Weddings are largely a social affair with societal standing and financial status playing a big role in the type of wedding to be held. Wedding photos also play a major role. However, perhaps the most influencing factor that determines a wedding’s components is culture. The Kikuyu culture is a well-known cultural group that is predominantly found in the central highlands of Kenya. Many Kenyan citizens are actually of Kikuyu descent as it is the largest tribe in Kenya. The Kikuyu language is used everywhere by Kikuyu immigrants as far away as Toronto. Despite long-held wedding traditions, modern western influences have slowly begun to be incorporated into Kikuyu weddings an example being wedding photos.
Customarily, marriage proceedings often begin with the man proposing to the woman. Upon her acceptance the man then calls for a meeting with his clan elders who largely consist of extended elderly family members. A delegation carrying small gifts such as wheat and rice is then sent to the woman’s home to meet with her clan elders. Deliberations on bride price actually begin on a later date and these are strictly conducted by the older men only. Traditionally, no wedding photos are taken at this time. Upon completion of these negotiations, a wedding date is set, with the elders having provided an acceptable percentage of the full dowry. The rest of the dowry is expected later. No request is made for it, but the young man is expected to remember to finish his payment and failure to do so spells dishonor for that family.
The actual wedding ceremony often involves the entire community. Women organize food matters while the men organize financial matters. The man is considered responsible for his bride’s dress and the bride is free to choose her bride’s maids. These matters are often deliberated upon in pre-wedding parties. In strictly traditional Kikuyu weddings, there is hardly ever the use of official rings and neither is there an official engagement ceremony as is characteristic of western weddings for instance. in Toronto. Furthermore, wedding photos, which feature largely in these events, were in earlier times not taken.
On the eve of the wedding, the young man and his relations visit his future in laws. Usually this is done to help with wedding arrangements. However, the convoy is not immediately let into the girls homestead. Rather the bride’s gate is locked and song and dance begins as a cover for negotiations. Various goods may be asked of the groom and he willingly obliges to the demands after which he is let into the compound.
The wedding day begins with a convoy from the grooms family that heads to the girls home to collect her. The singing and dancing can be heard all over the village. Most Kikuyu’s being Christians head to a church for the ceremony and a consequent reception. Kikuyu weddings are characterized by many guests and are rarely a private affair as is often witnessed in Toronto. Wedding photos are taken at this time as food is served and wedding gifts offered. Speeches on how to live as husband and wife are given, then singing, and dancing goes on late into the night. Unlike weddings in Toronto, Kikuyu couples do not go for a honeymoon, but rather just proceed to their new home, marking the start of their new life together.