The exorbitant price of marriage in our society

To have and to hold: The Bokos on their recent wedding day
To have and to hold: The Bokos on their recent wedding day

Marriage is not an event. Neither is it merely an occasion to feast and wine up to one’s eyeballs.

In Botswana, and in African societies generally, a culture has slowly developed which views weddings as opportunities for unparalleled splurging.

The template for these types of weddings is that there must be mountains of food, oceans of hard and soft drinks to quench the semi-desert that is Botswana and more colour in the wardrobe and décor than is available in the rainbow. The people must feast. The people must drink and they must be merry for one’s wedding to find a place in the folklore around ‘the finest weddings the village has ever seen’.  Imagine how huge some villages are and yet those tying the knot are expected to ensure that all palates, tastes, idiosyncrasies and stomachs are fully taken care of.

Remember the social media debate that followed Leader of Opposition, Duma Boko’s wedding in Moshupa recently? Quite a number of commentators felt the event was too low-key, with words such as shoestring and budget mentioned in the same sentence in some posts. The food was this, the refreshments were that and oh, did you see the décor.

Everyone with data in their phones or Internet connections had something to say, mostly negative.

I have never walked down the aisle, nor spent the whole day in a glittering wedding gown flanked by overly decorated bridesmaids. Neither have I taken that famous Thursday visit to the District Commissioner.

However, one thing I know for sure is that many have succumbed to what they consider societal norm in order to appease the world. In the process, much energy and thought has been channelled toward the event at the expense of the journey that the marriage is. 

Whose standards are these that dictate that a couple should spend more than their annual income combined in edibles, décor, exquisite clothes, flashy cars, some Brazilian hair piece and borrowed nails just for that 24 hours, which then is hyped up as The Big Day?

While I do acknowledge that marriage is a partnership between two people, and without question a union that goes beyond the two to include family and friends, society has put a hefty price tag on the event, not the partnership itself.  Imagine this, all that you have dreamt of life is a small wedding with just about 15 people, perhaps a very traditional ceremony, or ‘just to sign at the DC’s office’.  That’s your big wedding right there, but just because you care too much about people’s perceptions you fail to live your dream?   I heard that a couple decided to host an exclusive and highly private wedding at one of the local resorts. It was strictly by invitation, one plate per attendee, and no lunchboxes were allowed to take home, not even ‘bones for the dogs’.  They were the talk of the whole village for years. Curses of sorts were hailed at them; they were told the marriage did not have a strong foundation, as parents- meaning the village has not blessed the union.  While it is true that marriage unites nations, societal norms have wounded this noble institution. Some resort to loans in order to borrow applause and reverence on their wedding day.

You have probably heard the old folks arguing over two beasts and much more because ‘this is the maiden wedding in my home’.

“Your wedding day is not your own,” is a popular saying whenever one objects to the over-expenditure.

Bearing in mind that that is just a portion of the ‘wedding financial statement’, there is yet another price to pay called bogadi.  Still society remains a huge stumbling block - lobola, and the commandment to host the whole village at ones shallow pocket. Or perhaps the pocket is not as emaciated as mine but the newly weds hoped to invest the money.  In Botswana so much of our emotions, thoughts, time and money go towards marriage preparations. But do we actually spend all this time, effort, money and emotion towards marriage? I don’t think we do. In fact, we concentrate all of these resources not on our marriages, but on the wedding day.

Honestly, I do not want to feed the whole town as a way of showing everyone that I am married.  No! Please may we lessen our expectations and stop all the talk about food and alcohol at people’s weddings.

 People will ‘measure the success of your marriage’ narrowly on the amount of money splashed on the wedding gown, the ring, the food and alcohol as well as the venue - please do not let them.

I have written before on the objectification of women, and how the over commercialisation of lobola is killing the institution of marriage. I think Ntlo Ya Dikgosi had also taken on this assignment at some point, the business of what marriage has turned into.  So, I am not saying women should disregard the practice in terms of bride price, but focus on the marriage not the event.

Make these decisions wholly based on your interests, preferences and the weight of your wallet.  If you want to go all out, by all means please do.  However, not on the grounds that society dictates.

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