Wedding Celebration

Time of happiness with big stress

Wedding planning and related expenses bring a serious financial strains to a new relationship. Although it is supposed to be the happiest time in a couple’s life, it is not an easy task to pursue. When couples imagine their dream wedding, the price tag is usually not part of that fantasy. In fact, with the rising cost of living, many have stopped organizing big weddings. But this does not mean for even a small one they won’t incur much. Anecdotal evidences suggest that an average wedding costs between ETB100, 000 to as much as millions of Birr in urban areas like Addis Ababa. EBR’s Kiya Ali explores the issue.

Frehiwot Habte, in her early 30s, will never forget the moment when her fiancée proposed to her three years into their relationship. After she said ‘yes’, the two decided to organize their wedding. At first, the bride and groom to be were excited to do so. However, as the day got closer, the excitement started getting replaced by stress. Although a wedding is the best time to celebrate a couple’s union and love, it is also as equally stressful as exciting and meaningful it is supposed to be. In fact, it is one of the most nerve-wracking tasks in one’s life.

“Planning a wedding requires a big investment, time and energy. It is stressful, whether you are having an affluent wedding or a small gathering,” Frehiwot recalls.

Some of the major factors that bring about the tons of stress include buying or renting wedding clothes and venues as well as deciding the number of people who would attend the wedding. The latter becomes even more stressful especially in Ethiopia, a country with a culture that gives big value to weddings. In Ethiopia, wedding celebrations and expenses have a lot to do with social status and prestige. Mostly in the rural parts of the country, celebration begins earlier before the actual wedding date, as certain ritual activities will be conducted first.

Although the traditions and customs of a wedding ceremony vary greatly amongst cultures, ethnic groups, religions and social classes, most of them have similar features.

In rural areas and in some relatively urban places where the traditional wedding ceremony is still practiced, a large proportion of the wedding costs is associated with Telosh (dowries). Telosh is a ritual that is carried out a few days before the main wedding date. In this ceremony, the groom and his family bring and transfer an amount of property or money as gifts to the bride.

While attendees and relatives present their gifts to the bride, a round of applause will follow from the guests. This ritual activity is held at the bride’s parents’ house. The rest of the cost of the wedding is shared by the families of the groom and the bride. Currently, the expenses for the main wedding ceremony are getting expensive and instead the role of dowries is being replaced by gifts like a wedding gown and jewelry. This is not the only tradition that is disappearing. In the past, both parents used to cover the whole cost of the wedding jointly and had a role in the marriage of their children. “Parents these days almost have no role in the marriage of their sons and daughters,” says Firew Abebe, a 76-year-old father.

This means more liability to the couples who are expected to cover the costs that used to be handled by their parents in the past. From flowers to venues, a wedding costs between ETB100,000 to as much as millions of Birr, roughly two to four years of disposable income for an individual whose monthly income is ETB12,000.

Many brides have a different idea of how spendthrift they want their wedding to be, but on average, many of them end up spending more than ETB1,000 on their outfit with some often preferring to rent a bridal wedding dress since it is not easy to buy a wedding dress from suppliers abroad, which are available for as low as USD200. The rental costs between ETB3,000 to ETB7,000 for 24 hours. The groom is usually expected to buy a suit, which costs between ETB3,500 to ETB12,000. But lately, brides have started to wear traditional clothes, which are rented for between ETB1,000 to ETB4,000 together with matching clothes for the groom.

Each bridesmaid and groomsman are also expected to rent traditional clothes for between ETB500 and ETB700, while it can reach as high as ETB10,000 in the case of buying modern clothes. Additionally, each of them is expected to spend between ETB1,000 and ETB2,000 for shoes.

The other cost incurred by the groom and the bride is for the rings, which is traditionally covered by the former. Wedding rings made from gold cost between ETB1,400 and ETB1,500 a gram. While the suit, dress and wedding rings are a huge part of the wedding cost, couples also spend a lot to rent a venue to host the ceremony or reception. In this case, there are different arrangements. The cost depends on the venue the couple chooses and the additional services they would require. If it is just a venue, it costs between ETB500 for public parks to ETB10,000 for halls owned by hotels. But if the couple wants the hall together with a food reception, it would cost between ETB250 to ETB500 per person. In addition, if the couple wants their wedding be recorded, they are expected to spend between ETB5,000 and ETB30,000 for the cameraman and the same amount of money for the videographer.

The cost of music for the wedding also varies. If it is a live band, it costs as much as ETB50,000, while in the case of Djs, who are now the most preferred, the couples are expected to pay between ETB3,500 to ETB10,000. Be that as it may, for couples choosing to rent a limo to travel to the wedding party, the cost to rent the vehicles varies between ETB2,500 to ETB50,000 depending on the type of the car and its service age. Flowers and decorations can also be expensive, depending on what the couple is seeking, costing between ETB5,000 and ETB20,000 based on the size of the venue rented by the couple.

Catering is the other major expense for couples, costing between ETB5,000 and ETB30,000. This does not include the cost incurred by the couple to buy food items needed to make the type of meal they want to serve. The above stated costs are for a wedding held in Addis Ababa. But with the rising trend of having the wedding outside of the capital, the expenses then double or triple.

Additionally, the celebration does not end right after the wedding. Three days after the wedding party, follows a post-wedding party traditionally called ‘Melse’. The party is conducted in the evening and the bride and groom head to the post-wedding party venue wearing traditional outfits. At this event, only close family members and relatives get together. A few days later, another get-together ceremony, also known as ‘Kelekel’, will be held and it is during this event that extended family members get a chance to get to know each other. At the end of this occasion, the parents congratulate their children and bless them.

However, lately, several urban residents are deviating from such marriage traditions. Frehiwot and her husband are among those who are increasingly turning away from traditional weddings that require a huge budget.

“Marriage is the most costly event in the life of a couple, often driving them into severe debt. Initially, we intended to have lavish celebrations.

However, later on, we changed our minds and decided to have a small wedding party, which cost us around ETB150,000 for 100 attendees.

In doing so, we used the money that we had planned to use for the wedding to satisfy our needs, like buying household items,” Frehiwot states.


8th Year • Oct.16 – Nov.15 2019 • No. 79

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