Like in many cultures especially in Africa, marriage is a very important institution in Kenya. In fact, you can only be considered a true man when you marry and establish a home. In many African cultures, an unmarried man is not allowed to sit or eat with elders and participate in numerous community functions.
One of the most important practices in Kenya and indeed in most of Africa is the custom of paying bride price to the family of the wife to be. A couple in love cannot just take off, get married and establish a home. There are detailed steps and procedures that are followed before a couple can marry.
When a young man finds a girl that he fancies and he desires to make her his wife, he has to declare his intentions to the family of the girl. In some Kenyan cultures like the Masai culture, this is done by the man planting a spear outside the home of the young girl.
After this, the young man gathers a number of his friends for a casual visit to the family of the girl. In this visit, nothing serious is discussed but the man makes his intentions clear from the word go. Of course you can never show up for any visit empty handed. He must carry gifts for the family to show his appreciation. This usually includes every day household items like groceries, money and some specific gifts for the parents and immediate family.
Another visit is arranged where the young man comes along with his family member and elders from his clan. This is a crucial visit where the actual bride price is discussed. The young couple is usually not allowed to attend the negotiations. If the two families agree, bride price is set. Usually, bride price is in form of cows and goats. This is then translated into money and the family is required to make a reasonable down payment.
At this point, if the parties agree, a wedding is granted and the young couple can either move in together or hold a wedding ceremony in the church or at the Attorney General’s chambers. In most Kenyan cultures, bride price does not come to an end. The man is expected to show appreciation to the family of the bride for the rest of his life by supporting them financially even after clearing the stated bride price.
Many Kenyans are greatly influenced by western culture and are dropping their cultural practices. Still, many cultures are holding strongly to their practices. The cultural practice of paying bride price in Kenya is expected to continue for a long time.
Written by: Imani