In January, Richard Kagabo hatched a plan together with a group of friends to organise a bachelor party for a friend they have known since high school. The groom-to-be wasn’t privy to their plan although they had asked him not make any plans that day because they were planning to have a few drinks together and reminisce about the good old days.
It was a bachelor’s party; the new way of celebrating the transit to married life. Although bachelor parties in Rwanda are just picking up, it looks like the trend will be around for a while.
“In the past, people had events such as Umuhuro where people would come together for one final night to celebrate the groom-to-be. This was a big deal and it was mainly culturally centered. However, over time, things changed to a much more westernised kind of celebration, a lot of drinks, rowdy partying and now, even half naked girls are included for extra fun,” says Kagabo.
Bigirimana Kagugube, an elder, says that back in the day, the norm was the community coming together to celebrate the big step one of their own was about to take and give him advice on how to handle himself in the new life. He adds that it was more of a cultural teaching session.
“Elders used this opportunity to advise the young man on the morals and values of starting a family, how to treat his wife and his responsibilities to his family and community. However, cultures have been diluted and that culture is slowly dying out. Young people now prefer to go partying in bars, and because of lack of sound advice, they end up making a lot of mistakes in their marriages,” Kagugube says.
However, Kagabo continues to say that whereas bachelor parties started off a “guys only” affair, they’ve evolved and now include a few ladies. This night is meant to be his last night of freedom as a bachelor and an opportunity for him to bond with the guys.
“Although we didn’t have girls at the bachelor party we held for our friend, I’ve attended parties where there are girls, not really guests, but who are there to provide extra fun. This includes lap dances especially for the groom since bachelor parties are now termed as ‘the last night of freedom’,” he adds.
Kagabo says that their party was mainly centered on eating nyama choma and making fun of each other, having drinks and sharing fond memories. Whereas that was their preferred way of holding a bachelor party, Crislain Muneza says that his friend’s bachelor party was rowdier but they had all agreed on what would take place.
“We went to a friend’s place out of town and got a couple of girls whose sole purpose was to add fun to the night.
The drinks were in plenty. Later, the girls came in with their attention on the groom-to-be. At first, he found it weird but with the alcohol, pressure, cheering and taunting, and not wanting to disappoint the planners, he just went along with the lap dancing and teasing,” said Muneza.
Kagabo and Muneza’s stories are part of this growing trend. Rapper Emery Gatsinzi aka Riderman had his bachelor party at Kaizen Club complete with artistes performances and a payment fee. Although people are getting more familiar with bachelor parties, in Rwanda, they’re still few.
Bachelor parties are a big deal in neighbouring countries, so what about Rwanda?
“It all comes down to our culture as Rwandans. We take so long to adapt to trendy things that happen just next door. You can see how we react to beauty pageants, modeling or to an idea like a street carnival; you always meet a lot of resistance based on cultural aspects and other mundane reasons,” says Ian Arinaitwe.
Arinaitwe says there are few people, as compared to the majority of the youth or soon-to-be- newlyweds, who will actually be engaged in bachelor parties or have friends organise it. Although ladies have their own bachelorette parties, mostly in the form of ‘bridal showers’, some couples prefer to have the same party and enjoy it with friends.
“My wife and I chose to have the same party because we share many friends in common and besides, I did it because my wife wasn’t really comfortable with the whole idea of a bachelor’s party since she had heard a lot about them. So, not to risk my marriage and to allay her fears, we held the same party and it was equally fun,” said Remy Niyomugabo, who got married last year.
However, one of the most important questions that people usually ask is if bachelor parties are an opportunity for the groom to get rowdy and maybe sleep with another woman before getting married? Most men actually say that it’s all about having fun and nothing more.
A cheat will cheat
Most bachelor parties are associated with heavy drinking and as they are usually portrayed in movies, nudity is common in such parties which make many women uncomfortable. Women will always have their own doubts and fears about the groom giving in to temptation but some men say that if someone is bound to cheat, they’ll do it even without the bachelor party.
“It’s not familiar to sleep with the female entertainers or any other girl who might be at the party. This is not the whole essence of a bachelor’s party. Yes, it might be easy to give in to temptation but it’s rare. I believe that if it’s bound to happen, then it will,” says Philip Kagenzi, who also got married last year.
However, some women don’t agree with the whole idea of a bachelor’s party because they believe that the rules are not clear between what is considered “harmless fun” and what can be extremely hurtful to a partner.
“I don’t think it is a crime to wonder why anyone would celebrate their upcoming nuptials by dancing with half naked members of the opposite sex in a provocative manner. I believe that being in a committed relationship immediately disqualifies one as being single. Why then would anyone want to act like they are still single?” wonders Harriet Byamugisha.
The omerta is a highly respected code of silence among the mafia and most bachelor party attendees will usually request that whatever happens at the party stays at the party because things might get out of hand. The guys will make sure that no word gets out about what was said or happened.
“It’s a guy thing but I think it usually depends on the kind of party it is. At this one party that I attended, the groom wanted to meet with his ex-girlfriend to iron certain issues out. Not sleeping together, however if the wife ever gets to know, it will be another world war. Sometimes, this code of silence might include not taking pictures or videos at the party,” said Muneza.
Muneza adds that the party might get out of hand and things that happen can break a marriage that hasn’t even happened yet.
Harriet Byamugisha further argues that a bachelor party is sugar-coated with words like, last night of freedom!
“The whole notion of getting rowdy ‘while you still can’ makes me ask myself how that marriage will be like. It’s like saying that marriage is equal to being in prison and you are partying before being sentenced. People need to always ask themselves if they’re ready for marriage if they still believe this outdated notion,” she adds.
Bachelor parties mark the end of singlehood. It’s important to make sure he has fun; however it’s equally important to be respectful of your partner, as well as the other people involved with the planning of such events.
Otherwise, as a friend always says, “you might find yourself holding another bachelor’s party after your divorce.”
YOUR VOICE: Do bachelor parties hold any relevance?
Tito Gakire, employee ASL
Just like any other vital activity that happens before the wedding, bachelor parties are equally important. I believe this whole idea lies on the ground of friendship, which is an important life value. People come over to celebrate their friend’s coming ‘big day’; graduating from one status to another. Personally, I don’t look at it as an excuse to party, but an initiative of friendship.
Innocent Mitali, customer care agent
As long as a bachelor party doesn’t interfere with your wedding budget, or bring any financial burden to the person hosting the party; it remains an important initiative. It’s an opportunity to bring together your close friends and share great moments together, as you prepare to take another step in life. Bachelor parties also provide an opportunity for people to share ideas and marriage expectations, thus proving a platform for enlightenment.
Moses Ndungutse, front desk operator
I can’t generally say bachelor parties are an excuse to party, or not relevant. However, some tend to be extravagant, and don’t follow any specific arrangement, thus having no significance but just expenses. In my opinion, it is supposed to be an opportunity to catch up with friends and family of different statuses and not only party, but learn something about the life one is heading into, and also what you have to leave behind to have a prosperous marriage.
Elias Muneza, artist
Though people choose to alter the importance of a bachelor party, initially, it was based on friendship, relationships and lessons about marriage. It’s the day to say goodbye to your bachelor friends, and embrace the company of those you have something in common with. Besides, it’s also a day to inspire others to follow in your footsteps.
Compiled by Dennis AgabaFollow https://twitter.com/KaremeraDean