Why “Chinese wedding” became the talk of town


When Raymond Jumah and Peris Wanjiku decided to marry, they agreed on one thing: theirs would be a wedding to remember.

 The couple, like many others do, wanted a wedding ceremony that would stir unforgettable memories among friends and families. They considered several options – a Western wedding, an Indian or just African one in which they would blend their different cultures. Raymond is Luhya while Peris comes from the Gikuyu community. Both communities are Bantus, but have different traditions and cultures, especially when it comes to marriage.

“We thought Western, Indian and African- themed weddings had become too common for the desired effect we wanted to impart on ourselves and our guests on the most important day of our lives,” says Raymond.

As they reflected on other wedding themes, Raymond says his partner pleasantly surprised him one day with a suggestion that they go for a Chinesethemed wedding. “I was excited! I thought it was an amazing idea. I am not known to doing what most people do because I always want to set trends. I thought, why not do with a Chinese-style wedding?” he says.

Raymond bought into the idea of the unique theme. “We have always admired the Chinese way of dressing. This was simply another reason to embrace the idea,” he says. The couple then embarked on executing the gold and purple Chinese-themed concept, and informed their parents and friends who, although surprised, supported their choice and looked forward to the wedding.


Chinese Wedding of the Year

And on May 12 last year, Raymond and Peris walked down the aisle at Presbyterian Church of East Africa (PCEA) in Kayole in a wedding that friends and admirers on social media would later dub “The Chinese Wedding of the Year”. The lovebirds were resplendent in their attire, with the groom donning a black Mao suit and his bride an immaculate snow-white gown.

Their bridal party stood out in their Chinese-style outfits. The maids were dressed in gold-coloured dresses and purple shoes while the groomsmen wore purple linen shirts and black trousers.

“Our outfits were designed and tailored by different design houses in Nairobi. We chose different people based on their expertise as we wanted our wedding to stand out. My gown was designed and tailored by someone different and so were the maids’, the groomsmen’s outfits and groom’s suit and that of his best man,” says Peris.

On the grooms’ outfits, Raymond had their names stitched in Chinese, which further enhanced their theme. “It was my idea to brand the groomsmen’s shirts with any favorable Chinese characters or symbols. I chose their first names and got them translated by a Chinese friend,” he said.

While their wedding had a Chinese theme, they went through the normal wedding procedures that included a church service and reception. They had a twohour church service at the PCEA Kayole followed by a reception at the PCEA St Andrew’s Church on University Way still in Naiorobi. They then hosted guests to an evening party at a restaurant in Upper Hill. “The wedding was breathtakingly awesome,” says Raymond.


Introduced our parents

Before the wedding, the couple had followed their respective communities’ traditions, including payment of bride price. “We only borrowed the Chinese fashion and decor options for our wedding, but strictly went by our different customs and traditions. We introduced our parents and family members to each other and went for dowry negotiations, which we later paid and presented other gifts as well. We made various visits to each family’s residence,” says Raymond.

“This did not pose any challenges to us. We ensured we demystified and fused our individual cultures through interaction of close family members,” he says.

Interestingly, the couple, despite doing an elaborate Chinese-themed wedding, did not hire any Chinese specialist to help in planning and executing the event. “We did all the planning ourselves, with some assistance from family and friends,” says Peris.


Made wedding affordable

The couple says each wedding is different and lovers should choose the theme they want for their occasion and match it with their budget. “No matter the theme or concept, a couple can match their dream with their budget. We did it effectively and made our wedding affordable despite venturing into what had not been done before,” says Peris.

Neither Raymond nor Peris has ever been to China, while none of them speaks Chinese. “We can actually say “Ni Hao!” or “Hallo!” but we do not speak Chinese and we have never been to China, though we plan to go there one day,” says Peris.

Besides their love for Chinese attire, the couple also admires Chinese food, culinary skills and discipline.


Worth emulating

“Their food, cooking skills, fashion and discipline are worth emulating. We also admire their time-management culture, which they are very strict about. We embraced it in our wedding and it helped us have things go on as scheduled and stagea successful and unforgettable event.”

So, would Raymond and Peris, now happily married and living in Nairobi, recommend to their friends to look East when planning their weddings? “Yes,” says Raymond with finality. “We learned a lot and we believe a Chinese-themed wedding is unique.”

A friend of his who was inspired by the couple’s wedding has decided to go for a Chinese-themed wedding next year, he says. (Additional reporting by Stephen Mburu)