Planning my Tanzanian Send Off Party

Hey World,

I mentioned a few weeks ago that before the US-based wedding festivities would kick off, there would be a party here in Iringa to celebrate with our co-workers. The details are all finally sorted out, and the shindig is happening after work on Friday, September 2nd!  

 A Send-Off Party is a common part of the pre-wedding celebrations here to kick off the wedding weekend. Although it seems hard to distinguish from a typical Tanzanian wedding reception, it's typically all about the bride, and getting everyone together and excited for the weekend festivities to come!

Our Sendoff invitation! (Written in Swahili by yours truly)

For the last few weeks, I've been working alongside some great coworkers who have helped me plan the sendoff party. Here are the top ten things I learned any good Tanzanian wedding/send-off party needs to have:

1. Easy-to-find Venue
While we are lucky that our office space is going to double as a venue, finding a venue which is easy for attendees to reach is an added bonus. I also realized that 100 guests is a "small" party, which made finding a venue easier for ours than most. Typical guest lists can range from 200 - 500 guests easily!

2. Interior Decorator
There are special event planners that have everything which you can rent for an evening (including set up and breakdown!) -- ceremonial chairs for the couple, head table decorations,  cake stands, and fabrics to decorate every corner of the room! According to my planning committee, the one we've asked to come is top notch.

3. Setting a Color Scheme
Tanzanian weddings are similar to weddings in the US where (often) the bride picks a color scheme for the day. Here, those colors (usually 3-5) are publicized in advance so attendees can coordinate their outfits to the wedding theme! Other groups of individuals may try to get matching clothing or use matching patterns to show affinity to the bride and/or groom. We've asked that everyone decorate with & wear kitenge, traditional fabric that comes in endless iterations of colors and patterns. Be ready for some outrageous colors in our pictures!

4. Selling Tickets
So here's what I think is the best part about weddings here -- the couple sets a price, and you have to pay to attend! Once you pay, you receive a personalized ticket to be used for entry. This helps offset the costs of the wedding, often by a lot! For our party, we are asking for a small contribution from attendees to keep to tradition, but not using it as a basis for our party budget.

A preview of our wedding kitenge with the tickets I'm decorating! 

5. Cake for everyone!
A great TZ tradition is cutting the cake...into small bite-size pieces for everyone to be served by the hosts! From there, the rest of the pieces are served more normally (though still bite sized). One of the best bakers in town is making a (hopefully colorful) sheet cake for our party.

6. Goat Cake
Another great TZ tradition that can happen at big parties like this is a "goat cakie" -- a whole roasted goat that's rolled out, and presented to the groom! B is SO excited for this. I am a little less excited, but roasted goat is delicious...

7. Dinner & Drinks
A large buffet dinner at parties here is served right at the end, as many leave after their bellies are full. We'll push up dinner a little bit so we don't get hangry, but will try to keep as much to tradition as possible. 2 drinks (beers or sodas) are usually included with your ticket! To put a twist on this, we are considering adding some western-style hors d'oeuvres so our Tanzanian friends can try bites of pizza or mozzarella with tomato, and offset our desire to eat dinner early!

8. Music & Emcee
No party is complete without a great sound system, good DJ, and loud emcee to keep the party going! Emcees are particularly important here because there are a lot of traditions to be managed, and lots of people to keep entertained. Two of our coworkers have offered their Emcee services, and I'm really excited to have them lead our friends through the night with their infectious energy. 

9. Champagne Dance
When the party is about to really start, friends of the groom take a bottle of champagne and dance/shake it ALL around the room -- it gets thrown from one to another, spun around, slid across the floor, and on and on until it's super bubbly then POP! Don't worry -- the back-up bottle will be poured for those who want a sip :)

10. Real-Life Music Video
I've saved the best for last, even though it is really the first even that takes place in the party. Bride & Groom get in the back of a truck and parade around town with music blasting from speakers and a procession of friends behind in other vehicles (motorcycles, cars, trucks, minibuses...whatever you've got!) for a little mobile dance party through downtown. At the same time, a videographer is getting the whole thing down on record -- including reactions of passerby. I hope it is as ridiculously fun as it sounds!

It's been a blast trying to put this together the last few weeks, and it's amazing how much my committee has been able to get done through some networking and well-placed phone calls! B&I have matching kitenge clothing for the party which we had made by local tailors in town, and the contributions from friends has been pouring in.'s time to party!

Tune in late next week for some pictures & party highlights!


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