Increasingly, young African couples are investing their first huge savings into weddings—instead of using this to step into the property market or start a business.
Those who are lucky to secure a job right after graduation are sometimes able to aggressively save. But because the lives of most people are defined by a lousy society’s blueprint which is structured in a way that what is next on person’s scale of preference after graduating from school is marriage—all the monies saved from initial employment are poured into weddings.
In Africa, marriage is not just a commitment between two parties—but importantly, it has become a showcase of opulence, whether the person has it or not. Therefore, a huge percentage, if not all, of the young couples’ savings go into this one day or two days’ ceremonies.
From my conversation with some recently married young couples, a traditional and a white wedding cost at least 30,000 GHS and those who want to become the talk of the community or town can spend as much as 100,000 GHS.
For young couples starting life, it usually takes them between a year and 3 years to raise the least amount needed for their marriage ceremonies. Throwing such an amount that takes years to raise into a ceremony—when a person can start a business or purchase a piece of land as an entry into the property market should become a concern to all of us.
Interestingly, decorations (décor) for weddings seem to swallow a huge proportion of the budget. A friend in Accra who runs a décor company for weddings told me that she charges “between 5,000 GHS and 12,000 GHS) for décor” and business is booming even in this COVID-19 era.
Wedding photography does not also come cheap. People go in for two or more photographers—one dedicated to video and others dedicated to still images.
A wedding photographer on Facebook told me he charges between 3,000 GHS and 5,000 GHS to cover 2 to 4 hours of a wedding—adding that, he is “one of the cheap people” in the industry.
Considering how difficult it is for anyone to save and the tough employment market in Africa, this trend of sowing your first savings in life into a marriage and not a property is worrying. It gets even terrifying if you look at those who borrow large amounts to have weddings–starting their life as a married couple in debt.
Over the weekend, I spoke to a few Ghanaian men who were also worried about this trend. They said they don’t mind the option of just signing at the registry or having a moderate tradition wedding which 2,000 GHS to 4,000 GHS can take care of. However, their female partners are obsessed with white weddings and they are mostly “compelled” to make this happen or forfeit their relationships.
Osei-Bonsu who is preparing to get married soon stated: “Chris, I do not have a land or anything at the moment and yet my girlfriend’s budget, which she says is the least for our traditional and white wedding is perched at 38,000 GHS).”
“Apart from this, we also have to raise some money again to pay for a year or two rent to enable us to live together as she lives at home and I live with my friend at the moment. I have no option. If I want to be with her then I have to use everything I have saved to make this happen. To be frank, I don’t even have that in savings. She is a nurse and about to start work but she has never really worked since completing school.”
While people seem to agree that it is not right to pour your first harvest into a wedding in a manner young African couples are doing, only a few are ready to depart from this norm—which has almost come to stay despite its financial crippling effect.
Easily, young couples could buy a piece of land with the same amount they spend on weddings and flip the same land in a year or two—for a 50% or more profit in Ghana. But this is not what most consider or need in their lives.
Marriage may be important but the cost associated with it does not really make it—mostly huge cost breaks it because of the subsequent financial pressures that the initial journey sets in motion for the marriage.