How to do a fabulous wedding on a small budget

Sage magazine shows you 5 ways to cut corners and still have your dream wedding.

Affluent Kenyans spare no expense in making their children’s nuptials a once in a lifetime affair (see separate story on wedding planners). One business mogul spent Ksh28 million on his son’s wedding. The event was held at the Windsor Golf Hotel and Country Club but what really drove up the cost was the traditional ceremonies held at the bride’s and groom’s homes, which were catered by Sarova Hotels.

At the traditional Itaara ceremony where the bride’s family visits the groom’s home to see where she will be living, everything was shipped in from Nairobi, including DJ, sound, flowers and there was even a bar where alcoholic drinks of every description were available to the guests, who comprised the crème de la crème of Kenyan society.

For us ordinary mortals who cannot afford such lavish spending, there are a few tricks you can employ to cut costs and still have a fabulous wedding.

1. Say Yes to the dress

Wedding gowns command ridiculous prices and when you know it’s only for one day, it can seem extravagant to spend so much on an item of clothing. Brides on a small budget usually hire a gown, but that is so 2006. You can get your dream gown at a bargain these days. The key is to start shopping early. Well known designers sometimes have clearance sales where they slash prices in order to create room for new stock. You can find US$1,000 gowns (Ksh100,000) retailing at half the price, USD$499 (Ksh50,000). Even locally, a bride can shop around for deals. One bride got a Ksh17,000 brand new wedding dress in 2013 from a dress shop at Jamia Mall in Nairobi, which was having a clearance sale on gowns.


Brides can also order cut-price dresses directly from factories in China and Turkey. A word of caution though; although there are reputable sellers, there are many scammers out to fleece brides. “It is best to travel there yourself so that you can see what you are buying because sometimes what retailers send is completely different from the pictures on their websites, with shoddy stitching and cheap fabric,” says Pat Njau, a designer based in Nairobi. “At the very least, get them to send you a sample so that you can confirm that the fabric they will use for the dress is what you want.”

An easier route may be to have a good local designer make a gown for you, she adds. “I work within the bride’s budget and make gowns from Ksh30,000,” says Pat. Before choosing a local designer, be sure to ask for samples of their work and talk to brides they’ve worked with before to ascertain that they can deliver. One reason so many brides prefer buying ready-made gowns is the fear of being let down by a designer who fails to finish the dress on time or where the gown is completely different from what the bride imagined.

2. Ditch the high priced caterer

Food usually consumes a huge chunk of the wedding budget. Some couples have opted to have different menus where the bridal team, parents and other VIPs eat the good stuff and the other guests have only beef and no chicken for instance. This is completely unnecessary. Instead of hiring a caterer and paying per head (and we all know gate crushers love weddings, meaning food runs out before everyone has eaten), it is more cost effective to buy all the food yourself, hire a chef to cook and only pay for labour. There are many professionals in the market who offer this service. They will even come with a team to help serve the food, their own utensils and a crew to clean up afterwards.


Pick a market day and visit the Limuru market for instance where you get the freshest greens at good prices. Crank it up a notch higher by having nyama choma. Purchase goats from Ukambani or Ngong and have the chef slaughter them and roast the meat. This way you can offer guests a 3-course menu with soup, main course and dessert plus a selection of meat (chicken, beef, goat, fish) without bursting your budget. It doesn’t matter how good the décor looks or how beautiful the bride, if people don’t find food at your wedding, that’s all they’ll talk about. Buy the food yourself and ensure everyone eats to their fill.

3. Buy flowers in bulk from Naivasha flower farms

A big trend in 2017 is less flowers, more greenery. A good way to bring greenery into your venue is to display plants or young trees in pots in church, around the poles in the tent and along the aisle leading to the gazebo where the cake is displayed. If you have an African theme, this can be brought out by using those decorated pots that are on display on the roadside on every major highway. Since, it’s a one-day event, ask if you can hire the pots instead of purchasing them so you don’t have to worry about what to do with them after the event. Do the same with the plants. There are tree nurseries along those same highways whose owners can probably let you borrow plants for a small fee.


If your heart is set on a flower wall à la Kim Kardashian, worry not, you can get flowers on the cheap by buying in bulk from the flower farms in Naivasha. Ask for the rejected ones. “These are actually really good flowers. They are only discarded because the European export market in Holland has such incredibly high standards and even the tiniest flaw is not allowed. Your average Kenyan guest won’t notice these flaws and you can get all the flowers you want at a reasonable cost,” says Jane Mubari, who has organised a few weddings.

Some farms shred these flowers. Others sell them at throwaway prices (Ksh5-10 per stem) to buyers at City Market who put a mark-up and sell the same flowers at Ksh30 per stem. “You can either go to the flower farm if you have a contact there, or go to City Market at 3-4am to catch the transporters who bring the flowers. Then all you have to do is pay someone to arrange them for you and labour isn’t expensive. You end up spending Ksh20,000 for flowers which a florist would have quoted at Ksh60,000-100,000,” says Jane.

Cut out the middleman and you can walk down an ankle-deep, petal-strewn aisle, have the biggest flower wall or arch this town has ever seen, that will have guests talking long after the event.

4. Wow guests with your motorcade

Forget the overpriced stretch limousine, horse carriage and vintage car, which charge you by the hour. Your bridal motorcade can make a statement by having several high end vehicles such as Mercedes, Range Rover, Land Rover Discovery, Prado and BMW, all the same model and colour. Think Bishop Mark Kariuki of Deliverance Church and his fleet of black Range Rovers on Thika Road, enroute to the photo shoot after the wedding ceremony at Kasarani Gymnasium in 2014. That was an awesome sight by any standards.


What if you don’t have friends with fuel guzzlers? No problem. Nairobi is littered with car yards selling all manner of vehicles. The dealers have discovered a new way to make some cash from their vehicles, which sometimes spend many weeks or months baking in the hot sun before getting a buyer. They hire out these vehicles for the day for bridal motorcades. Just bear in mind that other than the fuel and fee itself, you need to cater for the drivers because dealers are unlikely to entrust their vehicles to strangers. You get to make a statement on your wedding day and don’t have to worry about cousin Njoro getting drunk and blacking out, then rocking up at 3pm for a wedding that started at 11am, and yet he was supposed to ferry the bride.

5. Have a bar without breaking the bank

In years past, if someone threw a party and wanted cheap booze there were two places to get it: UN Duty Free and Afco (Armed Forces Canteen Organisation), which both required that you know someone on the inside. Things are much simpler these days. Enterprising Kenyans have started businesses where they deliver alcohol at wholesale prices, even just a single bottle. The business is so lucrative that East African Breweries Limited (EABL) now offers this service to its customers.


All you have to do is send them a list of drinks that you want served at your function and they come on the day and set up the bar for you. They give you the option of having your own people run the bar or their staff can do it, leaving you to enjoy your day. This is a good way to offer alcohol to your guests affordably. To further cut on costs, offer soft drinks, beer, a basic red and white wine free and for those guests with finer tastes, have a cash bar for whiskies and other spirits which cost more.

Grab your February copy of Sage magazine to read more fabulous articles. Available at Nakumatt and Chandarana supermarkets, selected convenience stores and newspaper vendors. A digital edition is available on Magzter.


This article is copyrighted. Readers are welcome to share this post but please attribute the source.


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