The best wedding big money can buy
- The demand for breathtaking wedding experiences has transformed what has traditionally been a solemn moment of exchanging vows into a big services industry where the outer expenditure limits run into millions of shillings.
- Helicopters, chariots and stretch limousines have become favourite wedding tools for the deep-pocketed.
- Booking of vehicles is done months in advance during peak wedding season between mid-November and December.
- A limousine stretch-Cadillac, Range Rover, Chrysler, Mercedes will cost between Sh15,000 and Sh50,000 per hour.
- To hire a luxury vehicle –BMW, Mercedes, Audi, Prado, Range Rover costs between Sh20,000 and Sh50,000 for a day.
- To hire a vintage or old-school car costs between Sh40,000 and Sh50,000 for five hours.
- A horse and carriage cost between Sh130,000 and Sh150,000 for five hour.
- A helicopter costs between Sh150,000 and Sh200,000 per hour.
Edwina Ondiko-Misati cut the image of the perfect bride when the big day arrived. She stepped down at the doorsteps of the church to tie the nuptial knots in a style that still feels like a dream years after it happened.
Edwina had shocked and awed relatives and friends when she stepped out of a stretch Chrysler limousine to meet her groom.
Save for the actual exchange of vows, arriving at the church in style marked the high point for Edwina in a day she describes as most memorable in her life.
“I could not believe it when I saw the limo and the red carpet with the chauffeur in a hat holding out his gloved hand saying ‘this way my lady’, I thought I was dreaming” Edwina says of the moment she left her parent’s home as a maiden for the last time. “I started screaming when I got inside.”
The bride arrived fashionably late for her wedding as friends and family spent nearly an hour fussing over the unique car that had been hired to ferry her to church.
Edwina’s experience was just but an example of the extent Kenyan men with deep pockets are ready to go to please their brides and make their weddings memorable.
More recently, this segment of the Kenyan society has not shied away from making statements of wealth, status and style at their weddings.
A number have landed from the skies having picked the helicopter as their favourite mode of transport while others have picked the fairy tale option of arriving in a horse-drawn carriage.
Men who have used these services on their wedding day confess that it does not come cheap, but the one thing it does is tell the bride’s family and relatives that their daughter is getting married to a man of means.
And that is not all. The machines have proved to have the ability to instantly take the brides to blissful moments that some only recover from days after the wedding.
“I was the envy of my friends and the experience of just being in the limo cannot be described. I screamed loudly the moment I stepped inside,” says Edwina.
This demand for breathtaking wedding experiences has transformed what has traditionally been a solemn moment of exchanging vows into a big services industry where the outer expenditure limits run into millions of shillings.
“Ten years ago, people simply got cars from friends and family for their weddings. If you managed to get a Mercedes in the mix then yours was a high-end wedding,” says Hope Mwinzi of Raspberry Haven, a publisher.
But time has passed and now a Mercedes Benz pales in comparison to the helicopters, chariots and stretch limousines that have become favourite wedding tools for the deep-pocketed.
People still borrow top of the range cars such as Mercedes E–class, Range Rovers and Toyota Land Cruiser for weddings but the really liquid crowd have moved on to occupy an exclusive space, says Ms Mwinzi.
In Nairobi, a number of entrepreneurs have established companies that offer these exclusive services at a fee making it to the list of the fastest growing firms in Kenya.
The list of service providers includes Royal Hometown and Executive Limousines.
Those who like the idea of ferrying their bride to church in a stretch limousine, a chariot or chopper had better be warned that it does not come cheap.
To hire a stretch Cadillac, Range Rover, Chrysler or Mercedes limousine, one has to part with up to Sh50,000 per hour. It costs between Sh40,000 and Sh50,000 to hire a vintage or old school car for five hours while those who want to arrive at their wedding or reception in a chopper can do so at a cost of between Sh150,000 and Sh200,000 per hour.
Horses and carriages cost between Sh130,000 and Sh150,000 for five hours. Samantha’s Bridal hires out its Lipizzaner Trotters at the rate of Sh135,000 depending on the distance covered. The basic amount is for a distance of 15 kilometres.
Catherine Masitza Rozsa of Samantha’s Bridal says customers have a range of services to choose from including the number of horses pulling the carriages which can be two or four depending on what the couple has in mind. Usually the most beautiful carriages are handmade.
The carriages are elegant pieces of workmanship styled on many concepts, including the one that the British royalty made for King George IV and can comfortably carry four passengers plus a driver and assistant.
The driver and his assistant are dressed in ceremonial dark grey or coachman livery and wear the characteristic cylindrical or broad brimmed hat.
For decor, the carriage can be decorated with ribbons and flowers and the seat cushions inserted in embroidered covers.
Some wedding parties have chosen to use helicopters despite the limits of space and technicalities involved.
In Nairobi, for instance, there are only a few buildings with helipads and recent terrorist attacks have resulted in the demarcation of certain parts of the city as no fly zones. The helipads are found in exclusive locations such as Windsor, Tribe and Safari Park hotels.
“The plane has to be picked at Wilson, which is quite inconveniencing. Couples will usually take it to the reception after the photo session or to land at the ceremony grounds,” says Ms Mwinzi.
Thomas Mwangi of Executive Limousines says VIP treatment and reliability makes stretch limousines a popular alternative.
“The vehicle comes as a service, which includes a driver, two champagne bottles, décor to match the wedding theme, and at times with a red carpet and bodyguards.”
The limousines can carry between seven and 10 people.
Range Rovers, BMWs, Chryslers, Mercedes, Audis and other luxury vehicles are also used in the entourage with motorbike outriders at an additional fee. “While heading out to the party or reception, piped music and privacy are part of the deal,” says Mr Mwangi.
One has to book these vehicles months in advance during peak wedding season between mid-November and December.
The cost is even steeper for those choosing a destination wedding at popular places such as the Coast or in the Maasai Mara Game Reserve.
“In such a case, the couple can obviously not make it to the destination and return to the city in one day – meaning they have to pay millions of shillings for the services. The costs are adjusted accordingly to include accommodation for the crew.
Using the horse-drawn carriage for destination wedding comes with similar costs. Masitza Rozsa says transporting the horses, and the carriage plus accommodation works out to a tidy sum but this has not prevented couples from having their dream weddings.
Mr Kottonya agrees. “For some places, the limo must be transported rather than driven due to poor state of the roads and that increases the costs considerably,” he explains.
The investment is not heavy on the couples alone. This is because “not just any horse can pull a carriage but only those that have been specially trained.
“When we invested we could not find any horses in Kenya that can even be trained. We had to airlift the four horses from Europe via a chartered flight,” explained Dr Masitsa Rozsa.
Mrs Ondiko- Misati says that the service she received during her wedding was above par, an investment that Victor Kottonya of Royal Hometown Limousines is appreciative of.
Hiring the stretch limos is not as simple as a meeting with the owners and paying for it.
A few things must be confirmed, including a route check to confirm that the limo or that the carriage can manoeuver the road especially in hilly areas or those with sharp bends.