The most expensive wedding ever recorded cost 78 million US dollars. The wedding was held during a period of five days and included extravagances such as invitations sent out in a 20 page silver book, 100 different dishes prepared by a top chef, a wine tab of 1.5 million dollars and 1000 guests.
Weddings have become a global industry worth around 298 billion dollars annually. Even relatively small weddings cost a fortune nowadays. That’s where mass weddings come in. Last week, one thousand couples said “I do” in a mass wedding organized by Eminence Social Entrepreneurs. The wedding, also known as “Yeshi Gabecha”, was organized for those who otherwise wouldn’t have been able to afford to do it on their own. Mass weddings are definitely cost effective; it won’t leave you bankrupt.
The only observed downside of these events is that a person will have to share this special day with people they don’t know. Traditionally, weddings are a quite a big deal. It generally involves a huge crowd who is invited to this big celebration with lots of food, drinks and, of course, live music. Even when couples know that they don’t have the wherewithal to throw a big wedding bash, they still spend almost all the money they have on it, because of the perceived pressure from the society we live in.
The prevailing attitude seems to be, having a wedding is almost not a choice; it is expected. The size and grandeur of a wedding reception can be an indicator of a couple’s social status or the one they would like to portray. The number of guests, the quality of the food and drinks, the location and who performs the music can all symbolize the wealth and presumed status of the newlyweds. The reception can be an opportunity to flaunt wealth and impress friends and family. This can lead to the couple or their families spending an excessive amount of money by even putting themselves in debt to pay for the wedding.
The soon-to-be-wed couples spend way too much time thinking about the wedding; what to wear, who to invite, who not to invite, what color the flowers should be, and the list goes on. To rent (not buy, but to rent) a wedding dress can easily cost you over 4,000 birr in Addis Ababa. And then there is the make-up for the bride; if done by a professional it will cost up to 7000 birr. So right there 11,000 birr is spent on only the bride, and that’s just the easy stuff. When you add the cost to the bride’s maids, the groom, the groom’s men, the location of the wedding, the food, the drinks and the entertainment and with standard wedding rings for both the bride and groom costing over 14,000 birr these days, well, one can do the math.
A friend of mine got married recently and I remember thinking how insane it was for her to spend 5,000 birr on a wedding cake. The amount of money she spent on the cake would have probably bought the lovely couple groceries for a year. The whole cost of the wedding would have paid for their rent, utility cost, gas for their car and any other regular living expenses with some left for recreational activities for a little over a year.
The Yeshi Gabecha mass wedding event is not the first of its kind to be held in Ethiopia. There has been other events similar to it but on a much smaller scale. Usually, in other countries, couples choose to get married in a mass wedding, because it is something of a spectacle and is considered fun. But the one that is held in Addis was mainly done for people with financial problems. But I think this trend will catch on in our country and we will see more of it. Maybe it will become part of our culture like the Great Ethiopian Run where people wait for that specific event to get married.
The moral of the story though is that, a wedding doesn’t make a marriage. It is just one day that we look back on. It is indeed a milestone in one’s life and should be celebrated in a meaningful way. There is absolutely nothing wrong with throwing a lavish party and spending money if your finances allow you. But we should, as a society, get over ourselves and know our limits.