The third of November 2018 could have been a regular day for me. I woke up at 6 am, had my morning indoor workout, took a bath, had my friend do some make-up on me and donned my maxi Ankara dress. Had a friend not offered to pick me up from my house in Kinoo, I would have jumped on a matatu and gone to meet my groom at St Francis Xavier’s Catholic Church in Parklands, Nairobi.
“Did you ever not dream of the white gown and the traditional grand wedding?”
I have been asked repeatedly since my low budget wedding. Not really. I never even seriously thought of marriage until I met Gabriel in January 2017.
He was an assistant lecturer at a local University and I was working as an editor at a publishing house. I had seen him before at literary circles. I was impressed by his efforts at mentorship of young writers through the association he founded, WritersGuild Kenya.
It was however at a book launch that I first got a glimpse of Gabriel the man. It was a warm evening. We sat next to each other and spoke all evening. After, he walked me to my matatu stage. When he called later that evening to find out if I had gotten home safe, I was taken.
Gabriel, Assistant Lecturer, Founder, Writers Guild Kenya says:
Nothing about our relationship has been conventional. I didn’t even propose the normal way, you know, ‘down on one knee at a pricey restaurant with a band playing in the background.’ We just found ourselves talking about marriage and then weddings after about a year of dating and reading together.
I have always been a very practical person.
I thought of a wedding the same way I look at a mobile phone. The phone was intended for communication, all other features it comes with are add-ons. Similarly, a wedding is intended to legalise a union and to have friends and family present to celebrate with a couple. So why does a man need a Sh50, 000 suit to do this? If we had dug deeper into our pockets, we could have pulled off a pricey wedding.
We spoke about it. Then we decided to focus not just on the day but also on the things that we wanted to do after the wedding. We wanted to grow the Writers Guild and we both intended to go back to school, me for a Masters in Applied Philosophy and Verah for a degree in literature. We agreed that if we spent most of our savings in just one day, then we would have to put our other equally important dreams on hold.
In total, we spent Sh70, 000 on the day. If you ask me, it was a big wedding because it served our purpose.
The wedding planning took about 10 months. We made a checklist of the things we would need to pay for from the must haves down to those we could do without.
The three most important things were the statutory government charges of Sh1, 600, the church venue charges of Sh10, 000 and then the marriage counseling which cost Sh4, 000.
For the rings, we stumbled upon beautiful rings in a bookshop while on a date one evening. They cost us Sh200 each. The ring holder cost Sh180. Instead of animported gown, I had a tailor make a long white dress at a cost of Sh 4,000. Our wedding invites were e-cards distributed through Facebook and WhatsApp.
Food is usually one of the biggest expenses at weddings. We decided to have our church service in the afternoon. The idea was for our guests to have had lunch before coming to the wedding. After the church service, the congregation of 150 people moved to the church hall where we cut the cake. It was five Kgs baked by a colleague of Gabriel’s as a wedding gift. The guests then had sodas. Afterwards, we took the parents and close family members for a low budget lunch at a restaurant in town. For our honeymoon, we went camping in Sagana for five days as we both love the outdoors. This cost a total of Sh 23,600.
Part of the reason we were able to pull this off is that we have a tight circle of friends.
You know, it is easier to ask someone to do something for you than it is asking for money. Instead of holding endless committee meetings and pressuring our friends for money, we asked volunteers to do various things. One of our friends volunteered to do the photography. Another group were the ushers. Instead of a wedding line up, we simply asked our friends to show up as they were. They all looked so fabulous.
I remember my parents being upset at first for not being actively involved in the planning. But as the day neared and they saw how happy we were together and how joyous the day turned out to be, they were sold.
Would we do a low budget wedding again? At the drop of a hat. After the wedding, we are both well on our way to achieving our other dreams. We are both back in school and we have authored books, which we plan to launch on our first anniversary later in the year. Verah’s book is titled Diary of Miaha. Mine is titled Questions of my youth.
In addition, our circle of friends remain just as tight if not tighter. Every two weeks, we host a group of our friends in our house to just bond over things that interest us like books.
By Joan Thatiah