This week, many WhatsApp groups were treated to some rather detailed document on ruracio (dowry) requirements. Some items on the list were downright ridiculous - it turns out that one has to pay a special rate for the goat meant to lead other ruracio goats, and that there is an inflated rate for a soda opener. Some people like to assume that Christianity and modernity have wiped off some of these marriage traditions and rituals.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Somewhere deep in the hearts of many brides to be and their families, lies a burning desire to command the right ruracio and the attendant ruracio ceremonies and pageantry.
Many grooms to be, some blinded by love or some operating from cheapskate zone like to overlook this important issue - and end up paying with drama on the day of the wedding and in some cases never-ending family feuds.
As we all know, most Kenyan weddings happen in December, so we are now in the pre-wedding and ruracio season. So here are a few tips for those who want to come out of this season unscathed and hopefully happily married.
To begin with, one must establish the expectations of the bride and her family. If you notice that the fiancé and her family like to talk about their ‘investments’ in their daughter - then you can be sure the family will view the ruracio as an avenue to extract the right ‘return on investment.’ When the fiancé invites you to family events, pay special attention to what those buxom aunties and sagely uncles are saying. If they keep saying, “huyu wetu hatukupatia bure,” then it is advisable that one sets up a healthy ruracio kitty. What these relatives are basically saying, is that they have ‘fattened’ their daughter and they will be demanding their pound of flesh on the day of reckoning.
Once the matter of paying the ruracio has been settled, then it is important that the prospective couple spend a fair amount of time in prepping their negotiation teams.
This means assembling a cast of men (women are still not as active in these things), who will ensure that these ruracios deliver the best results for everyone.
For the guy, this will mean briefing the uncles about the true state of your fiscal affairs. This might mean telling them the designer clothes you wear, and the flashy car are all on credit and therefore you do not have the right liquidity levels to cause fiscal ruracio tsunamis.
It might also mean having to ensure that certain politically incorrect uncles are kept away from the negotiation tables. You see, there are some uncles who might decide that they need proof of virginity before they budge or others who can use clannism and tribalism to demand or defend certain positions.
On the bride’s side, you might find you have some uncles who might see the whole ruracio process as a way to acquire new water tanks, replenish the livestock and get new suits. Many a ruracio negotiations have ended acrimoniously due to unrealistic demands from the wrong negotiators. So, the couple-to-be must choose wisely or else their marital dreams might die an early death.
When it comes to ruracios, first appearances count for a lot. In fact, appearances can sway the demands upwards or downwards. For instance, if the negotiating party shows up in huge numbers while driving large fuel guzzlers, then this means that all rates and expectations go up. Even in the village, the spotting of symbols of ostentatious consumption like SUVs, shades, energy drinks mean that there is money.
Natural logic follows that funds must be extracted at all costs and converted to a hefty dowry package. So, the need to make an appearance must be carefully managed so that it does not eventually lead to empty bank accounts and unmet expectations.
Some words of advice to prospective grooms - ruracios are not for slaying - do not show up oozing money if you cannot back it up by splashing the cash.
If you have doubts about your ability to pay, then show up dressed up convincingly. Your garb must be in tandem with your wallet or else you will pay heavily.
When it comes for matters ruracio, the groom must decide what levels of the Christian faith to wear. It is okay for the groom to abhor all things traditional (ruracio included), but this stance may have dire consequences with the prospective in-laws.
Many relatives live for this kind of events and so they feel short-changed when some religious zealots deny them the power to imbibe and overindulge in the name of ruracios.
Finally, debts and promises made at ruracios must be honoured as soon as possible. Promises of water tanks, cows must be met as soon as possible, lest they reappear as marital feuds later in life.
All one needs to remember is that ruracios belong to the relatives and weddings belong to the bride and her mother; all that the groom is expected to do is to suck it up and pay up.