From the moment that the guy pops the question and the girl says yes, the journey to the altar for most couples is a roller coaster of emotions. From elation to anxiety with additional pressures like arranging the perfect day that will meet the expectations of both friends and family. With the average wedding now costing between 15-20 million UGX and near constant bombardment from the media of what a wedding might look like couples are under pressure from the word go. So what’s the key to smooth running and efficient wedding preparations? The wedding meetings. Getting these right will help smooth the path to a smooth event that meets everyone’s expectations.
What are wedding meetings and why do they matter? Wedding meetings are almost unique to east Africa and they are the main way to allow friends and family to help finance the nuptial celebrations and participate in the organizing of the wedding. However, it’s more than just about money – even millionaires will hold wedding meetings to help plan their spectacular wedding events – it’s also about enabling friends and colleagues who have supported the couple in their journeys toward matrimony to participate in the event itself. So what do you need to think about when planning the wedding meeting? A little pre-planning can go a long way…
Budget: While not entirely about money, funding the wedding is an important function of the wedding meeting – especially if there are a lot of expectations and therefore a lot of money to raise. You need to sit down with your partner and agree on exactly what is needed. Most couples these days create a spreadsheet to keep track of costs, pledges and progress. To get an idea of requirements and prices, ask friends and family members who have recently got married to see if they can share their spreadsheet with you. Make sure to be realistic about the wedding you want as well as what you can afford. Don’t forget to consider the financial position of friends and family who you hope will contribute.
Committees: Alongside a comprehensive and realistic budget, the wedding organizing committee is the key to a successful and (almost) stress-free planning process. The secret lies in the choice of the chairman and the various organizing committees. The groom is usually in charge of identifying the chairman and it is not a job to be undertaken lightly. It is an enormous honour and it can also be a significant responsibility for planning and executing the perfect day for a couple.A loyal and trusted friend who ideally is well-organized and a good leader will make a sound choice for chairman. As with budgeting, don’t be afraid to ask friends and family for their advice on forming the committees. Often lessons learned through others’ trial and error can be invaluable for ensuring that you don’t fall into the same traps.
Often, badly managed committees can significantly add to the already-immense wedding stress. When nominating/encouraging volunteers for sub-committees, get to know your participants well. Even though you think you know your friends, have you asked whether any of them manage projects at work? These guys with project management experience will make great sub-committee leaders. Did you know your P3 friend has a talent and passion for makeup when she’s not being an accountant by day? Tapping in to people’s strengths and passions will mean they feel valued for their expertise in the team and will most likely take their responsibilities on the committee more seriously.
Venue: There is hardly a hotel, restaurant, bar or Kafunda in Kampala that doesn’t offer facilities for wedding meetings. But what makes a good venue? First, you need to consider its location. Is it centrally located and easy for friends, colleagues and family to get to? Where will most of the attendees be coming from? These considerations will help you narrow down an area which is mutually convenient. Many couples opt for restaurants or hotels in the centre of town which is convenient for those working in town to reach after work, and which has good transport links.
Once you have chosen an area, visit some of the venues offering wedding meeting facilities. Look at them critically in terms of quality, space and aesthetics. For example, will the meeting room accommodate all of your expected participants, and is there ample car parking space for those who drive? Don’t forget to enquire whether they charge for the service, because this is an additional cost which will have to be budgeted for. Some of the larger hotels in town charge 50,000 UGX per meeting – ask whether this includes refreshments, or whether you have to provide them yourselves.
Timing and Frequency: The number and frequency of wedding meetings will depend entirely on the couple and their requirements. There is no prescription for the perfect number or form of meetings, so be prepared to be flexible and adapt to changing needs. For example, if you have been holding them weekly on Friday nights in Bugolobi and the participants are perpetually turning up late due to Friday jam, consider changing the venue, or making it later in the evening every two weeks to give people a chance to make it. Or, if you discover that your costs are likely to exceed the first estimates of the budget, either consider revising down your expectations, or change up the tactics that you’re using for fundraising to increase the pledges.
Be creative: Don’t save all of your creativity for the bridesmaids’ dresses or table pieces – get creative with the wedding meetings and planning too. Tap into social media to help promote and organise the wedding such as communicating wedding meetings through Facebook or Twitter rather than using airtime to send out texts. How about getting a friend who designs websites to pledge a web page for the big day with all the vital details such as logistical details and mobile money details for pledges? Indeed, how about moving the whole wedding meeting process online and have the sub-committees meet on Skype or Facebook? This saves time and money, and beats sitting in the Friday night jam!