In Summary
  • Though a position of honour, many friends and family members are finding themselves managing unreasonable and costly demands for brides and grooms. Many have started to think twice about helping out

It is approaching year-end and despite the difficult times brought on by a falling shilling and rising inflation, wedding preparations are, no doubt, in top gear as couples prepare to roll out that one splendid, memorable day that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives.

But an increase in pop culture’s fascination with wedding shows, magazines, social media, and websites is putting pressure on many brides and grooms to walk down the aisle in a unique and memorable way.

This often obliges them to pass the cost of their big day — sometimes literally — to their team of bridesmaids and members of their wedding committees.

On the other hand, destination weddings have become increasingly popular in recent years.

And because of the excitement and the desire to impress, many couples are not mindful of the expense incurred by guests and wedding party members, who now have to include a plane ticket and possible accommodation, in addition to the other expenses.

Maximillah, an Information Technology expert in Nairobi, has participated in three weddings — two as a bridesmaid and one as a committee member. And according to her experiences, helping a friend to organise a wedding can be a costly affair.

“I have always been happy to be part of a friend’s wedding. It is hard to turn down your best friend’s request to be in her wedding ceremony. Some of them are my next door neighbours, others are former college mates. I was glad to assist them to settle down.”

However, her income did not exactly match the price tag of the designer bridesmaid dresses and shoes that the bride had chosen. When she got the email about the dress and shoes that she was expected to purchase, she was taken aback.

“The shoes cost Sh2,800 while the dress was Sh5,500. I was also supposed to pay for my hair to be done to match the other bridesmaids’ and get a manicure. This is before even taking into consideration the cost of a gift, the bachelorette party, and wedding shower,” she says.

Maximillah says being a bridesmaid is costly.

“You have to buy an engagement gift and help plan the bridal shower. And for some weddings, there is the bachelorette party, which you plan (and pay for) along with the other bridesmaids.

And if the wedding is being held somewhere fun or exotic, you have to arrange for your own travel expenses, which may mean hiring a limo or a flashy car.”

Maximillah is not the only bridesmaid who has felt the burden of wedding expenses. Weddings, which were once simply a special day in the life of a couple, have become the centre of a multi-billion shilling industry catering to the whims of brides who want to feel like princesses, if only for a day.

Cynthia*, a businesswoman in Nairobi, has also been a bridesmaid at four weddings. The first two brides she served were both reasonable and gracious with their requests, but the other two were not so easy to work with.

Her first bad experience came when her cousin’s fiancée cancelled the wedding less than a week before the nuptials. She informed the bridal party of the development via angry texts and emails.

Never mind that Cynthia had already bought a bridesmaid’s dress at Sh4,500 and a pair of shoes to match at Sh2,500.

“Other than the angry messages in my email inbox and phone, I never received an explanation or acknowledgement of the cancellation or even a ‘thank you’ note, after I dropped Sh7,000 for her special day. I felt that my efforts were not appreciated,” she says.

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