The Controversy Surrounding Pre-weddings in Diaspora


Who is getting married this year? Any plans for a pre-wedding? There are some hushed voices who will say “No!” Others, albeit not loud enough will give the nod:”Go for it!”

What do Kenyans in Diaspora feel about pre-weddings? Have they become one too many, or is the Kenyan population in Diaspora growing at a geometric rate and therefore the need for coupling!

Is it a choice to attend a pre-wedding party and donate toward the upcoming wedding, or is there a guilt trip disguised behind these events? Many in Diaspora have voiced their opinions and they are as different as night and day. They range from extremely supportive to angry and bitter. Why are they divided on this issue?

Most Kenyans in Diaspora have attended a wedding or have had one’s own wedding and understand the enormous expense involved. When assessing the price of food, flowers, and rentals the costs can be overwhelming. A pre-wedding party is meant to aid in offsetting these costs with invitees contributing money toward the ceremony. According to many in Diaspora, it is common practice for an individual to give upwards of $500 to $1000. Kenyans are very giving and most come out en masse to assist the happy couple with their nuptials. Recently, a pre-wedding party in Boston, MA raised $90,000.

In today’s climate there are professional committee organizers who plan the pre-wedding parties. Some believe this has become a small business where the organizers and religious leaders enable the “pilfering of pockets of hard-working Diasporans.” Those who are disenfranchised with these parties have called them “fraudulent enterprises” and “psychological torture” for those who feel guilted into attending. One mentioned that pre-weddings are like cigarette smoke that affects both smokers and non-smokers. To these Diasporans, the event leaves a distaste in one’s mouth, because they disagree with the couple using their contributions to not only fund the wedding, but to also pay for the honeymoon and possibly a new home.

Not all Diasporans feel as those who detest pre-weddings. Many pledge their full monetary support toward the couple for their big event and beyond. They believe it is a choice to attend or not to attend.  As one supporter says, “Once I gift the funds, I do not sit and dictate how they should use it. It is a gift; not a contract. I am actually happy when they save some of it to use toward the purchase of a home. Why waste it all in one day?” One should also consider the purpose for a pre-wedding. Another supporter believes that pre-weddings were started with two intents: to help a couple have a successful wedding, and to give them a foundation to start their new union.

However, there are others who believe a compromise can be made. They think it would be more palatable for all involved if there was a wedding budget. It would show the monies that the couple was contributing, and the remaining balance. Therefore, when the goal was reached, the collection process would be completed. Transparency is usually involved when Diasporans assist one another in paying for hospital bills, funerals, lawyers and mchangos.  In their opinion, pre-weddings should follow the same guidelines.

While some still may disagree with these events even if a compromise is made, others believe that a tradition cannot be broken based on negative opinions. However, no one is ever forced to be present at a gathering or give a gift. The decision to donate money is fully up to the invitee, and if they are not comfortable with the expectation they feel is thrust upon them then they are not required to attend.

Diasporans are a unique community who support each other in all areas of life; even in differing opinions.