By Sampa Kabwela
Everything has become painfully unbearable about weddings in Zambia, starting with the ugly invitation cards, committees, bridal parties, late coming, knife boys – now knife women – tired jokes from half comedians, dated advice, and opulent-cheap-looking décor. I am done with Zambian weddings! There is only so much mediocre that I can take even if I am Zambian.
There is no end to how ugly the invitation cards can get these days. Recently, I received a miniature shiny-silvery briefcase. Reluctantly, I opened it; lo-and-behold, it was a wedding invitation consisting of a 24-piece puzzle that I needed to assemble. I don’t know when things changed, but, wedding invitations were once elegant and classy, printed on 3×4 cards with beautiful calligraphy embossed in gold or silver. I am not sure if today’s cards are meant to amuse or impress. They do neither.
The contempt towards wedding guests is incredible. It’s now commonplace and even expected for weddings to start three hours late. Arguably, like every event in Zambia, weddings have always started late, but the extent has become unbearable with each passing year. A wedding by nature is a very special event filled with an air of joy, intrigue, festivity, allure, a personification of excellence, splendour, opulence, and perfection. Unfortunately, this is no longer the case in Zambia. Our weddings have become a display of what we have become – a sub-standard lot, content with a sub-standard life. At one wedding a year ago, the Priest did what more priests and guests should be doing – walk away. After waiting for close to two hours, the Priest left “to attend to other functions”, he said. When the bridal party finally arrived – showing neither remorse nor a sense of urgency – there was no priest, and half the guests had left. The confusion, panic and drama that ensued were not funny. It would be two hours later before a replacement priest walked in, visibly annoyed. A wedding scheduled for 9 am took place after 2 pm. At the reception, it was a replay of the morning. By 9 pm, the event hadn’t started yet. What was meant to be a special and unforgettable day, slipped into a messy forgettable one.
Bridal parties in their current form have outlived their value and amusement. What’s the story with the three changes of outfits and bride-maids clad in jeans, cross-belts, t/shirts and bare feet? Some of the dancing has become frankly embarrassing and awkward to watch, often bordering on indecency. Listen, there is a difference between a wedding and a nightclub. Leave the excessive butt wigging and all manner of theatrics to kitchen parties where they are an absolute and insatiable pleasure to watch. And this thing of making a brief entry at the reception and then go out again for an outfit change is both un-amusing and a waste of guests’ time. At one wedding, the bride made a brief entry as part of the dance crew in jeans and dropping-it-like-its-hot. Call me old-fashioned, but a bride should exude elegance, class, mystery, might, sophistication and beauty on her wedding day. Showing up in cross-belts is cheap.
The knife-boy-girl part was once a highlight of many weddings. Today, it has been hijacked by butt-shaking women. I love butt shaking, make no mistake, but I have come to learn in life that place and time are important. The entire structure of Zambia’s weddings needs change – from the boring drag they are, often managed by the quasi-prepared self-styled director of ceremonies who throw ill-timed, badly delivered recycled jokes – to anything else.
Not so useful key-note advice
At every wedding – including my own once upon a time – the advice to the newly-weds is the same “communicate, communicate, avoid stories that you hear about your spouse because blah blah blah.” Often, I have asked myself what would happen if a guest-speaker just said nothing beyond four words “congratulations and best wishes!”
In the end, what will keep or break a marriage is based on variables that are independent of any advice. The best advice, especially on a wedding day, should just be two words: best wishes.
Committees and contributions
I was once a beneficiary of the benevolence of my family and friends. Their help was voluntary, not mandatory; a privilege, not an entitlement. No one was enrolled on a WhatApp wedding group involuntarily and given a minimum amount to contribute. And with all my family’s invaluable help all costs were purely our responsibility as a couple. We received material help, but not monetary. The burden of a wedding should be borne by the people who have decided to have it – the couple. It’s called ‘responsibility’ for your choices. Family, particularly extended, are happy to contribute, when they can, and what they have. Frankly, those committee meetings and their begging bowls should tone down.
One last thought, are weddings mandatory? Is there no way of just getting married without a wedding, especially if you can’t afford it?
Sampa Kabwela is an artist, publisher and mother. She works for an international organisation. For comments, email lyrical.zambia AT gmail Dot com