Canada’s premier African Wedding Show was held last Saturday night at the Daniel’s Spectrum, in Toronto, Canada. Full of glitz and glamour, the event showcased the very best of African diverse cultures, cuisines and wedding fashion statements. The event, which also serve as a networking platform for people in the industry, was organized by Laba Menghistab, a Canadian of Eritrean background, who has a vision of promoting African culture-inspired weddings among Africans born and living outside of the motherland. According to Laba, she initially planned to organize the events strictly for the Ethiopian and Eritrean community in Toronto region of Canada, but it was later expanded to accommodate other black and African communities due to overwhelming interests. ARM’s Akin T. George caught up with Laba shortly before the event to find out how she was able to conceptualize this unique project and her vision for the African Wedding Show.
The African Wedding Show is about bringing our community together, especially when it comes to letting local business know about our market, our community.
What would you say inspired you to start this event?
This inspiration is to keep our culture alive, what i noticed when i planned my sister’s wedding, it was very hard to find a cultural product that will make the wedding look cultural, so what does that means, it means if it is too hard, if the products are too scarce and expensive – people are not going continue doing it.
From which countries are you showcasing the show’s culinary delights?
Ethiopian, Eritrean, Egyptian and West African cuisines.
The show’s theme message: Where True Love Meets Tradition, what is the philosophy behind the message?
True love can be expressed in so many ways. What we focus on is how do African cultures express true love, it is different and each culture has their own ceremony that is used to officiate that process, it is worth exploring.
Do you consider African weddings to be too elaborate? What would be your response when people say African weddings are too elaborate?
Too elaborate! I’ll say no way, African weddings are structured differently and they have a different purpose. In Western weddings, the focus is on the couple, African weddings the focus is on the guests – making them happy, making them comfortable, entertaining them and honouring them because they are the community that really helps you in growing up.
Your parent company, Ambessa Weddings, currently specializes only in Ethiopian and Eritrean weddings, do you planned to use this event to expand into other African cultural weddings or even beyond?
You know I didn’t start this show with an agenda, I did not ,I just that there was an underserved market, our brides are not getting the help that they need, and so I decided to have an, honestly i started to have an Ethiopian wedding show, just for Ethiopians. But then as I started to plan the wedding show people just jumped in, they were so excited about the vision and Canada has never had a wedding show for our community.
Could you mention one unique quality regarding Ethiopian/Eritrean weddings that is lacking in other African weddings?
In terms of participation, not only are our weddings big, the wedding planning is equally huge. When you start a wedding it’s not like a one person wedding planner, no, you get a planning committee together. Let’s say if am getting married, I going to call my parents, my groom’s parents and then select another maybe 10 friends or cousins and I going to assigned them each a project. This is common among us.
To what extent has western culture been incorporated into your wedding ceremonies?
Absolutely, when it comes to the Ethiopian/Eritrean bride who is getting married today, probably between 25-30 yrs old that means she was born in Canada. So she’s a North American girl, you know what I saying, and she expects us to incorporate a lot of American values. We are at the precipice right now, we are at a point where you have entirely foreign born and raised African couple planning an African wedding and that is what makes it challenging. There is a challenge because they didn’t grow in that culture (African) but want to honour the culture, it becomes harder.
But in your bridging the two conflicting cultures together (American vs. African) which one now take the upper hand?
Yeah, that is what makes it so exciting because right now is the beginning of that trend. Five years ago, that bride would have been born back home, so we’re just experiencing this ascent of new customers and so the biggest challenge for me and the trend that I’m seeing is that they need more information about the culture, it has to be written either by blogging. Now I’m writing a lot about the ceremonies step by step because this is something that they are learning for the first time, because they did not grow up immersed in those writings.
When planning your weddings, where do you draw the line between African culture and Western?
Because we have a brand new generation of customers, they get to choose anything they want, from the buffet of western weddings and the buffet of African traditional weddings. They can have the extreme of both sides.
Moving forward, what would be your vision for the African Wedding Show?
My vision is for it to be an annual show and it will continue help more brides, it will be a national show in which African brides from all over the country will come to this show and experience and identify with the culture.