He was an unemployed stranger, yet she saw right into his soul and with the little she made from her domestic job, the interviewee who only identified herself as Sara, was determined to take the vow “for the better or for the worse”.
Sara reminisces about her whirlwind fairy tale wedding – a makeshift tent, some cheap jewellery, a two-piece dress, and food and utensils borrowed from her neighbours.
It was all bliss, bringing the community and family together “and back in the day, everyone had something to bring along to add value to the wedding,” Sara narrated. But things have since changed from the old traditional way of doing things to the much more modern and lucrative fancy weddings that has people talking for days.
While affordable to some, for others it is a burden to keep up with the modern trend and, as such, many are indebted by their wedding preparations, a situation that sometimes takes them months and years to recover from the massive debts incurred.
This is the sorry tale of many couples and the term “I am still recovering from my wedding” has become a common refrain for some couples.
On the other hand, it is not always milk and honey, as some couples end in tears with décor companies not pitching up with the items they quoted for, which in some instances leaves the couples embarrassed.
The stories of couples having been conned by fraudulent décor companies are endless, yet there are those who have always done an exceptional job.
Marriage counsellor Lukas Katenda of the Reformed Evangelical Church of Namibia Lukas Katenda says many couples are more concerned about the decoration, the amount of food, the glitz and glamour and temporary stuff, at the expense of considering the lasting implications of a married life.
“It is a great concern to many in our society that marriage itself is mixed with emotional feelings associated with wedding vibes and fanfare, but marriage is a phenomenon which should not be undertaken lightly because it has some serious impact on the couples’ lives, or personalities and understanding may have serious impact on marriage,” said Katenda.
While social media pundits have recently taken a stance that wedding decor and catering prices are ballooned to “rob” those planning weddings, a princess bride who recently got married said the posts on social media are contrary to what actually transpires at weddings.
Her story is in agreement with that of a popular decorator who said one can still have a fairly affordable wedding, yet the prices are inflated by the couples who demand luxurious items at their weddings. “Sometimes couples demand things we do not have and we purchase them to please our clients,” the décor lady explained.
Ndapanda Shuuya of Tuga Events related that apart from looking at the prices in the quotes one also has to consider the financial implications of acquiring the décor materials. She said while it is fair to argue that the materials are re-used at every function, there are other expenses involved, such as paying for the helpers and trucks, amongst others.
The princess further relates that while she had to fork out almost N$45,000 for her tent décor alone, she and her husband needed at least N$200,000 to pull off the wedding.
The various quotations obtained shows the décor prices can go up to over N$100,000, inclusive of the tent, décor, catering and other necessities, but the price does not include the food and all other things required at the occasion.
“There are traditional things that one cannot get away with. All the elders in the family expect a garment from you and sometimes it is just impossible, but it has to be done,” she says with reference to the traditional Oshiwambo wedding ceremonies.
Apart from the garments, the house has to be modified prior to the wedding “and then there are bridesmaids and groomsmen, who do not pay for the clothes and one has to top all that up, or else the whole collection will not be released,” the princess noted.
Every cloud has a silver lining and with all the expenses incurred the family elders reciprocate by slaughtering cattle, sheep and by bringing along chickens to the festivities. In most cases, the newly married couples people receive more than 10 cattle, but the princess got 25 cattle altogether, some of which she kept after the wedding.
While the couples have had a fair share of the bridesmaids and groomsmen not honouring to pay for the garments they will wear at the wedding, some couples are said to have charged exorbitant prices to cater for their wedding costs.
A disappointed bridesmaid Anna shares her story of how she and several others were charged almost N$1,500 for a dress that could cost less than N$300. “The dress was tailored at N$150 and the material could not have cost that much, yet we were made to pay so much for dresses that were not even nice,” related Anna.
The price is relatively cheap for groomsmen, whose garments range between N$1,500 and N$2,000 at most, but much more for the ladies who pay up to almost N$3,000 for their outfits. The money paid by the bridesmaids is usually inclusive of their dresses; sometimes two dresses for the two different days, make-up, shoes and bags. Some of the dresses are never worn again.
Another bridesmaid, Saima, says she does not mind paying as long as she gets value for her money. “But of course I do not want to be used to finance the wedding.”
From a church wedding, a wedding at the courts is also considered a cheaper way of tying the knot.
Maria, who has had the opportunity to be wedded oat both a church and the magistrate’s court, related that she prefers to be married at the court. “They are easier to arrange, less costly, and all one needs is some decent clothing, witnesses and an ID to really get married,” she said.
In the central part of the country at the magistrate’s court, couples get married in almost anything, a pair of jeans, a T-shirt, sandals and would just pick anyone found at the courts to be their witness.
A local magistrate, who chose to remain anonymous, said many come to court to marry, but do not fully understand the legal consequences and implications of civil marriages, let alone their witnesses.
Maria further related that today’s churches are also putting a burden on the couples, because they are often asked to pay or contribute towards the church, despite having already honoured their yearly payments to the church.
Nedbank spokesperson Mario Poolman says their personal loans wedding theme has sparked debate on social media. He said the responses ranged from people being relieved to find that there is help available to those who questioned the validity of using loans for weddings.
The brand manager said it is not a wedding loan per say, but rather a personal loan, but considering that end of August is traditionally one of the peak times for weddings in the north of the country, the bank saw it fitting to advertise the loan under the wedding theme.
“Depending on the couple hosting the wedding, their family, traditions and social pressures, some weddings can be quite expensive. Many family members often help to foot the bill along with the couple, but sometimes couples come up short on making their dream day happen and then having access to a credit facility comes in handy,” Poolman said.
A wedding reception at a hall is preferred by those who grow up in towns, but is unlikely and somewhat unacceptable to many elders in the north, with some opting not to attend if it is not done in the traditional way.