Valentine Ndakozi and Theonestse Naniragaba dated for a short time and thought of taking their relationship to another level; however, they were both out of work at the time. They hoped that one day they would afford their dream wedding.
On November 8, 2012, the couple exchanged their wedding vows in Gikondo and their reception was held at School of Finance and Banking (SFB), now University of Rwanda’s College of Business and Economics. It took the couple two months to prepare for their special day.
Ndakozi and Naniragaba spent a total of Rwf250, 000 on their wedding. 70 per cent of that was from contributions made by friends and 30 per cent was what the couple had. They invited 70 guests.
Naniragaba and Ndakozi’s highest cost went to video and photography. They had a simple cake that cost them Rwf15, 000 and sodas worth Rwf30, 000.
“We couldn’t afford a gown and suit, so we opted for rentals. It cost us Rwf10, 000 for the gown and Rwf10, 000 for the suit. Changing attire wasn’t necessary,” Ndakozi says.
The couple never had a honeymoon, since to them, exchanging vows was the most important thing and what mattered was the love and trust they had for each other.
“A wedding does not require millions, as long as two people are wedded in church, you only need like three people to accompany you and that is it. A‘party’ is not a must if there is no money since the wedding is more important than worldly luxuries,” Ndakozi adds.
Naniragaba and Ndakozi are living happily in Gikondo and have been blessed by one child.
A simple budget can still give you that dream wedding
Rosine Uwase, a wedding planner at Kay Weddings in Kigali, says anyone can have a beautiful and affordable wedding. The biggest challenge is that some people want a luxurious wedding with a modest budget.
“Most people do not want our opinion or advice when they plan their wedding. So in the end, they make unrealistic demands. It is easy to do away with some items and the wedding will still be beautiful,” Uwase says.
Uwase says that the trick behind a simple wedding is cutting down the number of guests because the more people, the more expensive the wedding will be as you have to cater for each person. Also, some invited guests come with two or more other uninvited guests which makes it hard.
“Not everyone has to attend your wedding; the most important people, like family members and very close friends, should be invited but not people you haven’t heard from in a long time. It is better to invite a few people, like 100, so that they fully enjoy the wedding, especially when it comes to food, rather than inviting very many people that you will only offer a soda,” Uwase says.
Uwase says that since venues are very expensive, a ‘maison’ (house) with a big garden could save some money that would otherwise have been needed for big venues like hotels.
Uwase adds that decor should not be too much since ‘too much of everything is bad’. A wedding can have light decor but still be beautiful.
Olive Dusabe of Dusabe Wedding Planners says that before people make a budget, they should consult professional wedding planners to advise them accordingly.
“I believe fireworks, changing clothes more than twice, and renting very expensive halls is not necessary, especially if someone is still renting a house. When there is not enough money, people should not go out of their way to impress anyone, the bride and groom can stay in the gown and suit they wore for the ceremony. Having changing attire for the maids is also an unnecessary cost,” Dusabe says.
Dusabe also says that depending on one’s budget, people should put into consideration the entertainment factor. Live bands are popular these days and many ask for a reasonable sum of money. Dancing troupes are great entertainment, but according to Dudabe, they tend to cost more.
Dusabe says that one could even opt for normal music as opposed to hiring anyone, since, ‘it’s a wedding not a concert’.
“It’s okay if you can’t afford food. People can have just cake and soda; most of them go for the reception after having lunch,” Dusabe explains.
Dusabe says that a couple with limited means should borrow cars from friends and family members instead of renting cars for just one day.
She adds that some churches have really beautiful gardens where newly-wed couples can hold their reception after the church session.
“It can be a free venue, especially if you are members of that church, instead of spending money on an expensive venue.
“I also advise people to hold their receptions at home if they have a big compound because it would save them the burden of paying for an expensive hotel that will most likely even limit the time they spend there. Homes are affordable and have no limited time,” Dusabe says.
Dusabe is of the view that ‘it is not about what you have, but who you know’. That said, for those with small compounds, perhaps a friend or relative with a beautiful big garden can help.
She urges people planning to get married to start saving up early enough since that will enable them to sketch their wedding in time and not rely too much on wedding contributions because some people pledge but never honour the pledges.
People share their views
Eric Manirarera and Chantal Shanilah Uwizera said “I do” on August 2 2015 in Kicukiro Adpr Church.
She says what made her wedding successful was the support of friends who contributed money during wedding meetings.
“They pledged and fulfilled. Important to note is that my wife and I had our wedding seven years after I proposed to her,” Manirarera says.
Manirarera says that if a wedding is planned for through savings, it can turn out to be grand. Last minute planning will leave a couple frustrated.
Manirarera proposed to his wife on July 31, 2008, it took them seven years to plan their wedding. He works with Rwanda Agricultural Board while Uwizera is a teacher at APACE Kabusunzu.
Joyce Kirabo, a counsellor, says that what matters most are the vows and not material things. Some people have had very expensive weddings and ended up divorced or separated in a short time.
“Promises are what count, the couple can just invite only a few family members for church and after go home for a simple lunch and call it a day because the most important part is exchanging the vows and remaining faithful to them,” Kirabo says.
Kirabo also advises couples not to rely too much on wedding meetings because friends just come in to help; a couple should not put all their trust in friends and family members because they could be disappointed at the last minute.
Kirabo explains, “I think that wedding meetings should also be programmed to not take too long, couples should have something to start with so that friends just add to it.”
Kirabo urges couples not to spend too much money on their wedding because there is a life to live after the wedding. There will be children to take care of, among other things.
She recommends that anyone planning to have a wedding should save well ahead of time so that the day can be truly memorable and no one will have to go into debt to celebrate just one day.