Main Story: Is this a sign that big weddings are a thing of the past?

 A couple pose for photos on their wedding day. PHOTO| FOTOSEARCH

What you need to know:

  • The events industry is a multi billion industry. A report published in 2018 by Samantha Bridal show that an average wedding in Kenya cost Sh 3.5 million
  •  At the end of the day, we got a small wedding we had dreamed of
  • Esther Wanjiru: You can plan for a small wedding without offending anyone

It’s a one-day affair, yet it comes with an almighty headache. Ensure that the caterer delivers good food and on time, the decorator keeps their word, transport is on point, not forgetting the outfits, the camera crew, and the venue are on point. Add to that, the migraine of keeping to the numbers, as your family and friends you haven’t seen in ages troop in bus loads, and you will be lucky to keep your sanity by the end of your helluva day.

And even without the interference of the extended families, many couples have been feeling obliged to keep up with the traditional wallet baffling conventions because this is what has been sold to them—a good wedding equals long ceremonies and bulging attendees.


Results? A multibillion dollar industry.  According to a report released by the Samantha Bridal in 2018, the average cost of conducting a wedding in Kenya with an attendance of 300 people stands at Sh3.5 million.

“Due to the social distancing rules in the coronavirus containment efforts, couples no longer have to walk the social tightrope of crossing half their guests’ list as it is already a rule.  Now, we are seeing a wedding with even less than 50 attendees,” says Catherine Masitsa, the CEO and Founder of Samantha Bridal.

Surprisingly, this does not mean that couples are all spending less. They are splurging on what they hold dear and having the weddings of their dreams – intimate yet chic. “The kind that you see on bridal magazines,” says Ms Masitsa.


After a dip between March and April as couples grappled with the new regulations, there was a surge in May prompting the Attorney General’s office to suspend marriage services for weeks. This was due to the high number of clients that were seeking to wed but were not in compliance with the Ministry of health’s guidelines of social distancing. The registry reported that about 2,551 marriages were put on hold at the time. After digitising the services, lovers were allowed to register and apply for their marriage certificates. However, they were required to adhere to the rule of having only 15 people witnessing their nuptials.  The number has since been reviewed upwards to 200, with all in attendance expected to abide with the ministry of health protocols.


Inviting 200 people requires that one gets a venue that can comfortably hold 600-800 people. Many couples, resort to inviting less than the 200 to comply.

So does the new normal in weddings, signify that more couples will opt for smaller cozier ceremonies in future? 

Three women, who walked down the aisle during this period tell us what they learnt and whether the trend is here to stay .

Agnes Sajina, 28, Advocate and Kevin Gitau, 30, Accountant. PHOTO| FAMILY ALBUM

Agnes Sajina, 28, Advocate and Kevin Gitau, 30, Accountant

Married on October 24, 2020 at All Saints Cathedral

“My dream wedding had always been a small wedding. But with parents from both sides wanting to invite their friends, I knew that we had to plan for a big number. In January, this year, we started our plans for 500 guests.

Then with the rules that came after the pandemic, we had to whittle down the list to 15. Deciding who was receiving the invitation or the regret message was a difficult task.

Besides the guest list, we had to make many adjustments seeing that we had already started planning for the big day even before the pandemic. Then when the AG suspended operations, we put the plans on hold. On resumption, we picked up the plans again. Only that this time, the numbers had been limited to 15. The venue proved not to be feasible. So we had to move from the grounds we had booked in January and settled for one that would accommodate 60. This was partly because of the changes and reviews announced by the president.

The bridal party was reduced considerably. We also had to change vendors’ for the cake and food. I wanted a custom wedding dress but with the adverse changes brought about by the pandemic I had to get a readymade. We also wanted videography but the adverse effects could not allow for the same. We thank God that our wedding date didn't change.

It was a beautiful day.  At the end of the day, we got a small wedding we had dreamed of. Although we were not able to host everyone who might have wanted to come, we still had fun and everything went well. Ask me and I will say, “Small weddings, any day.”

Magdaline Mbugua 35, quality controller and Zowe Wilson, 32, GIS Analyst. PHOTO| FAMILY ALBUM

Magdaline Mbugua 35, quality controller and Zowe Wilson, 32, GIS Analyst

Married on  August 15, 2020 at Elysian resort, Nairobi

“I wanted everyone to come to my wedding.  After my dowry ceremony in November 2019, my husband and I immediately started planning for our wedding which was to happen in August. Guests? We had 600 people on our minds.

Then the Covid-19 pandemic happened and my hopes for a big wedding were thwarted. We had to cut the guest list to 15 and I remember us shelving the process for days because we knew how difficult that would be.  My husband has six siblings and some of them are married. I have three sisters then there were my aunts and friends. Also, we had formed a WhatsApp fundraiser group and this meant that even those who had contributed towards the wedding could not come. Thankfully, they understood our situation and some of them continued to give even after we had told them of the decision to trim the guest list and expenses.

Our parents, however, were on a different thought line. They suggested that we shelve the wedding plans for a future date but we had waited enough. August it was.

We changed the venue to a hotel and by that time, the number had been increased and we managed to host 25 people, the maximum that our new venue could accommodate after forfeiting our previous location due to travel restrictions.

Looking back, I don’t remember thinking,” I wish we waited until we could host hundreds.” The wedding was full of jubilation and not having many of my loved ones there did not rob us of joy. Maybe it would have been merrier having most of them there but what really mattered was that, at the end of the day, I went home a married woman.

It all goes back to “what’s the main thing?” For us, it was honouring God by having a church wedding and starting the journey as a married couple.  Everything else was secondary and we are happy with the decision to have the wedding then.”

Dorothy Cherotich Talaam 26, Network engineer and Obadiah Kipkoech Talaam 29, Software engineer. PHOTO| FAMILY ALBUM

Dorothy Cherotich Talaam 26, Network engineer and Obadiah Kipkoech Talaam 29, Software engineer

Married on April 5, 2020, at Nairobi South SDA Church

 “I had many “firsts” at my wedding.  The ancient way of things is that on the wedding day, the bride meets the groom at the church. This time, my partner picked me up. Also, the bride is presented to the husband to be by her parents or relatives. In my case, none of them was there.

At the church, there were only nine of us including the pastor and the best couple. A few weeks prior, we had prayed for a miracle. We had wanted a big wedding and having settled with most of the suppliers by February, we were ready to host above 500 guests.

The wedding preparations commenced after my engagement proposal in July 2019. We had done thorough research with my fiancé and settled for service providers with amazing reviews. My biggest concern then was that my wedding gown and shoes, imported from China, had not arrived. Eventually, I had to source them locally.

On the day of the wedding, it felt awkward that there was no one to present me to my husband although we had their blessings from the traditional wedding and from a conversation we held before the wedding day. There were no travel restrictions at that time but for their health safety, we dissuaded them from coming.

We made many other adjustments like working without all service providers except photographers, cancelling the reception venue and our honeymoon holiday plans. So, we did save!

A day like this last year, I would not have imagined a small wedding but now that I am married, I realise that what matters is the marriage itself not the size of the wedding. And especially, one should not spend a fortune on it.

I enjoyed planning for a small wedding, it is devoid of many confusions and features a shorter to-do list.”

How to pull off a small wedding without offending anyone

  1. Plan for a destination wedding

One of the easiest ways to cut down on the number of attendees is to organise for a destination wedding. If you live in Nairobi, you can plan to have the wedding in Mombasa and ask that guests pay for their own fare. Some couples go as far as having their weddings outside the to accommodate only a few.

  1. Be careful with your guest list

As obvious as it sounds, it might be the most challenging task. Certain factors have to be put in mind such as the capacity that the venue allows. This may force one to omit some people from their list however unfair it might be.

The second consideration is choosing a venue that has a strict capacity especially if you will feel guilty omitting some people from the list. This could serve as an incentive of whittling down one's guest list while taking the pressure off you.

  1. Skip the wedding party 

In your invitation cards, you can let people know that there will be no wedding party or reception as we refer to it. You will be shocked at the number that will turn down the invitation because of this omission.

  1. Be strict on the "plus ones". 

When sending the invitation cards, it is important to give instructions about this to avoid misunderstanding. Inviting others to virtually attend the wedding can also help incorporate those that are not invited to physically attend the wedding. This way they won’t feel left out.

  1. Communicate

If you desire a small wedding, let people around you know so that there is no bad blood especially if you are asking people to contribute towards your weddings. Now, with a video conferencing platform such as zoom, people can still attend albeit virtually.

  1. Plan for two events

If one prefers an intimate wedding, they can hold a big traditional wedding or dowry ceremony then follow it up with a small white wedding. That way, your loved ones won't feel left out.

By Esther Wanjiru Kamau, an event planner with Seterh creations


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