Eloping - The Modern Redirection of Funds

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It is tradition in many African cultures for the groom to pay Lobola, or the “bride price” to the prospective bride’s father as a payment for the bride’s hand in marriage. Though it might seem sketchy from an outsider’s perspective for a modern man to buy his bride, with a herd of cows no less, it is an age-old show of respect and was initially put in place to test the groom’s ability to support a family; a test that would solve a great deal if still correctly enforced today.

eloping

It’s a nice idea. Put yourself in the shoes of a young prospective groom, however, and the task of coming up with the equivalent of a herd of cows to buy your bride seems rather daunting. With cows costing roughly eight grand a pop it’s no wonder that many young lovers have resorted to the romantic notion of eloping.

Eloping is usually associated with grand romantic tragedies, the likes of Romeo and Juliet fleeing from their rivaling families to be together, and running off to be secretly wed in the woods.

That version of eloping certainly still exists, but in general the notion has taken on a whole new practical angle. From the perspective of the young couple facing the Lobola fee, where a house down payment would be rather more useful, eloping becomes a purely economic decision.  

In more western wedding tradition the economic demands are fairly daunting even without the bride price. The average decent wedding venue costs around eighty thousand minimum. Add the twenty grand you’d use to hire a photographer for a day and buy the gown you’ll only (hopefully) wear once and already the price of your wedding is up to a hundred thousand rand; the amount that might be used to purchase a brand new car.

It’s no wonder that, when added to the stress of planning a big wedding, many couples opt for running away to get married in Vegas, no fuss. It’s a practical decision, one that might be very attractive to couples who don’t picture throwing a big wedding, particularly second time brides and grooms. Of course there are major advantages to having a small wedding that reach beyond the economic factors; no family politics, no stress, and the bonus of possibly already being in your honeymoon destination to name a few.

There are just two serious considerations I can offer to couples who do wish to opt for elopement:

Consider your family; weddings are an opportunity for two joining families to become acquainted with each other, and even more importantly they allow the family to watch you take a very important step. Even the most terrible parent softens when it comes to the thought of watching their child get married. Don’t deprive them of this, and don’t underestimate the disappointment some family members might feel at finding out that you married in secret.

Even if you opt for a small, private wedding, there are ways to involve your family. Remember that elopement does not have to mean just the two of you and a stranger to bear witness; it can mean a group of close relatives and friends to share in a small ceremony. Having a wedding far way will ensure that your wedding consists of only people who really want to be there and not people looking for a free meal.

Leave no room for regret; be sure that this is the route for you, and that no part of you longs for a big wedding. It would be shame to take this giant step only to look back and wish it had been different. If running off to marry your love in Vegas is the wedding you have always dreamt of, then don’t think twice. Make sure that what you choose it is what you really want, not what is easy or what your partner wants of you.

With weddings being such a booming business it is easy to get lost in all the frills and politics, and sometimes we wonder what the point even is of getting married. Elopement is a spectacular way of sending us reeling back to basics.

Weddings are not about who can spend the most, who can throw the best party or who holds the most important position in a family. They are about making an eternal commitment to the person you love and wish to share your life with, and when you leave all the excess behind it is easy to remember this. It might be that you don’t end up running off to Mauritius, and decide on a wedding at home; just keep your inner Romeo or Juliet close to your heart, and remember that in the end it is all about love.

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