Rwanda: Virus Dampens Wedding Season in Rwanda

The wrecking ball that is Covid-19 has claimed many lives this year. It has also drastically changed lives.

The economic cost of the pandemic is what has mostly been reported, and is what has been prominently captured in think tank reports, but not so much the social, emotional and psychological cost.

For example, in Rwanda many couples are yet to recover from the setback of having their weddings cancelled at the last minute, as the government announced new virus containment measures.

After registering a resurgence in Covid-19 cases in December, the government swung into action, and among the new measures, was a ban on weddings until further notice.

Everything was set for Joshua Tahinduka to wed Sheila, his long-term girlfriend. Their wedding was supposed to be on December 19, but the government announcement came out on the 15th, just four days to the wedding.

"I had flown in my parents from Uganda; we had paid all the service providers and the only remaining detail was having the wedding. The news of the cancellation hit us like a brick because we didn't see it coming," said Joshua.

The government had earlier eased restrictions for weddings, allowing up to 75 people in venues, and waived Covid-19 testing as a requirement for attending a wedding.

However, government officials say this reprieve was violated, and wedding organisers started letting in people far beyond the recommended number, without social distancing or even observing other safety measures, hence the decision to rescind and cancel all weddings.

In Rwanda, it is common for people to have weddings in December, the earlier hiccups had also forced many to push their weddings to December, in the hope that the strain would have subsided.

Joshua, like many other couples who had planned their weddings for December, was unable to get refunds from service providers. However, some agreed to extend the dates to a time when government gives a green light to weddings.

"The reception venue owners wrote to us and categorically said they are not refunding, but agreed to offer us the venue at another date, the cake of course couldn't wait, so it was served and eaten despite having no wedding," said Joshua.

They were however able to have the civil marriage, which helped because at least their parents were able to attend, since they couldn't stay in the country for long.

"This situation brought us much closer to God, we prayed about it and made peace with it, we are now waiting with anticipation for the next government announcement in January 4," he added.

Joshua says the biggest setback was the fact that church weddings are not possible. The challenging times also brought couples closer, as they dealt with the difficulties that came with these sudden changes.

"I already had no doubt about Sheila's character, but this situation showed me the fibre she's made from, she was the star in this whole thing," Joshua said.

After the cancellation, some couples opted to hold their weddings secretly in homes and their pictures circulated on social media, however others chose to wait.

Joshua and Sheila preferred to wait.

"She said there is no way we are doing our wedding in hiding, we have to do it in the light," he said.

In the first 14 days of December, Rwanda recorded an unprecedented 700 Covid-19 cases, while six people succumbed to the virus.

All social gatherings including wedding ceremonies and celebrations of all kinds were also prohibited both in public and private settings.

Meetings and conferences were ordered not to exceed 30 per cent of venue capacity, while event organisers are urged to comply with all Covid-19 preventive measures.

Curfew in Kigali was pushed to 8pm, and 7pm for Musanze district, following a spike in cases in the country's tourism hotspots.

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