• Warpath to the Altar II-By Edward Maroncha

    The rain is falling outside, making a soft soothing sound on the roof. It is around 6am on a Saturday morning, and I am not about to wake up. Saturday is usually my day to sleep in. I totally struggle with early Saturday morning engagements, because they deny me my weekly date with my bed. This particular one I have no engagement, so I am enjoying that blissful moment when I am half-awake, half-asleep. The only time I can control my dreams. Ok, they are not really dreams because I am half-awake, but they are dreams all the same. And I can control them to ensure they remain on an optimistic course.

    Then my phone vibrates from the bedside table. A single tone: message. I suspect it is Bob Collymore telling me he has taken my 5 bob even before I wake up. He usually sends two in quick succession, so I instinctively wait for the second vibration. I know what that first one says:

    “Matumizi yako ya siku hii ni 5.00 KSH. Tumia 30.00 KSH zaidi leo ili upate airtime yako ya ziada bila malipo.”

    And I also know what the one I am expecting says:

    “Umepokea 20 items On-net SMS, matumizi hadi 2016-06-09.”

    I have no idea why Safaricom addresses me in Kiswahili. Maybe one of my more tech-savvy and cheeky friends touched somewhere to prank me, and I was too dumb to notice (Toro confess, the Lord can see you). Or maybe the computer geeks at Safaricom headquarters found out the little secret about my difficulties with the language, and decided to change my settings so that I don’t understand what they are saying as they steal my data bundles.

    After a while I realise the second SMS is not coming. So it is not Safaricom. But who could be texting me at 6am on a Saturday morning? Perhaps it is MPESA. It is the middle of the month and I could do with some extra cash. Maybe the Lord appeared to my mother in a dream last night and told her to surrender her full tithe and offering to me. Including love offering and first fruit. The idea of MPESA is very tempting. I feel like reaching out and taking my phone to confirm. But there are a couple of challenges. One, I have warmed this particular spot and leaning towards the table will take me to the cold sides of the bedsheets.  Two, I am in that blissful state where half of my mind is awake and thinking and the other is asleep and dreaming. Any physical exertion will destroy that balance.

    But the lure of money is too strong. I turn my head slowly to face the table. I look at the phone carefully trying to spot any external sign that it has just received currency. Like if it has expanded a little. Eventually I conclude that an MPESA message is enough consolation for the loss of comfort. And so I lean and take the gadget, and quickly open the message:

    We Solomon M’Icooro and Felicity Cianjoka invite you to our wedding planning committee today at Norwich Towers 7th Floor from 5.30 pm. Your presence will be highly appreciated.

    My heart sinks. I had already started thinking about taking an extravagant breakfast. And by the way, who in this world is M’Icooro? I am sure I don’t know such a person.  But Felicity sounds familiar. I have heard that name somewhere. Maybe we attended some conference together in 1902. The rain is still falling so I push the phone away, snuggle deeper into the blankets and will myself to sleep.

    This decision is easy to make. I am not going to Norwich Towers. First, I am flat broke. Then I don’t know these people. Felicity is obviously someone I have met, but one I am not very acquainted to. Plus it’s not like I have been personally invited. This looks like a standard message she has sent to everyone in her phonebook. How she got my number I don’t even know. Blame it on WhatsApp.

    The situation would have been tricky if it had been a friend sending the message. I would have skipped the event still, but with a heavy heart. Because wedding committees’ primary function on most occasions is not to plan for the wedding, rather it is to raise cash. And I have learnt from experience that if you are broke, attending them can be an embarrassing affair. Two main activities take place. One is pledging. I usually have no problem with this one, because it allows me budget for it. But in most wedding committees there are other dubious methods of raising cash in addition to pledging. Someone may just come with handkerchiefs and give each of you. Then demand 300 bob from each of you. You want to protest but you don’t want to cause a scene. So you give the 300 bob. Somewhere along the way someone else says that all former CU chairmen should bless the wedding with 200 bob. It’s just 200 bob, they purr. At that moment you want to deny ever setting foot in a university, leave alone being CU chairman. But then you remember you were CU chairman in high school as well. Double tragedy. Veins protrude prominently on your temples as you give the 200 bob. Then as you leave of course you have to contribute towards the venue. Another one hundred. As you hand it over, you start thinking of ingenious ways of telling that girl you had invited for coffee the following day that it won’t happen because you suddenly have a budget deficit. You comfort yourself by saying that if she is mature enough she will understand. So you see, if you are broke you would be in a very bad place in such a meeting. That is why I keep away when I am broke. It is better than going to cause a scene when someone demands money I don’t have.

    For this reason, I have resolved in my heart that I am not doing a wedding committee to fundraise. To me, a wedding is a luxury, and my rule with luxuries is that I spend to the extent I can afford. I shouldn’t wipe my account dry to fund a wedding. Because there is life after the wedding. And I won’t take a loan to finance the wedding. To me that is financial impropriety. Loans should be used to make more money and repay themselves. Not to entertain friends. And the bulk of the wedding expenses goes to entertaining guests.

    See also: Warpath to the Altar I

    And the wedding certainly shouldn’t strain my friends. I am not calling any of my friends asking them to pledge towards my wedding. Because I don’t look forward to following up anyone begging them to honor their pledges. And the thing is, when you call friends most of them will feel obligated to pledge even when their financial situations are balancing on a cat’s whisker. Very few will gather the courage to say I don’t have. Because they don’t want to let you down. And honestly, I don’t see why a friend should deny themselves the comforts of life just so I can buy flowers worth 40k. And the silly flowers will wilt the same day. I mean, expensive flowers bought on borrowed money should only wilt after I have recycled them for the last time during my second born’s fifth birthday.

    Look, we don’t need expensive flowers for the wedding to be successful. We can do some basic décor. I think when I was CU chairman at UoN law school it cost us about 3k to get the décor done for our elders’ night. We also don’t need a professional photographer for the wedding to be successful. Our phones will do. Or if one of our friends has a small camera, perfect. I have a close photographer friend, and I would really like to give him business. But if I can’t afford it, he will have to wait for the baby bump. By then I will have saved something (Amen Pato?). We don’t need a DJ. We will get a radio and a dvd player and have a friend play the music. We don’t need to pay a professional mc. One of our friends can do that. We don’t even need a convoy of vehicles. If I can get a small van for the bridal team and one car for the bride, that’s perfect. I can come by matatu and leave with the bride. If we really can’t afford it, we don’t even need a gown. We can show up in kitenges and tie the knot. We don’t even need to feed people if we are cash strapped. You guys can just show up at the church, witness as we take the vows and 12 everyone goes their way.

    Point is, whoever said we need 200k to have a decent wedding lied to us. And whoever said that we have to get money from other people to fund the wedding added to the lie. And a wedding is not even an emergency. I find it totally ridiculous that I can be sitting here, knowing I will get married in 2 or 3 years, and planning for that wedding on money I expect to borrow. Really, if someone wants to chip in financially, let them volunteer. Or otherwise wear a head band written “I want to contribute to your wedding, please ask me.” Because that’s the only way I can distinguish between those who are willing and able to give, and those who aren’t. And I won’t even budget on that. I will budget on what I have, and if someone chips in, let it be a pleasant surprise. All I will ask for is volunteers to run a few errands. Like doing the décor, playing the music, taking photos. More like a birthday party. And that will be my wedding committee.

    They say every girl dreams of a big wedding. But that’s because we have been feeding them with Cinderella stories and soap operas. Maybe we should start by telling them that Alejandro is not a real lawyer, he is an actor in a multi-billion movie industry. Maybe then they will stop thinking that because I am a city lawyer, I have an hacienda in Tharaka Nithi where I go to ride horses supervising beef cattle and wheat plantations. For the record, Nanyuki is not in Tharaka Nithi. And I don’t have a rich father like Alejandro. Look, I am not even as tall as Alejandro. So if we are aping Tv people, then there is a problem. In fact, there is an even bigger problem. My hair has started distancing itself from me. So in those photos I may look more like a sponsor than Alejandro. Point is, those weddings on wedding show cost money. And we don’t have to be like them if we can’t afford it.

    In fact, the other week I was chatting with a lady friend and she said something that intrigued me. She said that she wants to do a simple wedding even if she has money because she doesn’t think that an expensive wedding is the most prudent way to spend money. Now, I am not including that part in the War of Matrimony. Because honestly speaking, my idea is not to deny my fiancée a wedding. Mine is simply to avoid extravagance we cannot afford. But if I am marrying a girl who thinks like that, I might even marry her twice in the same ceremony. Because then we can use part of the money to pay school fees for some needy child somewhere. Then invest the rest.

    I know this post and last Friday’s have scared away many potential wives. But then again, it’s not like I want to start a harem. I just need one courageously radical girl for a life partner. Just one.

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