Joan Aoko is a fashion designer who specialises in crochet wear under the brand, Joheartyarns. One of her best designs was her own wedding gown which she crocheted for two months.
She speaks about her love story leading to her big day and why weddings should not be about money.
How did you meet?
We met at Maseno University Varsity Plaza in 2014. I used to school there while he worked in the same building for an Internet provider company. One day, I needed to connect my laptop to the university Wi-Fi for my project. The school’s IT centre was located on the ninth floor, so, while I was trying to locate it, I ended up at their office. Well, he was kind enough to let me in and assisted me with their Internet. A week later, although I was Catholic, I accepted a friend’s invitation to Citam Kisumu Church. After the service, we were taken to the church’s lounge to be ‘officially welcomed’, and guess who I met? Him! It was a weird coincidence. Anyway, to cut the story short, that’s how we became friends and I even joined his church. I wasn’t saved then, and he encouraged me to join the youth and Bible study group, and I started growing my personal relationship with God. I ended up giving my life to Christ. We began dating in December 2015.
How did he propose?
Being an introvert I barely plan for my birthday. I always end up receiving surprise birthday parties by loved ones. During my birthday on New Year’s Eve of 2016, one of my friends called Esther suggested we hang out with some friends at a hotel in Kisumu during the evening. An hour in, a random group of people approached us singing happy birthday. My family, his family and our mutual friends were present. I had an awesome birthday and he ended up proposing.
How was the wedding planning?
I don’t know why challenges multiply when planning for a wedding (laughs). We both had family responsibilities of taking care of our siblings through education and even some extended family members. You see, one minute you have money, the next you don’t, because you have to give it out since responsibilities are overwhelming. We figured that if we lived this way, it would be hard to do something for ourselves. He saved enough for dowry payment and he came to our village on July 27, 2019 for the traditional ceremony. Our wedding committee was our Bible study group. I really thank God for them for the unconditional support, love and encouragement they showed us. They helped us in planning. Although I sourced for the suppliers, they helped in vetting and everything worked out for good.
You designed and made your knitted wedding gown. Tell us about that
My gown is one of the best things in my life now. While planning the wedding, I knew I would rock my brand, Joheartyarns; something unique, heartfelt and has a story attached to it. I have been crocheting for five years, so it was something I was confident I would hack. I wanted quality and something long lasting, and it took me two weeks sampling yarns before I finally got a company in Turkey that supplied me with high quality cotton yarn. It took me two months to carefully craft the dress as per my fitting. My husband didn’t see it till the D-day, and it was emotional when he saw me walk down the aisle in it. I remember his words; “I knew you are good at this, but I didn’t know you would pull off such a masterpiece!”
Also, the top part of my bridesmaids’ dresses was crochet. Even my bouquet was crochet. It was a crochet affair!
What were your other highlights?
It was a small wedding of about 150 guests. To be honest, my gown stole the show. I felt like a celebrity haha. While making the bridal entrance, I could hear whispers, “Wow look at her dress… I heard she made it…” Then, during the photo shoot, the hotel team took a gazillion photos of it. Other than that, our MC Naitwa Sheldon did an amazing job, as everyone was talking about his energy and how he brought everything together. I also recall a day before the wedding, during the rehearsals in church, I really cried. I can’t even explain why. I got my husband confused because he didn’t know what to do with me. Again, it was a joy seeing my family on the wedding day, and I really wished I had a mum to walk me down the aisle and pour all those bits of advice and love I see other mums offering their daughters on their wedding days.
Advice to those planning their wedding?
It’s not about money, make it simple and elegant. It’s just a one-day ceremony, and if you go the extra mile taking loans for it, it won’t be too long before you start regretting. Invest in your wedding priorities; I suggest something you will hold on to forever maybe. In our case, I carefully selected the photographer and videographer because these give you the memories to refer to. Our décor only cost Sh27,000, and it was simple and elegant. I sourced for most of the décor stuff since we were on a budget. We spent less than Sh200,000 for everything. People are still shocked. In short, assess your financial capability and spend accordingly without sinking into much debt. Life after the wedding is what’s important.