The weekend before Christmas is a time many a couple get married, simply because it is the interval that they will have a full fortnight off work, and can thus enjoy some sort of carnival. Work resumes on Monday, January 2, 2017, yes.
There are three ways to contract a marriage, and the most popular is the church wedding, which comes complete with costs and priests, white wedding gowns and vows, and has the church bit, afternoon reception and evening party.
The second and most simple kind of wedding, for people in a hurry to marry, is a civil wedding – and that kind involves a visit to Sheria House (the same place one gets birth and death certificates).
It is so swift, I suspect that’s where Simon Makonde got married on a Wednesday (having procured his birth certificate there the previous Monday, and following his fatal illness on Thursday, they got his death cert there the following Friday).
Of course for the fastest wedding of all in the world, if you wish to elope, there’s always the city of Reno. But going to Reno is not like going to your local’s urinal. Reno is over 15,000km away from Nairobi. And the return midnight flight from JKIA to Nevada will cost a couple half a million shillings. Not to mention you’d have to marry an American!
That leaves you with the third way of the African traditional wedding, also known as ‘ruracio.’
The first thing to know about ruracio is that you, as a man, will be transporting your people to the girl’s rural home. So the first thing to think about is of course transport.
Personal vehicles, public service vehicles and perhaps a convoy of boda boda outriders all have to be marshaled up.
Then, in your traditional wedding party – party as in people, and not party as in ‘let’s get drunk and have a good time’ – you have to have at least one mzee leading a ‘Council of elders’ even if the others are your more serious cousins.
This is because, at the girl’s home, you will encounter some ‘Nchuri Nchekes’ (sometimes I secretly call these kind of Elders the ‘laughing frogs’ or chura chekas) who are there to give you a hard time in the name of dowry negotiations; and laugh at you as they extort loads of cash.
Crimes that the Chura Chekas will fine you for are things like ‘breaking the fence’ before marriage, which means you’ve shown up at your beloved’s rural home with her belly bulging.
Luckily for you, you are not the one in the line of fire – your ‘negotiators’ are the ones taking the heat for you; at least until you’re hit with fines and demand for a large dowry.
After that it is time for fun and games. You may be asked: ‘Who have you come for in this homestead?’ And you say ‘Kagwiria.’ Then they begin to bring in her aunts and cousins, swaddled in shukas and hidden from view, and you have to guess who amongst and amidst them is ‘Kagwiria.
Now is your chance to take off with that hot aunt, or the cousin you always fancied, ha ha. If you do, be sure there’ll be no more fun for any of the family.
So you’ve gotten the girl with a hefty deposit, promised to continue to pay for your new wife for the next 20 years (like a mortgage) and are now ready to begin your journey of marriage. But before that, there’s a great feast and merry-making to be done. As it were at the home of Leonard Njagi and Jacinta Muthoni this Saturday.