Sustainable Green Weddings

My research findings for a magazine article on extravagant wedding ceremonies had me floored.  Wealthy Kenyans are supposedly sinking Kshs 40 billion annually into the wedding industry. The country earns roughly the same amount from flower exports to Europe.

Makes one wonder why we need foreign aid? But, I cannot dictate how other people spend their money, as long it is not drawn from my taxes. I also realize that my notion of extravagant is another’s idea of modest.

Granted there are couples who believe that the cost of expressing love should be exorbitant. But the current trend of high priced and over the top wedding ceremonies is becoming a legitimate deterrent against marriage. In these harsh economic times, splurging on a wedding in the name of love is the privilege of a select few. For the majority cash strapped citizens, mortgaging one’s life to impress your uppity in-laws is not a smart move. An affordable option is a fuss-free wedding at the Attorney General’s chambers. Witnesses can be the strange couple you met in the bar the previous night. The AG option however is very individualistic. It excludes your relatives. In addition, shot gun weddings last about as long it takes the hangover to wear off.

As the world focus shifts, we are coming to terms with the limitations of capitalism. Policies to eliminate wealth disparities have failed in yielding notable impact. Economic recovery strategies are never implemented fast enough to benefit the marginalized. Citizens everywhere are now forced to step in and take action to change their dismal state of affairs. A basic initiative towards meeting vision millennium, is to adopt sustainable wedding options. Presently weddings are the one institution left intact that protects the integrity and sanctity of marriage. Swearing allegiance before your kin institutes mandatory accountability. Therefore, any responsible citizen dying to make a difference should dream of holding a wedding that factors in the ideals of the

Ah! Do you visualize a carnival experience on a beer budget? Do you imagine lush tropical outdoors and clear blue skies? Do the words quaint, remote, rustic and authentic jump to mind? If so! I would like you to consider a good old-fashioned village wedding.

What I propose, is a wedding ceremony that is eco friendly, sustainable, culturally sensitive, inclusive, socially responsible and economically viable. A grassroots wedding in the literal sense is a low budget affair that is within the reach of most couples. This is why I want you to consider an eco- experience. Obviously it is not an option open to all but the majority of us still have links with that place we called ‘home-squared’.

The advantages of a village wedding are plenty. Pulling it off is a lot easier than you think. No need for a wedding planner. Travel and accommodation costs will be slashed significantly as most of your relatives will not have to be packed into a city-bound minivan. Invitation will be via word of mouth. Unlike your snotty urban-based friends, rest assured of genuinely happy folk who will gate crash your wedding anyway. However, a few ‘Babi’ friends should be lured to attend so as to add glamour to the ceremony. The promise of bundu-bash experience is all they ask.  Ask them to pack tents and enough hard liquor to last the weekend.

There will be no need for an elaborate vehicle convoy as the couple can walk to church. Picture yourself strolling down the village path wearing your Pumas sports shoes a la Jacob Zuma, flanked by your brothers in their Sunday best outfits. The bride will not need a gown because everyone knows she is not a virgin.  In fact, your older relatives will be more than relieved that you finally found a woman who could hold you down. Do not forget to ask your female cousins to pluck some flowers along the way. Have all the relatives heralding your arrival with song and dance as you start to stroll down the village path. Ask your corporate savvy cousin with a Samsung Galaxy smart phone to record the wedding. Remember to buy him some airtime.

Draw on the village communal spirit, by delegating assignments early. The contributions criteria should be split into two. One task for the village folk should allow for farm produce, utensils, firewood, livestock and manual labour. Remind everyone that you have enough plastic basins to build an ark and won’t be expecting any more. For the city folk, insist on cash in sealed envelopes or direct them to your Mpesa account. The gifts should be taken directly to the groom’s home and handed to his mother who holds the key to the store. Catering can be ably handed by  Auntie ‘Kadogo’ known for her silken chapatis and her non-stick pilau dishes. Include an organic vegetarian option i.e. fresh vegetables from the neighbours’ farm for your city friends on a wheat grass diet. Count on at least one goat donation to cover the roast and soup for the guests.

The reception should commence as soon as the couple arrives after a romantic walk from church. It will probably take place under a well shaded tree, if the weather permits. Encourage village-based guests to carry their own chairs to the reception. The local primary school can donate desks. Villagers are expected to surrender seats for out of town guests so it won’t be necessary for them to carry camp chairs. Close female relatives are expected to carry lesos that can be spread on the ground for extra seating. The church faithful can have their tea and soda in the main house. The drunks advised to dole out their harsh liquor out of sight lest they become a nuisance and upset your god-fearing aunties.

An announcement should be made asking all the guests to leave the homestead by 6pm to allow the couple the privacy needed to consummate the marriage. Your friends from the city will be advised to take an evening stroll to the shopping centre after setting up their tents. Later in the night, raise some extra cash for a honeymoon by charging guests who dance with the bride at the evening party. The music will be blasted from your friends funky car system.

By getting married in shags, one also earns vital welfare points by giving back to the community. That is soundly altruistic because the primary agenda is the well-meaning excuse for a party that includes your less privileged relatives.  It is also an opportunity for individuals to open up their villages to potential investors. One of your friends will surely think of putting up bar that serves chilled beer after the frustrating experience of running out of liquor. The wedding pictures posted on your Facebook page will showcase your village to foreigners from the freezing West drawing into tourists jaded from game safaris and slum tours seeking a new “authentic non Masaai wedding’ experience.


PS: This reloaded article first appeared in the Saturday Nation in case anyone remembers reading it before.

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Oyunga Pala is a Kenyan writer, curator and editor. This blog examines the texture of everyday Kenyan and African life and the challenges of modernity and disillusion. The writings commonly feature the struggle of the Kenyan male to maintain integrity in contemporary society.


  1. OP as usual a good read. Just to point out 80% of the 40 Bn is spent not by the so called upper middle to the “bottom of the pyramid” but rather by the wheeler dealers who will not bat an eyelid spending upwards of 10m on theirs or their offspring’s nuptials. So I will beg to differ when you say “as long it is not drawn from my taxes”.

    • OP – Due to the the large size of my wife’s family in shags we had a wedding there and another in the city. I actually enjoyed the shags one more, after the “ceremony” it was free for all. what you did not mention were the copious amounts of traditional liquor (very well made by Auntie ****) that helped to bring the house down !!!

      • You are right, I forgot about the jerricans of local brew, always guaranteed to spark up the mood and turn people into comics. The shag option works and weddings out there are more looser.

  2. Dayvee vuvu

    if for any forlorn reason the skies decide to wreck havoc, the iron sheet from the cow shed and the flattened debes from the neighbor’s now empty granary can come in handy. old maize gunny bags can cover the sides of a lonely corner of the farm to create way for eco-toilets. I love this idea!

  3. Good luck finding a girl who will be over the moon with these green wedding ideas.

  4. It’s good that you pointed out that this is a reprint cause I definitely remember reading it!

  5. wedding shags is ok so long as you intend to donate the presents brought/given asap….otherwise you’ll have in your kitchen a million uteos, loads of plastic basins but even worse wooden furniture painted maroon and you can swear was crafted from a hundred pieces of wood glued together with a matching ‘wall unit’ that you can never imagine fitting in your house. The village folks are quite generous so believe you me the above choice of presents will be brought to the power of the guests invited….suffice to say you come back to the city ready to buy your own refrigerator, cooker, couches….

  6. Eco weddding. Not a bad idea

  7. Hahahah. Great piece but who will accept a “green” wedding in this day and age?

  8. During village weddings everyone has fun! From the village madman to the mongrels. Truly altruistic if you ask me. That’s before the drunks start being a nuisance and have to be hurled into the cowpen, Usually its one of your hyped city friends who decided to make a cocktail of all the village brews and some vodka! All the same its FUN!

  9. Roselyne O

    Just thinking about the beautiful sunset that only seems viable from upcountry…a fitting backdrop to a green wedding…

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