By I N
Two days ago, I was added to a WhatsApp Group for a wedding fundraiser. This marked the third time this year that I was being asked to contribute money so that a man and a woman could be joined together in holy matrimony, have morally-sanctioned sex, and make babies. Like I always do, I left the group without thinking twice. Most of my colleagues have called this arrogant, but I will never give a dime to two people who have played house for years, had as much sex as they want, and now are desirous to make themselves look legitimate in the eyes of society. In my view there are better initiatives to which the little money that I make can go.
But the last WhatsApp Group I was invited to got me thinking. The man was 28, an Engineer, employed by the Kenya Urban Roads Authority, but had barely worked three years. The woman was doing her pupilage, awaiting admission to the roll of Advocates. In my estimation, the man was making between 100-150K before tax which is quite a decent wage in Nairobi -sufficient enough to live a comfortable life in Greenspan. He had recently bought his first car on loan, and was on an upward trajectory to joining the Kenyan middle-class (if any such social stratum exists in our society).
Once he had added us to the WhatsApp Group (which had a lovely picture of him and his fiance on display), he was quick to point out that the goal was to raise 2.5 million shillings towards his wedding. In this respect, he would raise one million shillings from his personal savings and through another loan. As his friends, we were given the honor of raising the remaining 1.5 million. As I was reading this, I was as broke as hell, and frustrated by a friend who’ borrowed 20K from me and was now playing hide and seek games. It is at this point that I left the group.
The question I ask myself today is why anyone would borrow money to throw a wedding. Why would you incur debt for an event that lasts no more than one day? Why would anyone ask friends and family, in this brutal economy, to contribute towards a wedding? How necessary is a wedding? Is there a relationship between a lavish wedding and the success of the marriage? Heck, the world is full of people who threw big weddings only to separate a couple of months later. What explains this obsession with big weddings?
To answer these questions, I reflected back to a close friend of mine who recently wedded his beautiful wife. A few months down the line, he still mentions how that wedding was the talk of town. He derives a great deal of satisfaction when people tell him how beautiful and grand his wedding was. Therein lies the answer ladies and gentlemen. Weddings are not about marriage. Weddings today are an exercise in narcissism. Weddings are more about ego than love. And these excessive associative costs are symptoms of a much deeper problem.
Jean Twenge and Keith Campbell have written a beautiful book titled “The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement.” In the book, they argue that weddings cost 18 times more than they did 20 years ago. The average cost of a wedding in Europe and the United States, they argue, is $20,000. That is 2 million shillings. And I agree with them. These are exercises in acquired situational narcissism. I have attended weddings. And it seems that the hallmark of these ceremonies these days is when the couple sits on their posh Becks-Style throne to be admired by the invited audience. The bride is often more concerned about her makeup and how she would appear in photographs and not about the institution of marriage that she is about to join.
I strongly believe that modern weddings are a threat to the institution of marriage. And in this country, this problem has been expounded by the rise of reality TV shows like the “Wedding Show” which seems to me like a competition of sorts where folks try to outdo each other on who threw the perfect wedding. You attend weddings these days and you realize that the couple did not invite you to share that blissful moment when they say “till death do us part” to each other. You feel that your role in that ceremony is that of a prop in this fantasy occasion that has been constructed with the help of wedding planners to satisfy this ridiculous sense of self-importance that the couple has.
What we have today is a far cry from what weddings used to be in the past. Back then, the celebration of marriage was something communal. They were simple ceremonies where two young people were fully recognized as adults who were now able to participate in the larger religious and civic life of society. Today, it is about me, me, and me. It is about the bride, her flowing gown, and beautiful maids of honor. It is about the limousines, floral arrangement, and entry dances. Today, it is about selfish individuality -not the public affirmation of love.
If by God’s grace I get to that age where I’ll intend to marry, my ceremony will be simple. We will make our vows before a small gathering of close friends and family, get into a hotel for lunch, then drive home and get down to the business of homemaking. There will be no horse-drawn carriages, no limousines, no top-tier wedding planner. Friends will not be bothered with contributions. It will be me and my beautiful bride. Because love finds expression in the simplest of things.