When Jane Nziza met her fiancé, she knew she had found her prince charming. The relationship grew stronger over the years and they decided to make it official.
Nziza wanted a church wedding; her fiancé on the other hand, argued that a civil marriage would be the best option until they had saved up enough for a church wedding. They argued about the best way to seal their marriage without going bankrupt.
Couples sometimes choose to only go for the civil marriage because of a range of factors. Whereas some actually have both ceremonies, the question up for debate is; since the state recognises the civil marriage, is it crucial for one to have a church ceremony too?
Damien Mouzoun, a family counselor and CEO of Ayina Think Tank, says that today’s society has a marriage-obsessed culture that dictates the way one ought to get married, which shouldn’t be the case.
He says that culture constantly tries to tell us that if we do not get married the way that society expects us to, we don’t matter.
“I think marriage is, first of all, a personal decision before being ‘bilateral’, then familial,” Mouzoun says.
The counselor stresses that one should be able to decide marriage and organise ceremonies based on their ability and reality. Trying to go beyond one’s needs in order to meet up with any kind of social mirror is contributing to the sickness pervading our society – the sickness of wanting to be what you are not.
It is only by accepting who and what you are that you can step into the fullness of life. The way you own every moment and stake a claim to the here and now, he advises.
Mouzoun says that if a couple has no resources to allow them organise a big religious wedding, they can still go for civil marriage only and then later have the religious one when they can afford it.
“Many of my friends had a civil wedding and waited a year or more until they had money to hold the religious wedding,” he says.
He talks of an instance where a woman is pregnant but the couple is low on income; that shouldn’t be a big problem, he says, because what is important is to get married in a civil way, at least to protect the child who is the fruit of the relationship.
“The child will then get the right to be recognised by the parents and the state and, together, they can grow as a family and build themselves,” he says.
Pastor Hassan Kibirango of Christian Life Assembly says that civil weddings in Rwanda are the legally recognised form of union by the state but, for Christians, a union recognised by the church in the presence of God and people as witness is a must.
He, however, says for God to be a witness to a couple making wedding vows, it’s not necessarily a requirement for them to do it from under the canopy of a church building.
“If we had pastors or priests to offer blessings at the sector offices, the wedding would be valid both to God and the state. You, therefore, don’t need a church wedding to have God endorse a union, but you do need a celebrant endorsed by a given church and they can pronounce the two husband and wife whether at the sector offices or by the beach,” Kibirango says.
He quotes a scripture in Genesis, chapter 2 verses 21-24, that shows God as the author of marriage. “God’s central place in the union of marriage can’t be ignored”.
Would you go for the civil or church wedding?
Florent Ndutiye, a journalist with TV 10, says that when it comes to his wedding day, he will definitely need God’s blessing for a happy start.
He says that he understands the added expenses but that one can always plan according to their budget.
“Having a church wedding is not a waste of money as some people may think but more of embracing a blessing from God for the new life one is about to start,” Ndutiye says.
He cites a church in Kigali, Adventist Church Nyamirambo, which recently initiated a fund to help young couples getting married as a way to encourage young people to have church weddings.
Annet Imbabazi, an entrepreneur, is of the view that if her partner wanted to start a family and had limited resources, she wouldn’t find it hard to go with the civil wedding only.
“I understand the essence of the church wedding but I would be fine having the civil wedding only, besides, it’s the one that is recognised by the law,” she says.
Pie Kombe, a massage therapist, says that the church wedding is not necessary, arguing that the state only recognises the introduction and the civil marriage.
He believes that God can bless a marriage from wherever and not necessarily from a church.
“God doesn’t require you to have a church wedding for Him to bless you. Have you ever heard of church marriages in the Bible? Church wedding is an extra expense that could leave you in debt,” he adds.
Nora Mutesi, a graduate, says that her dream as a young woman is to one day have a big white wedding, so telling her to skip that ceremony would be killing her dream.
“I would love to have a church wedding because, to me, that’s the ceremony. Going for the civil wedding wouldn’t bring the joy I would get from walking down the aisle towards my future husband to take our vows in the presence of God,” Mutesi says.
Simon Kalisa, a staunch Catholic, believes that without a church wedding it wouldn’t be a blessed marriage.
“In some countries actually it’s the most recognised kind of marriage only that in Rwanda it’s the civil marriage that’s recognised. Aside from that, having your creator witness your marriage is a blessed way to start off a marriage, especially if the couple is Christian,” he says.
Would you rather a traditional or religious wedding?
Looking at our cultural values, a traditional wedding is paramount, and any person who understands what those values stand for will prioritise a traditional wedding.
Both weddings are important, but when it comes to prioritising one over another, I personally think traditional weddings should take precedence.
Cyprien Nkundimana, businessman
I don’t see why I would prioritise one over another, traditional and church weddings are equally important, and in my opinion there is none that should be ignored.
I don’t think the society which came up with the arrangement centuries back was wrong. One compliments the other.
Elias Muneza, barista
We all know how a wedding can be costly depending on one’s taste and wishes, and this determines whether both events are possible.
However, I don’t see why a person would leave out any of them if they can afford it.
They all have a standing value.
From our culture and history, we are aware that usually, the traditional wedding is the responsibility of the bride’s home, while the groom’s family takes on the church wedding.
From my point of view, prioritising one would be giving one more value than the other, or relieving one family of their responsibility.
They are both necessary.
Alphonse Bizimana, farmer