I would have helped them get a little boost after spending so much on their wedding preparations.
Three, I would have given them a chance to buy whatever they would wish to buy instead of buying them gifts that they may not want or need. What is the point of buying me a bed when I already have one? There are so many great choices out there and everyone’s tastes are unique.
I have always said, if my husband to-be agrees, then this is what I will write on my wedding invitation card, “Gifts in form of money will be highly appreciated.” But many people have a problem with this. “Patience, that way it’s as if you are making it an obligation or even forcing me to buy you a gift. Why are you making it mandatory to give you money while a gift is a personal display of feeling and attachment?” asked a friend.
No, that’s not the point and even if it was, what is wrong with me stating what I want? I would wish that you make a point of asking me my opinion to the kind of gift I would prefer instead of making a blind guess. Alternatively, I will make a gift registry where you can select the kind of gift you would like to buy me as per your wishes and as your wallet permits, as long as it’s something that will be useful to me.
With the convenience of online shopping, you can now purchase, wrap, enclose a personalized card and ship a gift to the couple. So get a little creative if you have to do gifts.
This is my two cents thinking, I wonder what’s your take on this. I would love to know what you would prefer. Remember, Etiquette says that it is a nice gesture to send a gift whether or not you plan on attending.