Weddings in Arusha over time have emerged into a fashion trend. It would be nice if it was the couples own money but most times friends, relatives and colleagues at the workplace chip in handsomely.
As the couples stage the wedding in public, businesses flourish in the process. Tailors, garment stores and beauty parlours and more all ready to serve cupid inspired customers. The battalions of maids, groomsmen and of course relatives who want to dress up for the occasion. There is even a new line of business in town specialising in hiring out wedding gowns and suits to couples. Not forgetting flowers, decorators, caterers, halls and cars for hire, choirs and trumpeters.
In a bid to change the trend and make life easier for the wedding couple, Ms Rosemary Ndesokia, the Managing Director of Arusha Mambo, an organisation dealing with a number of media related activities in Arusha City is coming up with something special. "We are organising the first mass wedding occasion, intending to start with 25 couples who will tie the knot in unison and we are beginning to register them from today, March 19," she said.
Ms Ndesokia is concerned that weddings in Arusha are expensive and the mass weddings her organisation is planning should be able to spread the expenditure amongst the several couples who will be tying the knot together thus cutting costs. Members of mainstream Christian denominations are currently observing the 40-day period of Lent, which means all church-based wedding ceremonies are suspended until the week after Easter.
But Arusha Mambo is already making initial preparations once the wedding boom returns after Lent. The organisation wants to revolutionise weddings here. Arusha records up to 50 large-scale nuptial ceremonies each week. The cheapest wedding that includes the minimum fuss so far costs 7 million/- but many couples go overboard and throw lavish parties costing up to 40 million/- and still counting.
Usually it is the Christian weddings which are expensive fanfares while their Muslim counterparts take on a more or less rational approach to tying the knot though of late, some of them have also joined the fray. Mind you Arusha hosts wedding ceremonies even for non-residents; people from as far as Dar es Salaam, Kilimanjaro and even Mwanza, who have discovered that, if your wedding fete is to make a splash, throw the banquet in Arusha.
The other advantage of doing it in Arusha is the fact that the weather here is relatively cooler than places like Dar-es-Salaam, which means the brides' make up stays intact throughout the day and night. Do not be fooled by the bling that comes with these grand weddings. According to a study conducted by the Union of Christian Denominations (Umoja wa Madhehebu) in Arusha, it is sadly noted that only two out of every ten marriages survive after the honeymoon is over and reality hits the couple.
The research also discovered that many couples rush into marriages as a result of the 'showbiz' at the wedding. Other eligible bachelors after calculating that the cost of getting a bride to the altar is rather high as the damsel and interfering relatives want nothing less than a horn blaring convoy and flashy car affair, to say the least.
With a little innovation, Ms Ndesokia and company want to introduce the new concept of mass weddings, stating that with just 3 million/-, a couple will have it all, church service, party and honeymoon in Zanzibar, air travel covered. "The maiden mass weddings will start with 25 couples, but later the number will increase to 40 as time goes on," she said, explaining that venues will also be changing with each occasion and soon the weddings will be taking place inside stadiums.
And clergy man will conduct the multi-couple nuptials and the person will be proposed by the local Christendom Unions. For the Muslims, an Imam will be acquired from the Tanzania Muslim Council (BAKWATA). On a brighter side, the mass weddings will help build confidence of the grooms to be who normally grow cold feet at the thought of saying "I do," at the altar as hundreds of eyes stare at the bride and him.
Rather spectacular; Arusha has always played the role of tourism destination, catering for wildlife safaris, conference tourism and cultural visits; it seems like a new form of tourism is in the making.