Vehicles hoot incessantly as they zoom in and out of the city centre dropping and picking commuters. The hoots drown bird’s chirps, but one can hear the tweets faintly from nearby trees.
It is about 6:10 a.m. local time.
The hoots and the chirps welcome residents in Kenya’s capital Nairobi as the city slowly comes to life.
As residents flock into the central business district in droves, at a building along Kimathi Street, a group of young men and women are busy preparing for what would be a long day.
They share video and still photo cameras and attendant equipment, each ensuring the gadgets are working before they leave to cover weddings.
This particular Saturday is one of their busiest days as they have four weddings to cover all in one day.
Each wedding is covered by four people, two who take photos and two video. “The four divide themselves into two units. Two people, a photographer and videographer, go to the bride and the other team goes to the groom,” explained Nelson Otieno, a team leader.
Soon, after ascertaining that each group has all the necessary equipment, the team leaves for the assignments. They will later meet in the evening, at about 7 p.m., to review their work and how the day turned out.
The group is among businesspersons in the capital, who are currently reaping huge from a boom in Kenya’s wedding industry.
It is the wedding peak season in the East African nation, with hundreds of couples tying the knot.
The boom has given tens of businesspersons that include photographers, beauticians, cake makers, flower vendors, tent and decor service providers, caterers and transport operators’ massive business opportunities. “We must ensure that we get as much business as possible before it hits December since in January, things will slow down,” said beautician Nancy Karimi.
The makeup artist’s work involves ensuring the bride and her team are looking sharp for the occasion. “Most of the time I do not work with the groom, perhaps we ignore them but the feeling usually is that they do not need makeup,” she observed.
On the material day, Karimi usually heads to the house where the bride and her maids are.
“I do everything makeup to them. These include applying cutex on their finger and toe nails (sic). I also apply makeup on their faces to match with their attire,” she said.
Her main focus, however, is usually the bride. “In fact if their budget is small, I usually work with the bride alone and the rest find someone else to apply makeup on them.” Karimi usually charges between 18 U.S. dollars and 29 dollars per person.
“I do not charge per group because some of the bridal teams are too huge. I once worked with a team of 20 people. If I was to charge per group, then I would go at a loss. But most groups are usually between five and ten people,” she said.
Business is good and Karimi as many other service providers is cashing in on the wedding boom. “Currently we are three teams of two people each. I have had to hire three more people so that we can satisfy increased demand,” said Karimi, who hopes to expand the business.
Also reaping big are flower vendors, whose businesses have doubled as the wedding peak sets in. “We have doubled our stock to meet the rise in demand this season,” said Gladys Ngunyo, a florist.
The wedding peak season, according to Ngunyo, starts in August until December.
“The number of weddings increases as the months go on. December is usually the peak but business is good currently. The demand for flowers will surge in the next two months as couples seek to do their weddings before the year ends,” said Ngunyo, who buys flowers in Naivasha and Kitengela on the outskirts of Nairobi.
Since September, Ngunyo said she has been supplying flowers each Saturday to at least eight weddings.
“Come December we may hit over 20 weddings in a weekend, mainly Saturday. Some of them are outside Nairobi,” said the trader.
Ngunyo’s flowers go for between 300 dollars and 800 dollars, depending on the package one chooses. “The package will determine whether one will have their flowers arranged in themes, the bridal party has bouquets or the church aisle is decorated with flowers,” she said.
Tents and decor service providers are another group of traders making a killing from the wedding boom. The businesspersons are charging up to 2,352 dollars for a tent, chairs and decors hosting about 200 people.
Normally, there are four tents; one for the bride and another for groom’s people.
Then there is a tent for the couple and another for the cake. Some of the tent providers also offer catering services, music and sound system, which go for an average of 3.5 dollars per plate and 588 dollars a day respectively.
Otieno noted that they charge between 470 dollars and 705 dollars for photography and video work. “It depends with the package one chooses, but the couple will get at least 150 printed photos and a compact disc of the video,” he said.
By the time there will be lull in the wedding industry, the service providers would have hundreds of dollars in their bank accounts. “Today we had 12 orders, three of them outside Nairobi.
The orders will increase in the coming weeks,” Beatrice wa Njeri said.
Each cake goes for at least 235 dollars.