Wedding Special – Getting married in Kenya

Wedding in Kenya, Outdoor wedding decor

This year, I made one of my travel dreams come true: I traveled to Kenya. What an extraordinary country! I experienced so much diversity in the landscape, a lot of different animals in the National Parks and so much openness and cheerfulness from the Kenyan people. It was simply a fantastic vacation.

What do I (almost) always do, when I travel? I meet local wedding planners and ask them for an interview for my blog. This time, I had the pleasure of meeting Mercy Karimi, who works in the event industry in Mombasa and organizes weddings, and corporate events and creates wonderful event design and decor.

Macy and me
Mercy and me

After graduating from university in Nakuru, Mercy started a job in an events decorating company, and that is where her professional journey began. It turned out that the job was not supposed to be in Nairobi, but in Mombasa, which is approx. 8 hours away from where she grew up. Soon after the pandemic hit the event industry and there were almost no events. Also, she noticed that she is a pretty good manager and wanted to use her strengths more. This is when Mercy took a brave step and decided to open her own company: Mimi & Karki Event Planners. Since 2020 she runs her own business and despite lockdowns and restrictions in the event industry, her business strives.

Mercy, how did you come up with your company name – is there any story behind it?

When I was registering the business, I wanted to call it Mimi Events Planners, because Mimi is my nickname. My auntie used to call me Mimi since I was a child. In Swahili Mimi means “me”. I wanted it to be really personal. Unfortunately, the name was not available, so I added Karki. Karki is another nickname of mine that I got from my friends in high school.

When is the main wedding season in Kenya?

Our high season for weddings is from August to December. The main reasons are: Most Kenyans work continuously from January to August, hence taking holidays in the last quarter of the year, in the spirit of the holidays. Also, the school holidays in December are a bit longer at the end of the year, which allows most families to make plans then, be it weddings, family gatherings, or holiday trips among others. December is very busy with events.

Of the 15 weddings I did last year, 10 of them took place between August and December. The most popular day for destination weddings is Friday.

What does your wedding planning process look like?

Some people call even 3 weeks ahead of the wedding  Some want to get married with only a small group of people, in a hotel. In this case, I can do it. If my clients want to have a big wedding with maybe 300 guests, then we need to start approx. a year in advance.

We start with an online call – sometimes we meet in person, it depends where the clients are from. The first impression is everything. The clients tell me their expectations. After that, I am sending my quote.

Then we go step by step. I have a network of vendors which I work with. Based on clients’ expectations and budgets, I am looking for the right vendors for them. I always give them options and send impressions and quotes. Between Nairobi and Mombasa, vendors are very flexible. Although it is a big distance, vendors do commute between those cities frequently.

My style is: I go with the flow and advice my clients in all matters.

Another step is to do a site visit and discuss decoration and floor plans. From my decorator experience, my team can also offer florals and decoration services.

I have a lot of international clients, mostly from the UK. Most of the time, one part of the couple is from Kenya. The other part is an international partner and they choose to get married in Kenya. In this case, sometimes the clients do not come to see the venue. They look at it online and book it – also based on my recommendations.

On the wedding day, I manage all vendors and the timeline to take the stress from my clients.

How does a traditional wedding in Kenya look like?

There are 2 kinds of weddings: The traditional and the white wedding.

Traditional weddings take place mostly in the countryside. As a groom, you have to come home and state your intention to marry the bride in front of the bride’s family. Then a date is set for the traditional ceremony, where the groom comes with his family. The guests are coming home to the bride’s family. Guests are usually dressed in traditional outfits, preferably Ankara. There are at least 3 to 4 ceremonies before the white wedding.

The white wedding is the add-on with only invited guests (in most destination weddings) and looks more modern. The bride wears a white gown. Sometimes she mixes traditional fabrics into the bridal dress. Most of the destination weddings in Kenya take place here on the coast, on the beautiful beaches. Guests do travel to the coast and stay overnight or for a few days.

Get an impression of Mercy’s weddings in Kenya:

Dear Mercy, thank you so much for sharing your story and wedding experience with me. It was such a pleasure to meet you in Mombasa!

Pictures: Mimi & Karki Events Planners

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