Sawa… Perils (and perks?) of weddings

| December 14, 2012 - 11.11UTC

In modern-day Kenya, weddings have turned into reality shows – so let’s make a fast buck out of them, says Josaya Wasonga

It was twenty-something years ago. No invitation card, exclusive venue or cushy convoy. Just a decree from Pa: “Son, you must attend – to support your homeboy.”

My first cousin was a country bumpkin, set to exchange vows with this tall, thin, older city woman. He had recently arrived from the boondocks, and met her in church. She threw the chequebook at him, bankrolling the affair, from three-piece suit to honeymoon suite.

He was driven to church in an unadorned ’70s egg-white Volkswagen Beetle. The choir sang, churchwomen cooked, churchmen ministered… Long story short, we had Church. That was my first wedding. Some wedding.

Not long afterwards, cousin found his mojo and dropped his wife. Try reminding him about String Bean and, man, he’ll sure as hell lose his religion.

Let’s talk definitions. A wedding is a ceremony in which two people get married. Yes? Nope. Substitute the word ‘ceremony’ with ‘reality show’. In today’s Kenya, a wedding is a show in which a couple goes for broke, flaunting their glamour to invited and uninvited ‘judges’ who’ll grade the couple’s performance through the grapevine.

Doubt my showbiz hypothesis? Do your homework. Wedding magazines. TV shows. Wedding fairs. Planners. Committees. Pre-wedding fundraisers. Budgets the size of a Somali pirate’s ransom. (OK, almost.)

I recently caught a TV interview with stand-up comic Robert G Lee. He was joking about why fathers cry during weddings. “Because it’s expensive!”

There’s a magazine called Samantha’s Bridal Weddings. The title speaks volumes, especially the first handle: Samantha’s. Which translates to: women and sales.

Flip the script. Imagine a magazine with the title Samuel’s Groomsman Weddings. Heck, it’ll fly off shelves… and straight into shredders.

A capella troupe Kayamba Africa is synonymous with Kenyan weddings, and has spawned many musical clones. A friend who’s in Kayamba tells me that, come December, they’re fully booked, bow to stern.

“People pay oodles for a venue,” my bud tattled, “which is basically grass – sometimes overgrown. I know ‘grass’ in upmarket Karen that goes for a whopping 100K per day.”

Aha. The grass is always pricier on the other side.

For rides, nobody wants to be seen dead in a Beetle now. If you’re going vintage, there’s the concours d’élégance, which will leave a crater in your budget.

Here’s what KTB can do to stimulate tourism. Think outside the game-drives-and-beaches cubbyhole. Borrow a leaf from Las Vegas and push Kenya as a wedding destination. The ‘nuptourism’ package can include freebies such as gatecrashers, cameos by politicos, BOGOs (bride or groom offers), pre-weddings, Kayamba and an appearance on televised wedding shows.

‘What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas’ goes the saying. I’ve got the apt one-liner for our potential billion-bob industry. “Bliss happens in Kenya; bucks stay in Kenya.”

Folks, let’s make a killing out of this national pastime, sawa?

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