Home Columns Why I am done going to Zambian weddings

Why I am done going to Zambian weddings

Zambia Army Lt Gen Paul Mihova’s son Kayombo and Lucy Kalimanshi –Mihova's Wedding
Zambia Army Lt Gen Paul Mihova’s son Kayombo and Lucy Kalimanshi –Mihova's Wedding

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.

Invitation cards

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.

Late coming

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

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

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  1. Well, this is what happens when the world around you is moving on and you are stuck in the former glory of your yesteryears’ wedding. It’s either you are not being truthful or you really have very strange family and friends which all exhibit, according to you, unconventional;
    1. Invitation cards
    2. Late coming
    3. Bridal Parties
    4. Not so useful key-note advice
    5. Committees and contributions
    Try to mingle with common people, there’s a true world and not that of fantasy existing out there. Inasmuch as some occurrences at some wedding might seem out of touch with reality, it’s utter naivety to brand all Zambian weddings as mediocre… unless of course you yourself live in a cocoon.

    • You missed the point Baba, the article is on point. I should have been the author. And take it easy, this is generally speaking and does not mean every single wedding.

    • “The burden of a wedding should be borne by the people who have decided to have it-the couple”, enough said!

    • @Critico or whatever your sut,upid name is! You must be the one living in Utopia or false world. Sampa Kabwela’s observations actually reflect many people’s thoughts!
      True, you are drowning in your own and family mediocrity so you are beyond redemption and would not know anything better. Enjoy in backwardness!

    • Well said my friend. And some of those places are ill ventilated and then those sweaty stinky dancing people!

      This thing if you can be putting in such a show then you are not ready for marriage. Go to Lusaka July

    • Why do black people wear white wedding dresses from England at their weddings? Are they aspiring to be white people? Do they think this is progress? It isnt because you are only carbon copying white culture. Can’t blacks marry in their own traditional dress?

  2. I think the cultural aspect of Zambian weddings of yesteryear went with the coming in of modern day burials spearheaded by Saint Anne’s funeral. Every aspect of certain values attached to weddings and funerals has gone trendy nowadays.From a pimped up funeral procession, you go to the funeral house and have buffet for lunch. Literally speaking, things have been westernised in the name of modernity. The world around us may be moving but the question is, is it moving in the right direction or wrong direction?

  3. You are sport on! Why try and live up with the Jones when you do not have money for a wedding! I am one who avoids weddings s much as possible! One has no home, no car, no proper job BUT they want to try and have a bash by making others pay for it…..God sure help us all

  4. Very true! Anna Kansiime has a youtube video on this shot in 2013. Very funny. Check it out:
    “Kansiime Anne’s contribution towards Lavish weddings”.

  5. Agreed though the author seems to combine the wedding at church/ court or civic centre with the wedding reception. Such occurrences are commonplace at wedding receptions

    • Am sure Madaliso had a similar experience on his wedding as indicated by the author. Today`s weddings are about gossip… ‘have you seen the color of his shoes, doesnt match with his jacket” or “the food was disgusting”. To some extent excessive butt wigging is not only done at some social Hall, but also in church.

  6. The only issue is the late coming otherwise everything else is the prerogative of the couple. They want to celebrate their wedding their way. So they plan and do things their way. I am sure the cards contain an RSVP, so if you don’t want to go, please utilise it.

  7. Excellant. Non indigenous but zambian born. Nonsense goes on.. Long terrible speeches.. Chaos..yaba

    I liked the part about take responsibility for your financial choices

  8. With all the money to their name the world witnessed Prince Harry’s wedding straight forward simple as always for the royals yet in Zambia and around Africa where weddings are an adopted splendor we’re exaggerating to comical magnitude of have-nots grandeur! Nice serious-for-thought article above and henceforth I know when to attend and leave!

  9. Gone are those days when everyone simply enjoyed the day…Weddings today in Zambia are just a drain on top of that you have guests who come to the wedding with empty big lunch boxes and bags…they have come to the wedding with an intention of throwing an after party at their places with your food and drink; and they are very particular on the drink… Castle Lite is top on the list. They want their dogs at home to have a party as well when they return…they will command the caterer to put all leftovers aside for them.
    The women are a ghastly sight with their hideous silly weaves and layers of white makeup on their faces…very off-putting and repulsive!!

  10. Once in a while someone who can really write comes along with a brilliantly written article that brings back the joy of reading.
    You’re right about mediocrity. It’s the standard that Zambians now aspire to in everything including writing. Am just tired of reading articles by writers who can’t construct sentences or use punctuation properly. Just because readers can get the point you’re putting forward doesn’t mean people should be churning out poorly written articles for publication. Your style of writing is just as important as the message you’re trying to convey to your readers. So thank you this article.

    • Newbie,

      Although I concur with you on the brilliance of Sampa Kabwela’s writing, your sentence – “Am just tired of reading articles by writers who can’t construct sentences or use punctuation properly ” – is, sadly, structurally wrong. You cannot start a sentence starting with “Am”. I see this mistake everyday these days. You should have written thus: “I am just tired of reading articles by writers who can’t construct sentences or use punctuation properly”.

    • @newbie the mistake is very trivial. He just left out an ‘I’ Surely that’s not a trainsmash. Isee worse blunders daily in news media from so called journalists who ought to be excellent at grammar. You should be correcting these not some freelance blogger

    • Shametola nkhani,

      You are right, Newbie’s error is trivial, but it is symptomatic of a broken – down educational system, tottering at its foundation before the final collapse. The problem of limited communication skills in the Queen’s English was not as pronounced during the Kaunda era as it is now. All you need is to do is to interact with those educated in the 1960s, 1970s, and early 1980s, and you will discover a world of a difference with the current generation. Just one more example: a millennial (born in 1985) will say: “I have realized to say”; an old time (born in 1960) will say: “I have realized that”. My conjecture is that tinkering with educational fundamentals in post – Kaunda era has a lot to do with this.

  11. After having a lavish wedding herself, she turns around and says they have lost direction and meaning, and that the cost of the wedding must be met by the couple. Let us not forget that not so long ago right here in Zambia in some cultures families used to fully sponsor the wedding of a family member. Now that we have grown our affluent children have grown and married then we start despising others who have weddings. If you have decided not to attend any more weddings let it be a personal decision and do not influence others.

  12. You’re entitled to your own opinion Madam.. and it doesn’t apply to everybody. @Umugoregore I conquer with you.

  13. Weddings arranged from borrowed money to keep up appearances.after wedding,financial crisis sets in.

  14. The article is spot on. in addition, Zambian weddings chase imaginary standards of a successful wedding.
    I hear they now plan to conduct weddings in helicopters as a yardstick of successful wedding. Where these moronic ideas spring from, confirms poverty, ignorance, Utopian morally bankrupt mind set.

  15. Some of us are the usual victims. Not only are you expected – almost single-handedly – to meet the hefty expectations of the wedding budget, you are also required to give a variation of the same outworn speech you have given to newly – weds over the last quarter of a century!

  16. “Not so useful key-note advice” … Let’s be realistic; that advice is timely for every young couple getting married. It your current age you definitely need deeper advice for your advanced adult challenges

  17. It’s agony each time someone I know is having a wedding because of the endless contributions being asked for. Just between May and September I am supposed to fund 6 weddings involving offsprings of friends and neighbors.

    • I have three weddings in the offing to fund and officiate at – two before the end of this year and one early next year! God Save the Queen!!

  18. Why not just have a simple no-frills chombela ngánda type of wedding and get it over with, rather than these pretentious circuses with limousines, horse rides, and, in some instances I am told, even elephant rides!

    • No frills my brother is the right phrase. Why those frilly wedding dresses from the Victorian era of our colonisation? We want to be mental slaves???

  19. Sadly, after the pomp and splendour of these exaggerated weddings, in less that five or so years, the probability or ratio of divorce in these modern weddings is very high, all things considered. The unfortunate part is most divorce cases end up not going through court process, but through “gentleman’s agreement” between families. Recorded divorce cases are few compared to unrecorded cases which are never brought up in court. We know these things happen. Now imagine, all that grandiose wedding and expenses and a few years later go the divorce way is bad for this modern generation. Of course, that is not to say the older generation doesn’t go through divorce, it does too. i am just sympathizing with the modern generation- it’s like First In in marriage Last Out in Marriage(older…

  20. Yea. If everyone whose wedding i’ve contributed to gave back even half what they asked of me, if they made a contribution to my daughter’s wedding, it would have cost me zero in fact. But these people and their parents/ family members don’t always return the favor. If they did wouldn’t it be grand?

  21. Just to say that sir,
    1) advice at weddings is very very much needed. The new couple need advice and this is very important.

    2) Your question as to whether we need weeding or just to marry without a wedding? Sir marrying is wedding…the two words are analogous. They mean the same. I think you meant why should we just wed without having an after moth of the wedding…. meaning without having a reception where all those nasty things you have mentioned happen. Just wanted to help you know that wedding = marrying.

  22. What a brilliant article – and so smooth in flow! I enjoyed thoroughly!! what a writer.
    When i had a wedding years ago in the last century, one thing I made clear , was that i wanted a small, comfy one, with close friends ( especially from church) and family.
    Up Till now, i am averse to these grandiose exaggerations and my theory is that , in the late 60’s and 70’s they were borrowed from
    European aristocratic weddings and suddenly every zambian thought that was the “in thing”. This is actually not how it’s done by the Europeans themselves. My idea of a cozy wedding was impressed upon me by an old school friend, Mu Kasonka, whose sister married a “white man” and the aftermath was a family dinner at the Inter Continental hotel! No horses, benzies, convoys etc. I was hooked…

  23. “”Capota elele capota
    nabwinga necikolala capota
    Capota elele capota
    nabwinga necikolala capota
    We sung and danced as children mu cisasa at the village in kasama.
    My cousin (a soldier from Luena barracks in kaoma) had come to marry his wife chosen for him by my uncle in absentia. She was a sweet grade seve drop out. he was a Form Three drop out himself from night school.
    It was the wedding of the decade. No invitation cards. The entire village was there. As children we drunk mazoe and munkoyo and ate rice which we would , otherwise, only eat at Chrismas from our neighbour (ukupula). The adults enjoyed their katata and katubi. We ate village chickens including fikondilo on that day. My cousin is now a grandfather. Still going strong with his wife. He is retired…

    • You made laugh. Thanks for this ‘ olden days ‘ story. Imagine an arranged marriage and still going strong. If we still had arranged marriages in Zambia maybe the divorce rate wouldn’t be so high. Times were simpler then and people were not greedy for money and material things. They valued fellow human beings instead of money. We were poor then but we didn’t know it. Glad it’s still a memorable event for you. Am sure you enjoyed yourself. Hmm eating rice like it was Christmas… Kkkkkk.

  24. Samoa kabwela. …well written article. I’ve always wanted to say exactly what you wrote there but I hadn’t had the boz to do it. Thanx for speaking on our behalf

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