post Big, Fat Ethiopian Weddings

June 1st, 2008

Filed under: Life Style — Lissan Magazine @ 15:35

Our big, fat Ethiopian weddings
By B.Mezgebu

The wife of a star athlete here had the city buzzing for a few days some years back. The highlight of the couple’s marriage ceremony was marked by and was intent on breaking country record in the length of the bride’s wedding dress. If that was the bride’s childhood dream and that, she had at last been able to realize her fantasy, then good for her. However, you could easily sense it that the news had left a great number of people wondering if matrimonial ceremonies had anything to do with breaking records.

photo: admassu m. k.

More and more such ceremonies in many urban cities, much more in Addis, of course, are becoming exotic, more expensive (make that prohibitively expensive), and devoid of any enduring theme; traditional or otherwise. Cocktails receptions, which cost less, are running out of style. Full-fledged dinner parties are increasingly the “in-thing” now. Cocktail parties are being shunted now because they might send the wrong signal against people’s financial solvency. So the current common wisdom is, if you have to marry and have the dough, even better, if you have plenty of it, flaunt it. And you begin doing that by first booking at the Sheraton and all other considerations be dammed, including plain, old modesty.

Wedding dinner parties at the Sheraton hotel are a unique experience in and of themselves, especially if it happens to be your first time at the place, even though repeat visitors won’t mind finding themselves there more often. You see yourself live on a huge screen( a first in your life) as well as other people you considered you had lost to emigration. The food is great (Michelin status), the dessert out of the world. The chinaware is fit for royalty. The service is five-star. Of course, it has to be that good because the couples that have to pay have do so through their noses. You can imagine the bill that comes at the end of a lavish meal for hundreds of people when routinely a cup of tea costs around 20 Birr.

It is O.k. if couples get a kick out of paying a couple of hundred thousands; after all, it might be once in a lifetime experience, hopefully. It is their money, besides. Nobody begrudges them any pleasure they can squeeze out of that. Nevertheless, at the end of the day, one has this strange feeling nagging you. Is all the pomp and ceremony truly essential?

The story is told about an Ethiopian residing in North America visiting here and who as it happened was invited to a wedding dinner party, where else but at the Sheraton. This person happened to be also an active member of a fund raising group for various Ethiopia cause in the host country. It is not impossible that the guy was positively impressed at the level of sophistication wedding parties here have reached. After all, not everyone in America have their weddings in five-star hotels. More tellingly, however, the guy was disgusted by the extravagance of it all. If Ethiopians can afford so much partying, why beg money abroad on their behalf?

Maybe it isn’t as simple as that. It could be that many of the lavish nuptials that one finds taking place at Sheraton or at the Hilton have the expenses paid from abroad. Most couples that come to the country to tie the knot do so at these places. That is fine as long as the comfort level for those people demands that weddings take place at top-notch hotels.

Times change. It is very different from the near past when you typical wedding celebration cost just a couple or so thousands and was a neighborhood affair. It is ironic that as our weddings are becoming more hybrid, second editions of both cultures, more of financial burdens, and even more stiflingly formal, when many far more affluent societies are going the opposite direction. In those countries, simpler marriage ceremonies are gaining popularity. Some of the marriage festivities have even social messages to transmit. One such category discussed by a news magazine recently was what it called “Green Weddings.” Such a weeding is premised on the belief that wedding ceremonies don’t have to be wasteful affairs: Invitations use a “tree-free” recycled stationary, incorporating dried flowers or bits of fabric. Flowers consist of less costly blooms from backyards. Venues are chosen based on their being convenient to most invitees. Food and drink is simple. Locally available and seasonal.


1 Comment »

  1. Great helpful information, Thanks for this nice post, just subscribed your feed, hope you will update new post soon.
    keep it up.


    Comment by Aaron Wall — 11. October 2009 @ 13:17

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