Now, I am happy that most of the people attended college and high school with are getting married. I love family. I love progression. At some point, a woman will want someone to call her own, around whom she can build a life. A man would want to have people he can play knight in shining armour to once in a while. I have attended these weddings in various capacities: as a singer, an instrumentalist, a photographer. Most of my friends in college called me Dinosaur because of my appetite, they cannot fail to invite me so that I can enjoy the food.
However, I have been appalled at the pain and financial burden that this beautiful day cost most young brides and grooms. The pain comes from an unlikely source: relatives! Yes, those brothers and sisters to the parents of the couple. These people make these outrageous demands to attend the wedding, always threatening that ‘your union will be cursed’.
The wedding is scheduled to take place in Nairobi. Polite and considerate, the young couple asks the community in the village to propose a few people to witness their special day. To the couple’s shock and disbelief, 60 people will ‘volunteer’ to come. What is the explanation? You know there are three uncles from the clan from the south, they are related to us, they are the ones who brought your great grandmother to marry in this home so we must have them...then there are your aunts from Clan B, your great grandfather is named after that clan…All good, the more the merrier, right? Not for the couple as they will have to cater for the transport, lodging and food for that legion of busybodies. Those are two buses, let’s cap it at about Sh 60,000 to and from the city.
We are just getting started. There are some of them whose presence will be very crucial but they do not have presentable clothes so you will have to buy the clothes and shoes. Then accommodation in the city’s guest houses, you pay for that too let’s estimate it at another Sh 1,500 for a night. Then one of your ‘aunts’ says she has allergies. She does not eat white flour, she needs brown flour from wheat or sorghum and traditional vegetables like Mrenda and the Luo delicacy of aliyah. You know normal vegetables and meat ‘make their tummies ache’. So you will have to run around town looking for that meal. Another does not take tea leaves just sorghum porridge, special diets that you will pay an extra fee for. The food is almost At Sh 150,000.
On the wedding day, they will oppose the venue of the wedding. They will stage all manner of disagreements to lengthen the day not knowing that sometimes venues are charged on an hourly basis. So had you planned for Sh25,000, you will have to make it 50,000. The aunts will block your entry until the groom parts with something for them to release ‘their daughter’. They raised you properly, they say, and for that they need some sort of compensation. Each may want Sh 5,000, so let us add another 50,000 here.
“It is the tradition, how things are done”, they will shout at the top of their voices.What is most annoying is that some of these entitled relatives would not know an iota of the shit you have been through to even complete your education. They have not an inkling of what you had to endure to be lovely enough that a man or woman could notice you and find you worthy to marry. If you are an orphan like me, these were the first people to squander your parents’ remaining wealth as you stayed home because you lacked school fees or as little as Sh 200 to board a vehicle to school. These are the people who you heard your father and mother call asking for a loan when they lost their jobs and schools had opened and they said 'the money we have we had planned to go on a concert with'. In short, if they had an opportunity to watch you suffer, their happiness would be increased. Now, somehow, their opinions on YOUR wedding day matter, a day they are not working to see to come to a happy ending. They want to be treated like royalty, be paid for being treated like royalty and while at it, have a platform to add to your burdens.
You know in my wedding, relatives will take their blessings and shove it! I will write a list of people who, in my opinion, deserve to be part of that ceremony. You will surprised they will not even be blood relatives. A wedding, one, is a very private and intimate affair. Not even every Onyango, Otieno and Wafula should take offence that they were not invited. They are welcome, at their cost. Please bring me a gift or something to start my life with, not debts and stress.Two, after the wedding there is a life. Why do people want the couple to start their lives on a dented bank account and debts because they were being blackmailed into spending lest their union is cursed? I also wonder why parents stand by and watch their children go through this hell and sometimes even support the irrational relatives. Yaani I am supposed spend my honeymoon in a godforsaken unknown place because I was busy looking after aunt B and C? Over my decomposing body!
The dependency of relatives on young people in Kenya is too high! The social and financial stress they cause is unbelievable. You get your first job and calls are already streaming in. Nobody wants to know whether sleeping on the floor in the city can make you sick and you need to get a bed and utensils.
I wish the calls came when you were going to school or missing class due to lack of fees. I wish the calls were something serious like a medical emergency. They are asking for money to contribute their portion to village merry go round groups because if they do not contribute ‘they will be ashamed’! Seriously, how is that any of my godamned business?
Youth in Kenya will never save, live quality lifestyles or develop themselves because of the one thousand shillings or the ten that they have to give every month to educate a relative’s child or pay their bills… relatives who are not even making an effort to pull themselves from these poor situations. My means of income before I got employed was tailoring. I remember asking a distant cousin with two children from two different men—what happened to contraception, it could be a baby and/or HIV— to come with me to Nakuru then we could share some of the orders I got.
She told me in Luo an ok anyal go siandana e charan ni atweng’o (I cannot sit my ass on a sewing machine to sew). Come the end of the month, she will need money for milk, food and toiletries, from me whose butt was on a sewing machine despite having a degree from a public university.
Now Verah Okeyo must give solutions to a problem after a rant. This is my piece of advice of protecting yourself from this financial blackmail:
- Draw a budget that you’re comfortable footing.
- Invite people who are close to you, who matter.
- It is important to have women and men who gave their all—no matter how little— to get you where you are. Take care of the cost of those who are genuinely needy. Let me go back and underline the word genuinely and put it in bold.
- Stick to that budget. By all means, stick to it.
- Assertively explain, why you say no to certain demands. Do not be rude or abusive. If they do not see reason, ignore them and stop picking the calls.
- If you feel you may not have the balls to stick to rule 5, put friends like me in charge of all the communication. Trust me, we do not disappoint.
- Do you find this statement 'You will be cursed for not obeying your relatives' annoying? Tell me all about it.