BY SONI KANAKE
It was Wednesday, three days to one of the biggest wedding in Kenya. The countdown to Holidah Omoso’s wedding had begun. Like every young bride, she was over the moon as she eagerly waited for June 21, 2008, the day she was to walk down the aisle. Holie, as her friends call her, is meticulous and a master planner and had ensured every detail was catered for. Nothing was left to chance.
Wedding in Kenya: the preparations
Her family, friends and church were excited for her. She had served diligently in church and Bishop Allan Kiuna, who ministered at Jubilee Christian Church, where she attended, had celebrated her and had given her his blessing. What could possibly go wrong? The wedding cards had been sent out. The service providers had been paid. The bridal team was ready.
In anticipation, Holie and her fiancée, George, had already rented a one-bedroomed house in South B where they would move into after their wedding in Kenya. The couple had moved their stuff to their new house, a clear indication they indeed were ready for a life together. “I was meeting someone in church then the plan was to go to the salon. I would then spend the night at my mum’s,” explains Holie. She had taken leave from work and had done most of what was required from her and could not understand why George hadn’t finished his part.
Rings for a wedding in Kenya. Photo / File.
“As a result, we had quarreled all day. I am a perfectionist and needed things done ‘now’,” Holie confesses. “We had also quarreled on Monday and I noticed George looked a bit withdrawn. He could barely concentrate on the road and we’d had three minor accidents on that fateful Wednesday,” she recalls. George picked up his fiancée from church and offered to buy her lunch.
“I was annoyed that he had taken so long to come and pick me and gave him a tongue lashing,” says Holie. “Incidentally, George was calm and did not argue back, giving me the impression that he had moved on from our constant fights and was ready for Saturday,” says Holie. He, however, asked one of his friends, David to accompany us to town, she says.
“When we got to town, George asked David to take the wheel and drop me in South B saying he would be joining us shortly as he had something to do in church. Knowing that my man was full of surprises, this sudden turn of events didn’t startle me. As he left, George whispered to me, ‘I love you so much. Why do you keep talking to me like this? You have really been offending me.’
Accesories for a wedding in Kenya. Photo / File.
“When we got to South B, the first thing I noticed was that George’s framed photos were missing from the wall,” says Holie. “I ran to the bedroom where everything appeared neat and tidy. I looked around quickly and noticed his suitcases were missing too,” explains Holie. She panicked but nothing could have prepared her for what lay ahead. Then she spotted a note on the bed and with shaking hands, she unfolded it, “I cannot live with you. Call your friends and tell them the wedding is off.”
“No wonder he had taken so long to come and pick me up from church. He had come back to the house and moved out his stuff,” she says. “I called George but his phone was switched off,” narrates Holie, who confesses that she had already panicked by then. “I called my best couple but neither of them picked up. David said he had no idea George was going to do that and he begged to leave. I then called Reverend Kathy Kiuna, who advised me to call my best friend, as she did not want me to be alone. They came for me and we headed to their residence in Kileleshwa,” Holie narrates.
“That night, I did not sleep a wink and kept dialing and redialing George’s number,” she says. I lay on the floor crying the entire night. All manner of questions went through my mind… What would I tell my friends? My enemies would have a field day!” “Needless to say, George was ‘mteja’ the entire night and then all day the following day,” says Holie. Meanwhile, Holie’s mum was sick with worry, wondering why her daughter hadn’t gone home and hadn’t called either.
On Friday, Holie decided to call and explain to her mum what had happened seeing as they were expecting her in-laws to deliver the traditional ‘sodas’ before the wedding. However, her mother decided she was not going to tell anyone. The embarrassment was too much for her to bear. How would she start calling her relatives and villagers to tell them that her daughter’s wedding had been called off? On the other hand, Holie had come to terms with the fact that there was going to be no wedding without a groom and decided to reach out to as many people as she could and inform them of the cancellation. Saturday came; the day she was to be dressed like a princess ready for her prince, a day every little girl dreams of. Sadly, this particular day was not business as usual. It was to be the happiest day in her life.
Wedding in Kenya: overwhelmed by emotions
At 11am when the wedding had been scheduled to start, Holie was suddenly overwhelmed by emotion. “I had been crying since Wednesday night but on that morning, I cried an ocean,” she opens up. “I was receiving international calls from people I never imagined even had my number. Surely, bad news travels fast,” she says. But not fast enough as people showed up at her parents’ home in Kabete waiting for the buses to ferry them to the wedding venue. In addition, about 500 people showed up at the wedding venue.
Wedding in Kenya: the spending
“We had already spent about Sh300,000 for our wedding. Most of these monies were not refundable as they had been used up. And now, there was not going to be a wedding,” Holie narrates. “It was very painful for me. Nothing or no one could comfort me. I was an emotional wreck,” she says. At this point, she took it up with God. Why her? “I had not seen this coming and was devastated,” she says. All along she had felt an inner peace about her relationship and was sure it was ordained of God. “My mind started flashing back to a conversation I had had with George. Before his mum passed on, she had told him not to marry a Kikuyu,” remembers Holie.
Shortly before the wedding in Kenya day, an elderly man George respected had also warned him about marrying women from Kiambu, where Holie comes from. Was her fate sealed? Had this man just reaffirmed George’s worst fears? Ironically, earlier in the day, George had called his friend David to find out how Holie was faring. Two months after the cancelled wedding, George sneaked back to the city.
The first person he called was Holie’s mother. The two had a cordial mother-son relationship and she had assured him that he could always count on her as his mother. “My mother is a gracious woman and she asked him to go home so that they could talk. Meanwhile, I had resumed work and chosen to believe there was a reason for all that was happening. A fruitful meeting with my mum gave George the courage to call me and we met,” Holie narrates.
Despite protests from Bishop Kiuna and a number of friends who thought she had been gravely erred, George and Holie continued to see each other behind their backs. “He said he knew I was the right woman for him but he wanted me to change before we got married,” Holie says. George was both a wanted and unwanted man. He had a lot of mending fences to do, which he pursued relentlessly. On the other hand, many people did not want to be associated with him. He left church and joined a different one as he had been rejected by everyone.
Holie, however, was more receptive. She told George that if their marriage was meant to be, she would forgive him and accept him back. Meanwhile, the couple was working on their differences. Looking back, Holie admits to not having had a good relationship with her dad who drank a lot and had been abusive to her mother. She believes she was suffering from an emotional disorder. “I was driven by the fear that this calm man would turn out like my dad,” she says adding that this fear affected her attitude towards George; she was always afraid that George too would turn out like him and abscond his duties.
She advises women to heal from any father wounds they have so as to be able to embrace a husband without making him pay for their father’s sins. Eventually, things got better between them and George wanted to marry Holie again. The Bishop was still upset with him for not resolving the issue differently.
One day, George decided to face him and walked into his office without an appointment. Fortunately, he was received back and they reconciled. Bishop Kiuna asked them to take some time to allow their hearts to be healed. Two years after the first wedding failed, the couple walked down the aisle in June 2010. Their first year, like most marriages was challenging as the couple was settling in.
Wedding in Kenya: we are happy
“However, today we are happy. We have worked on most of our issues… apart from time. I am a stickler to time while George isn’t too keen it,” Holie says adding that she appreciates that she and George are different and they are learning to compromise and accommodate each other. “Women have to learn how to control their emotions,” advises Holie. “When we throw tantrums, men take it as rebellion and do not understand that language. This chases men away,” she says. “Make sure you are psychologically stable before marriage. Painful words linger on but remember that silence cannot be misquoted,” says Holie.
Today George is the Senior Pastor at JCC Kitengela and Holie preaches alongside her husband, besides her 8-5 job. They have two daughters, Nikita, who is 5 years old and Shinita who is 4. “The best relationship or marriage is where you are allowed by your partner to be you,” says George Omoso, Holie’s husband. He says he still loved Holie when he cancelled their wedding, but wanted them to resolve their persistent differences before they tied the knot. “Marriage is a lifetime commitment,” says George. “When there are some disagreements, these are just pointers to the future,” he says.
George admits he knew the consequences of cancelling the wedding but says it was the best thing at that time since they had tried to resolve their issues in vain. He said they had tried counselling from their pastors but the fights persisted. But what would make a man attend pre-marital classes, pay dowry to his in-laws, plan to marry his sweetheart only to change his mind at the last minute?
Wedding in Kenya: the fighting
“My wife is a strong-willed, independent woman who would not take ‘no’ for an answer. Most times, it was either her way or the highway,” confesses George. “When a man comes into a woman’s life, there has to be a visible and tangible change,” he says. “Allow me to be the man in the relationship. Let me take your car to the garage. Let her be her and let’s build this thing together,” says George.
“We fought about almost everything: ‘Oh, you are supposed to do this’ or ‘you did not do this.’ Holie was very vocal. Both of us were up there and we could not agree to disagree. It got to a point where I asked myself if we were in this to fight or to love? We could not resolve our issues and neither one of us wanted to lose. I made up my mind that if I was to retain my sanity, I would rather lose when outside,” George says.
“I believe marriage is meant to last forever and I did not want to get into something I had already lost confidence in. At this point, it was between my fiancée and I. I did not care what the world thought about my decision. I needed to disappear for me to have peace of mind. We had discussed her attitude for a while and I had mentioned it several times before,” George continues.
Wedding in Kenya: the lessons
“To be honest, they weren’t really big things, but they were unbearable,” he says. “In a relationship, I have realised that it’s not those big things that bring down a relationship. A small hole sinks a big ship. But the truth is that when you ignore things and let them remain unresolved or trivialise your partner’s input, it can only get worse,” says George.
“In hindsight, calling off our wedding was the best thing I did. I wasn’t cancelling the relationship since I was convinced Holie was the woman meant for me. However, it helped as she was able to see what wasn’t working for me. We were able to work on our issues and mend our relationship. This gave me the confidence that I needed and was ready for it again,” confesses George. “Today we are in a beautiful place. We have been able to learn one another. Yes, there are issues like any normal couple but nothing major,” he says.
Wedding in Kenya: before you say I do
“Before getting married, be very sure,” advises George. “Be confident that you will get to the end of the journey. You must be a couple that is ready to agree to disagree. Remember you cannot agree all the time. Disagree amicably,” he says. “Marriage is about friendship,” says George. “Learn how to jell with your partner. You both have different temperaments and understand things differently. Don’t allow these things to come between your love for each other. Marriage is a beautiful thing. It is about two people coming together to make a life together.”
Wedding in Kenya: the marriage
“We have been married for about seven years now and the disagreements are now behind us,” says George. “Holidah is not afraid that I will disappear on her since we were able to resolve our issues,” affirms George. “I’m not planning on leaving,” he says. “My wife is a wonderful woman. A woman who truly loves because if she did not love me, she would not have taken me back. She is very protective of her family and would do anything for us. She is also a very prayerful woman who believes in miracles for her family,” he says.