Let weddings be private events

One Saturday morning, as I was driving through the Blantyre city centre, I was suddenly caught up in slow moving traffic and was, therefore, only able to make slow progress through the streets of the business district. The cause of the traffic build up was a wedding. Some couple had just tied the knot and decided to turn their wedding into a public function.

A slow moving convoy snaked through the streets of Blantyre, with many of the vehicles flashing hazard signals. The newly-weds could be seen standing in a topless vehicle and waving to the people they hardly knew.

I have seen people doing all manner of funny things in their excitement as they celebrate weddings. Some drive in a zigzag manner on public roads, as if they owned those roads. I have also seen young people sticking out of moving vehicles through windows to show off their excitement.

There is no denying that a wedding is a memorable event to those getting married. They spend months on end to prepare for this grand day. Huge sums of money, which the couples can ill afford in most cases, are spent on things like dressing and decorations. Every effort is taken to make sure the day will be a great one. In the majority of cases, people go through a wedding only once in their life and they, therefore, feel justified to do everything possible to make it a memorable one.

Be that as it may, one’s wedding remains a private event not a public one. The only exception is when one (or both) of the persons getting married is a public figure. The wedding of Prince Charles to Diana Spencer in 1981, for example, caught the attention of all of the United Kingdom, nay of the entire world because Charles was a public figure, heir to the British monarchy. Those who had the privilege of watching television witnessed every part of that royal wedding. Newspapers throughout the world featured it. Heads of State travelled to England to attend what probably was the wedding of the decade, by any standards.

I can understand the wedding of Price Charles slowing down or halting traffic in London. Events involving public figures become public events. But then public figures get harassed all the time. Even when they do not need reporters, they will be hounded by them. They go to great lengths to try and avoid media attention.

If the media learnt today that Madonna would be arriving on a particular day and that she would be lodging at a particular facility, reporters would spend days there waiting for her arrival. That is the price one has to pay for being a public figure.

If you do not attract that kind of attention, chances are that you are not a public figure and should you decide to get married, keep your wedding a private one. Do not slow down traffic or inconvenience the public in any other way during your wedding. Yes it is a great day for you, but that does not warrant it to be a public event. You will be justified to enjoy your day to the full, but keep your enjoyment to yourself and your circle of friends and relatives. It should not spill over to the public.

What ought to be even more private than a wedding is an engagement ceremony, locally know as chinkhoswe. I have written before on the subject of chinkhoswe, expressing my worry at the twist it has, over the years, taken to become something more public than private.  These days an engagement ceremony is like a wedding, part B, with just about everything that would take place at a wedding ceremony happening during the chinkhoswe ceremony: loud music, many rounds of coerced giving (perekani perekani), among others. People almost compete to see who “will pack in” greater crowds than another at their chinkhoswe.

As a result, chinkhoswe has lost its meaning, which is to let the two families get to know each other.  It needs to be re-engineered back to its original format, which was simply a meeting of two families, not the entire community.

If you are planning your wedding or chinkhoswe or that of a close relative or friend, I would urge you to search within yourself and be convinced that you will refrain from attempting to make the wedding or chinkhoswe a public function.

You will do yourself and others great injustice if you turn a private event into a public one, unless you are a public figure and are prepared to take the full weight of all the hounding that public figures get.

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