Their Wedding, Our Marriage – WASTEFUL AFRICAN WEDDING

Posted: June 14, 2013 in Uncategorized


I have always wanted to talk about this but somehow I just never get around actually putting it on paper. I’m the sort of writer that produces best work mostly only when heavily inspired. And someone has just poured some salt on a part of my open wound, and that seems to be just the kind of inspiration I needed. Nilifurahishwa na Wimbo wa Snura unaitwa Majanga, nikaona na hili ni janga ambalo nadhani tunatakiwa kuliona kama janga la jamii ya Watanzania.

Being my first post to talk about artist on this blog, I’d like to just alert those lovely readers who do not know me personally about my writing style. I could appear a bit harsh, too straightforward or opinionated. I agree I tend to stick to my guns, however, I also believe that I must RESPECT every body’s opinions, even if I don’t agree with them. So, apologies if anything I write offends you a little, we may not agree but I respect and value your OWN opinions.

Right. I am going to say one or two things on aspects of African cultures, specifically the Tanzania cultures.

I’m not on a mission to bash people’s cultures, or mine for that matter. I just simply hope that after you’ve read this, you will agree that every culture has its good and deficient aspects; no one culture is perfect (well, try say that to a Tanzanian parent or gran! Ha!).

I am going to focus today on Tanzanian weddings. It’s generally accepted by most Tanzanians that your wedding day is not exactly about you, it is about your parents. I have heard sayings such as “Their Wedding, Our marriage”, meaning, at the end of the day it’s your marriage but the celebration part of it is for your parents, their friends, and random relatives you never knew existed. Of course it is all about them – you don’t even know over half of the people present. Actually I don’t think it’s an issue that’s only with Tanzanian or some other countrie’s weddings. I know a few cultures in Africa are like that as well. I also have some friends who complain about how their parents have taken over their wedding plans. I’m still learning more on other cultures with similar situation. But I do know that my British friends have no such problems. On average, they know what they want for their wedding, who they want there and the exact budget. They plan it down to the last detail. Most times they get their exact wish. I think when pigs start to fly, when hell freezes over, a Tanzanian girl might just get to have her wedding exactly the way she wants.

Some of the funniest wedding convos you’ll ever hear are those that take place between Tanzanian mothers and their daughters who have been a little exposed to other cultures. If you’re Tanzanian and reading this, chances are you have had arguments with your mother about how you want your wedding to be. Okay so when I tell anyone that would listen that most Tanzanian weddings are unnecessary festivals that put you in debt in the end, I get accused of losing my ‘culture’. And here is where I begin.

What is culture? It is simply ‘a way of life’. The Cambridge dictionary defines it as ‘a way of life, especially the general customs and beliefs, of a particular group of people at a particular time’. So basically, culture is living your life according to the general customs or beliefs of a particular people. As human beings, we inevitably find ourselves shaped by the cultures of the environments we grow up in. But as education gives us better exposure, we broaden our horizons and begin to question things. My concern is that, a lot of people, despite going to school, never question situations or things. Of course we can blame that on many factors such as different upbringing or status or quality of education. Watu wengi hatuna utamaduni wa kujifunza kuuliza baadhi ya vitu. Kwa sababu umekulia katika mazingira ya kumkuta bibi yako anatengeneza na kuuza togwa kila Jumapili na akamrithisha mama yako kutoka kwake, na kwa sababu ya mazoea yale na wewe unataka kujenga utamaduni huo wa kupokea toka kwa mama yako, haimaanishi kua kwa sababu bibi na mama yako walipitia njia hiyo na wewe upotie njia hiyo hiyo na kuwarithisha wanao (nimetoa mfano wa togwa kwa mazingira niliyokulia kule Kamachumu, Muleba, Kagera).. I’m not saying it’s wrong, but don’t do things just because they’ve been passed on to you. Asking the question ‘why’ helps us establish the reason we do a lot of things we do, and also helps us eliminate the things that are not worthwhile but we spend all our energy doing. Therefore, my refusal, for example, to follow some aspects of culture which I see as retrogressive does not make me ‘a mannerless boy. I’m happy we are able to establish that.

So now, think about it. A typical Haya wedding celebration goes like this: introduction, engagement, church, mosque or court wedding, then reception (and in some cases, church thanksgiving a few weeks later). I’m sorry I’m going to focus more on Haya weddings because I am Haya in tribe and more familiar with these. I would like to know the way it is done in other cultures as well so please feel free to drop your two cents. Ok so my point is, do we really need all those different forms of ceremony?

Again, let’s get down to basics. What is marriage? Let’s look from both biblical (e.g) and dictionary/social points of view. According to the bible, it’s basically the process whereby a man leaves his father and mother, cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh (Genesis 2:24). Most countries’ laws say that all you need for a wedding to be conducted are the PRESENCE of both intending couples, one or two witnesses and an officiating person to conduct the ceremony. Cambridge dictionary says marriage is an official ceremony which results in a man and woman living as husband and wife. Simples.

I personally think that if you or your family have the dough to put on a 7-phase fanfare wedding, then by all means go for it. My concern is that many people cannot even afford it, yet because of cultural demands, they get themselves into unnecessary debt. They start their happily ever after with debts. Don’t jeopardise your future all in the name of tradition. The people you fed during your many wedding ceremony phases, those you spent all you had on, trying to impress, have moved on with their lives and ate and danced at many other weddings after yours. Despite all the money you spent, they still criticised your food choice and wedding gown. Whether you spend Tshs 5M or 100M on a wedding, you can never satisfy people.

WHY??? You hear parents say, “Oh it’s our tradition! Oh you are getting lost. You have no regard for culture. You have to do things the way they should be done.”
This is why I think most Tanzanian who practice non-traditional religions (e.g. Christianity and Islam) can be huge hypocrites. One minute they can be oh so anti-tradition, against the ancient gods, all very ‘holy’. Yet they go all traditional when it comes to ceremonies and weddings. WHY??? You are accused of ‘losing your identity’ when you suggest you do not want a traditional wedding because you do not see the point of it.

Even the whole ‘introduction’ saga. I mean, introduction simply means you are introducing people who don’t know one another. This is an issue between the families of the intending couple. I don’t understand why people exaggerate this simple, intimate gathering, and sew new matching outfits (Haya in reference). Why can’t both families meet in the sitting room of the bride’s parents and introduce themselves, eat good food and get to know themselves better before their kids get married? Must the parents invite their uncle’s sister’s brother’s nephew’s cousin’s wife? Why not invite them to the wedding instead?

My conclusion is this: if you avoid the excessive introduction party, choose between the traditional or modern wedding, cut down the exhaustive guest list, and save yourself a huge amount of cash, you will have a better future. Put the savings towards opening a new account for your unborn children. Even if you have excessive cash in your deep pocket and your surname is Rweyemamu or Rwegoshora, if you could get away with having your wishes, ask your parents to cut some aspects of your wedding ceremony phases and give you the money instead to open a trust fund account for their future grandchildren. I think they should be well impressed. Of course I’m sure you’re rolling your eyes, thinking, it’s not that straight forward. You are right. But revolution and change has to start somewhere, from someone, and that could be you.

I believe if people want to do a modern wedding, then they should go ahead and do it. If you prefer the traditional wedding, by all means go for it. But doing both (and the many other celebrations that follow), in my opinion, is a barbaric, wasteful tradition which is detrimental to the future of young Tanzanians.


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