My name is Winnie and I would like to welcome you into my world of beautiful weddings here in Kenya. I must admit that I am so much fascinated by the various weddings here in Kenya, right from the engagement through to the wedding itself. Kenya is a very beautiful and unique country with over forty tribes, hence each wedding is unique as it reflects culture. I have had the privilege to witness and attend any of these weddings and would love to share the wonder and beauty of weddings here. Welcome and enjoy.
The Kikuyu are found in Kenya and live mainly around Mt.Kenya in the Central Province. They believe to be the descendants of Gikuyu (father) and Mumbi (Mother) whose origin was in Mukurwe wa Nyagathanga (meaning a certain tree-mukurwe, with a certain species of birds-nyagathanga). This is a place in Murang’a Central Kenya. The Kikuyu believe in one deity (Ngai mwene hinya) who they believe lived in the highest peak of Mt. Kirinyaga (today’s Mt.Kenya). They are traditionally farmers and good livestock keepers. Their products from the farm and animals were key in trade. Infact, dowry payment was counted in form of goats, sheep and cattle. The man with many daughters considered himself wealthy since each daughter’s dowry would propel him to a higher level in the society.
Today, dowry payment preceeds a wedding in Kikuyu. The dowry payment is in a series of events namely kumenya mucii(getting to know the bride’s home), kuhanda ithigi (literally means planting a branch of a tree), followed by the last, kuracia (actual dowry payment). This last process lasts a lifetime.
LETTING THE WORD OUT.
A guy first proposes to a lady and after she agrees to be married, a series of events follow.
The groom approaches his parents/guardians and informs them of his intention of marrying. The parents then enquire about the lady’s backround, e.g. clan from which she comes from, her community etc. This is to ensure that there is no crossmarriage between family members. Once they are satisfied with the information, the groom’s father/guardian informs the extended family and clan who then go ahead to convene a special committee of reputable village eldres. Their task is to organize and facilitate the dowry payment process and also the wedding. From this committee the groom’s father/guardian chooses a spokesman for the dowry and marriage negotiations. The spokesman must be self-controlled, wise and be able to rise to the occasion.
NB: The groom must have passed through the initiation stage (circumcision) and belong to a ‘rika’ or age group.
The bride also approaches her parents/guardian and informs them of her intention to get married. The parents/guardians then enquire about the groom’s family,clan and community. They then inform the extended family members, clan and community at large. Like the groom’s side, they also form a committee to facilitate the dowry payment process and also the wedding. The bride’s father and uncles have the sole responsibility to decide who joins this committee.
Who makes a reputable village elder.
There are certain qualifications that elders must meet in order to qualify to be in the committee of elders.
- The commitee elder should be of the same age group as the bride/groom’s father.
- He should have married and have children with a good reputation and standing in the commmunity.
- Be a member of the ‘kiama’ of the community. This is achieved by presenting ‘mburi’ (goats) for the leaders and other members.
FIRST VISIT- ‘Kumenya mucii’ (Getting to know the bride’s home)
Once both sides are organised and ready, the groom’s side first take a gift of two fattened rams to the bride’s home as an indication that the bride is about to get married. The number can vary depending on culture. Later on, the groom’s side communicate their intention to visit the bride’s home. This is communicated by the groom to the bride.
The groom’s side cater for all expenses arising from the food and drinks to be consumed on that particular day. They come with gifts in form of cash and also in kind and give to the bride’s family. After eating, the two families get to know each other. The bride then informs the group about the nature of the visit – to get married. The groom likewise states his intentions of marrying the said bride. After this both sides agree on the next stage of dowry payment which is ‘kuhanda ithigi’.
On the day of dowry payment, the groom’s side visit the bride’s home. After eating, they settle down to business. First, they go through the process known as ‘kuunirwo miti’, that is, what they are supposed to bring as dowry payment for the bride. A bride’s dowry is determined by the amount of dowry that her father paid for her mother. The groom then starts by ‘kuhanda ithigi’ which literally means planting a branch of a tree which symbolizes that the lady has been booked officially by the groom.
After this, the groom goes ahead to start the dowrypayment process. Since dowry payment lasts a lifetime, he is thus required to pay a certain amount before being allowed to marry the bride. The rest of the dowry is paid after the two have married. The dowry payment is also determined by the state of the bride. If she is a virgin, then the above applies. If she is pregnant, the process is hurried so that the child can be born in a stable home/family.
Dowry or bride price constitutes the following:
Athuri (items for men)
- Goima (fattened ram)
- Thenge (he goat)
- Ng’ondu (sheep)
- Mori (heifer)
- Mburi cia mirongo (goats – these are counted in tens)
- Njohi ya uuki (beer made from honey)
- Maaha-indo cia muthuri(assorted items for bride’s father)
- Itangi ria mai (water tank)
Atumia (Items for women)
- Nyungu (pot)
- Ciihuri (calabashes)
- Ithanwa (axe)
- Mukwa (new rope)
- Nguo cia atumia (womenwear)
- Njohi ya atumia (beer for women-now sodas)
- Ushuru wa mukio (fermented porridge)
The quantity for each of the items varies with the clans and communities and also regions.
When all of the dowry has been paid, the bride cannot return to her home under any circumstances. This is called ‘ngurario’ or ‘gutinia kiande'(cutting of one of the front limbs of a fattened ram). Here the husband cuts of one of the front limbs of a fattened ram(gutinia kiande) that has already been roasted and gives it to his wife as a sign that she now belongs to him completely. This part contains only one joint and it signifies the permanence of the union between the husband and wife. It is considered as a seal over the wife. Both of them now cannot be separated except through death of one partner. It is also very tender and signifies the love and tenderness that both husband and wife have for each other. In addition, the ‘kiande’ represents the importance of the human hand which does all the work as compared to any other part of the body e.g cooking, fetching water, washing etc. After this event the wife now becomes like a son to her marital home.
During this ceremony, there are other parts of the roasted fattened ram that are given to all who attend the ceremony. The following parts are given to women:
- Ngerima(true stomach)
- Mara (small intestines)
- honge (pelvic bone)
- mbaru/ikengeto (ribs)
- matu (ears) (given to single women so that they can understand instruction)