My childhood dream of wearing a stunning mermaid wedding dress on my big day died the day I realised that we would need more than R100 000 to make it a reality. The thought of spending that much in one day did not make sense, especially when I don’t own any property. Maybe if I came from a wealthy family this wouldn’t have been an issue for me. I would have been torn between having a beach wedding or a destination one. But that is not my life.
Two years ago, my boyfriend of five years and I decided to take our relationship to the next level – we tied the knot. We had a total of 30 people attend the intimate ceremony. We hired a restaurant and turned it into a wedding venue. We had the chapel, a white carpet with red rose petals – it was beautiful. We used less than R15 000 to hire out a venue, pay for the food, the flower arrangements, the dress, and hire a suit for the groom. A month prior, we had a traditional welcoming ceremony called ‘utsiki’. Utsiki is done at a groom’s home and that is where the bride gets acquainted with her new family. A goat is slaughtered and the new bride is given a new name.
To us, this was it, we were married. However, we still have family members who ask us when are we going to get married. By that they mean, when are we going to have an extravagant wedding and feed the village. They ignore the fact that we don’t have our own home and are responsible for two little humans. No one cares about that, all they expect is a big wedding they can brag about.
To some extent, it feels as though they are not recognising our union, be it the traditional way or the small vow ceremony we had. Maybe to them, a big wedding validates a marriage, I don’t know. I dread the holidays because of this. Someone always asks me when are we getting married and I don’t know how to answer this because as far as I know I am married . With in-laws its even worse, I can’t say what’s truly on my mind because I must be ‘polite’. Hopefully one day our union will be recognised without the big wedding.
You see, my husband and I, like many black young adults, we come from a background where making loans is a norm. People take out loans to host events to impress people who have no interest in them. When I told my mother we don’t have money for a big wedding she looked at me funny. She didn’t understand why we wanted to stay debt free. The only debt we know we can’t run away from is for property, we can’t avoid that loan. For us, owning property is far greater than having a big wedding and we’ve been saving up for our first purchase.
In this two years, I’ve asked many couples how they were able to have big weddings. The majority say they took out loans and had felt bullied into doing that. It breaks my heart to think that many get into awful situations to appease their families.
Divorce stats are alarming and the number of people getting married has dropped. According to Stats SA, the number of civil divorces increased by 20.4% from a low of 20,980 in 2011 to 25,260 in 2015. In many cases, financial problems play a role in the failure of a marriage. It is an irony that an expensive wedding can bring terrible tension into the future marriage.
If my husband and I had taken a loan we would still be paying it back even now. That on its own has the potential to wreck any marriage. I do not regret our decision of having an intimate wedding; it made sense to us. Nothing brings joy to my heart than knowing we started a debt-free life. I wish every young couple could strive for this. Maybe in the next eight years, we will have enough money to have a big party when we celebrate ten years. For now, I will continue smiling awkwardly when family members ask me when am I getting married. Despite the fact that at Home Affairs I am a married woman and I said my vows in front of 30 people, to the family I still need to feed the village to prove I am no longer single.
Tell us: do you think people need to have big weddings and go into debt to prove they are married?