The preference for “white” weddings by many Kenyan couples, as opposed to indigenous ones, has seen the country’s wedding industry grow into a multi-billion- dollar industry. From a fledgling industry dominated by a few players, mainly foreigners about a decade ago, the sector has significantly grown, following into the footsteps of those in Europe and America.

The fast growing industry is providing business opportunities to hundreds of wedding planners, florists, caterers, high-end vehicle car higher companies, photographers, tents and decor specialists, hotels, venue owners, music bands and beauticians, all who have a variety of special wedding packages to cater for couples needs. With December being the peak wedding season in the country, industry players are making millions of dollars as couples rush to wed before Christmas day.

“Business is big. Today, we are delivering cakes to about seven weddings, some outside Nairobi,” Grace Njeri, a cake specialist, told Xinhua. Her business, in an upper middle-class estate in Nairobi, is barely a-year-old. But that Njeri is experiencing brisk business is an indication of increased demand for wedding services. “I started the business nine months ago. It has been growing steadily. Most of my clients are couples planning for their weddings, but we also bake cakes for birthdays, graduations, wedding anniversaries and other events,” she said.

She sells cakes between Ksh. 10,000 (111 U.S. dollars) and Ksh. 35,000 (388 U.S. dollars). “The price varies greatly to enable customers have a wide variety of choice. We do not want to make high or low-priced cakes to disadvantage our customers,” she noted. On this particular Saturday, Njeri supplied a cake worth Ksh. 30,000 (333 dollars) at a wedding on a ground on Ngong Road, Nairobi. “The couple visited my shop. I discussed with them the kind of cake they wanted and their budget. We then settled on the cake, which they have seen and liked,” she said.

She observed that cakes are important in weddings because they signify couple’s first meal. “You cannot have a wedding without a cake. This is because it is the only meal the newly-weds share with their parents and other guests at their wedding,” she said. During the wedding peak season, which runs from August to December, Njeri said she has been making at least ten cakes a week for weddings. “The business is well-paying and I believe we are going to experience significant growth in the coming years as preference for modern weddings surges,” she said.

Joel Ochola, a photographer with Top Form Studios said demand for their services is high this December. “We are solidly booked till end of December. Each Saturday we cover three weddings, sometimes four, this is besides the ones we go during weekdays,” she said. Increased demand for their services saw the company increase their charges in August. “Initially, we used to charge between Ksh. 35,000(388 dollars) and Ksh. 60,000 (611 dollars) depending on the package a couple selected. But because of rising costs and a surge in demand, the minimum we charge now is Ksh. 45,000 (500 dollars),” he said.

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In each wedding, according to Ochola, the company sends at least four crew members, two handling still photos and two video cameras. “The company adopted this format because people want quality work. In the past, two people could cover a wedding, but this is no longer possible. Couples want excellent work and as service providers, we must provide that, if we are to stay in this fast- growing and fast changing business,” he said. Beatrice Nzeli, a wedding planner in Nairobi says it costs around Ksh. 396,000 (4,400 dollars) for a couple to have a wedding of about 250 guests.

“The cost has increased from the previous Ksh. 300,000 (3,333 dollars) because of rise in prices of basic commodities, which has seen wedding budgets increase,” she said. The Ksh. 396,000 (4,400 dollars), according to the planner is for a “standard” wedding in Nairobi. “This money is able to cater for expenses for the entire wedding ranging from the bride’s wedding gown, which will go for Ksh. 35,000 (388 dollars) and pay for service providers,” she said.

They include music band, which costs Ksh. 40,500 (450 dollars), MC Ksh. 8,000 (88 dollars), tents and decor providers, who charge about Ksh.117,000 (1,300 dollars) for 250 chairs, photography and video work at about Ksh. 36,000 (400 dollars) and Ksh. 90,000 (1,000 dollars) for food and drinks, among others. But these are just estimates for conservative spenders since some couples spend as much as Ksh. 3.4 million (38,888 dollars).

In such weddings, most of the things are imported from Europe or United Arab Emirates. As costs rise, however, couples are reducing on their spending, especially cutting down on the number of invited guests. “Most people now prefer an average of 150 to 250 people compared to over 500 some years back,” said Nzeli. And to reflect growth and sophistication of the wedding industry in Kenya, couples now use the internet to plan their weddings.

One such a website is Waridikenya.com, which is an online wedding planning resource and vendor directory. On the site, couples can get a variety of wedding service providers, which they can choose from and make enquiries depending on their budgets. (Xinhua)

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