Weddings: Wealth flaunting occasions

HARARE - While the president’s daughter, Bona Mugabe, changed gowns twice for her wedding to Simba Chikore, most Zimbabwean brides are choosing to outshine her by changing at least three times, at a single wedding.

Imported vehicles, horse drawn chariots, international wedding planners, exotic wedding locations, chartered air planes and in some cases yacht weddings have become normal for Zimbabweans as they vow eternal love to each other.

Such is the hype that has befallen on Zimbabwean couples as they join in holy matrimony.

While Nigerians are known the continent over for their opulence at weddings, the modern day Zimbabwean wedding will give our West African counterparts a run for their money.

Manatsa Kachingwe, a local wedding planner told the Daily News on Sunday her clients have budgets ranging from $10 000 to over $55 000 depending on the couple’s tastes.

“It is mostly the ladies who insist on perfection to the tinniest detail for the big day. While some want small and intimate receptions, there are some who will have a thousand guests just for the big day.

“A particularly interesting example was when a certain minister’s child insisted the guests receive presents of appreciation for attending the couple’s nuptials,” Kachingwe said.

According to the another wedding planner, the wedding has evolved from a ceremony bringing together two families to a wealth flaunting occasion for both families.

“There was a certain couple which insisted their vows be written in gold and they wanted to arrive for their reception in a boat somewhere on the Zambezi River.

“These bizarre cases only show that the wedding is no longer the intimate affair between two families but is now an act meant to draw towns to a standstill and be reported in local papers,” the lady who plans weddings for a living said.

Before the advent of “everyone look I’m getting married” Zimbabwean weddings were a family matter.

Rice, chicken, soft drinks, beer and even opaque beer made the occasion a heavenly experience.

The few relatives who had cars would ferry the bride and groom, while a bus was used for the rest of the friends and family.

Those who did not make it to the big day would later visit the newlyweds after the day, and be presented with huge photo albums so that they would also relive the magical moment, through pictures.

When a relative brought a pfuko (claypot) for the couple, sounds of ululating women would echo throughout the wedding venue.

This, however, is just a thing of the past as far as Zimbabwean weddings are concerned.

Recent weddings have become glitz and glum — the average Zimbabwean wedding these days is a show of opulence and wealth as if to send a message “outdo me if you can”.

Rewind four years ago or even two; Zimbabwean weddings were not this extravagant. So what is it? Are people trying to keep up with the Kardashians or are Zimbabweans becoming richer?

The fact that more than half the country lives on less than R5 a day, leaves one wondering where most are getting money for their weddings.

These days it is not enough to have a wedding at the prestigious and flashy venues with one wedding dress.

Zimbabweans are getting married everywhere and anywhere; you name it — Bora Bora, Dubai, Las Vegas etc!

The calibre of dresses has gone up too, with brides wearing every luxury designer from Vivenne Westwood to the famous Vera Wang.

Zimbabwean women these days buy several wedding dresses, gone are the days of wearing one.

Not only are the locations getting more exotic, recently, Zimbabweans are hiring their local celebrities to entertain them, for example Tuku, Trevor Dongo etc.

Gifts now range from money, furniture, cars and mansions.

The Daily News on Sunday, however, established most couples borrow from every friend and relative in sight, just to make the day magical enough.

Richard Nzenziwa, a local pastor said most couples come for marriage counselling in the first six months of their union, due to excessive borrowing and failure to pay their wedding debts.

“Due to the pressure society puts on young couples to have a white wedding most end up borrowing the money in the hope that wedding presents will make up for the borrowings so that they pay back after the wedding.

“The reality, however, is that in these economic conditions the gifts never amount to the amount borrowed and many fail to cope which then affects the marriage,” Nzenziwa said.

Divorce has been increasing in the country, with social researchers having found out that the majority of divorce cases occur within the first year of marriage.

In Zimbabwe, the highest risk for a couple to split lies in the first year that they actually became a married couple.

Many of the reasons behind the high rate are the lack of discussions couples have before they get married regarding their views on finances, what debt they are bringing into the marriage, experience they have with budgets, what they envision their financial future to be, and many more.

Monica Mutendi a divorce lawyer based in Harare said the reason most of her clients approached the courts to nullify their marriages bordered on financial misunderstandings over debts acquired before the wedding.

“Some do not even have anything to put up in the divorce settlement. In most cases I have found out divorce happens during the first year of the marriage. If you can survive the first year and marriage debt you can survive anything,” she said.

Most Zimbabwean couples say society is the reason behind the wedding opulence that ultimately leads to divorce.

“For starters it is not acceptable for a Christian couple to do the lobola proceedings then not have a white wedding.

“The girl cannot be allowed to stay with her husband until after the wedding, but in most cases the couple are in their twenties and do not have the money,” Barbra Nyevedzai told the Daily News on Sunday.

Nyevedzai who married her college sweetheart last year said she defied this norm through going to stay with her customary husband, which led to her being suspended from her church.

“I am Adventist, and this kind of thing is frowned upon so after I went to stay with my husband I was censored from church.

“My question is, is it possible to have a white wedding without lobola proceedings? But you can definitely be called someone’s wife after he pays the bride price.

So what is important to us as a nation?” Nyevedzai fumed.

The 25-year-old banker is not alone in this confusion over what the acceptable marriage is in Zimbabwe.

“We are a very hypocritical people, we chase the white wedding and we want lobola as well. The elders who put pressure on young couples are responsible for the divorces and debt fights in these marriages,” said Titus Mawawo, a Harare-based man.

Rachael Moyo, a marriage counsellor said young couples must not fall for the pressure of living beyond their means.

“There is no need to impress people if you do not have the means to. Those you have to go out your way to impress do not really care about you.

“Is it really worth breaking your marital home before it even starts or having to deprive your children of some essentials, so you can recoup the money you spent?

Your true friends will love and appreciate you weather you have a white wedding or not,” Moyo said.

Comments (6)

Well the church is not to blame. Chruch's officiate small weddings all the time. Its the couples and families that want to have the big white weddings who heap problems on themselves. Go to a pastor and ask him to be present after lobola to do a small intimate ceremony. It can be done. I have friends I go to church with who did lobola in the morning and a small wedding ceremony in the afternoon, all in their back yard at home. Zimbabweans need to be more practical in this economic climate. We also need to review the exorbitant lobola that is also being charged these days and that is also a cause of marital debt and distress... Lobola is and originally was token, not a get rich quick scheme.

Fellow Believer - 19 August 2014

Even the Gates & Buffet families wouldn't be this extravagant but then they worked for their money.

saundy - 25 August 2014

i think weddings are done for love not to show us how rich or your extra vagant nature its love not a competition wish people could understand that...

girlycee - 17 September 2014

Nyevedzai my sister, Im adventist too and truth be told the church conducts very cheap wedding ceremonies in the form of versepas weddings. The only cost is the marriage license fee paid to the country's costs..God is for everyone, so is the Adventist Church, rich and poor, the ground is level at Calvary.

jackson - 17 September 2014

Nyevedzai my sister, Im adventist too and truth be told the church conducts very cheap wedding ceremonies in the form of versepas weddings. The only cost is the marriage license fee paid to the country's costs..God is for everyone, so is the Adventist Church, rich and poor, the ground is level at Calvary.

jackson - 17 September 2014

The older I get the more skeptical I get about religion. Us Zimbabweans are now more religious than those who brought their religion to us. How can you suspend someone from your church because they are not married in your church? Using that logic, everybody would be suspended because everyone 'sins'...ludicrous really. I believe in God but not religion....the latter is man's doing not God's.

mukwerekwere - 19 September 2014

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