"You May Now Kiss the Bride..."



Traditional Marriage Ceremony

            “The traditional marriage ceremony is a battle of cultural tongue-twisting between representatives of the two sides who engage each other in a question and answer challenge or in knowing, mentioning and following century old norms and traditions. Both families are required to have a spokesman to speak for them. The spokesman takes the role of the final emissary on the day of introduction and he has to pull a lot of antics learned from tradition and experience to engage or answer challenges from the other side's spokesman.  It is the battle (friendly and of words) between the two that makes the Kwanjula and the whole ceremony memorable and unique from any other ceremony. On this Kwanjula day, little is required from the husband to be or the Son in-law. He has to say nothing on that day. Having bought everything required and dressed properly in coats and Kanzus for males Gomesis or long shawls for females, all he has to do, together with his entourage is sit and enjoy the battle between the two spokesmen.The rest of the ceremony is as interesting as the gifts (which are left outside) are brought and allocated to the different beneficiaries, and the hosts lay their demands and wishes on the new family.  Once the gifts are brought, the host's spokesman may ask the bride and Ssenga whether they should accept the gifts. The obvious answer is "yes." This is followed by more clapping, and more excitement. On this day of Kwanjula, the son in- law comes with rings that denote marriage. It's at this stage that rings are exchanged and cut the cake to crown the ceremony that ends with meals.  The official church wedding takes place some few weeks or months after Kwanjula. (3)”  



              It used to be parents arranged the marriages for their children, but recently, it has been for the man to seek his wife, propose and perform a traditional wedding ceremony.   In a traditional wedding ceremony in Uganda, a man who wants to marry will have to go and seek permission from the woman's parents.  This is after the man has sought after his future bride.  Upon agreement to wed, the groom will have to meet her parents. But, before meeting the bride’s parents, the soon to be groom is required to write a letter to the lady's family, also known as the bazeyi or elders. The letter has to be in flawless with no mistakes of any kind.  Sometimes, men will get someone else to write the letter.  The people who are hired to write the letter are usually older men.  The letter has to be written through the Ssenga or aunt of the soon to be bride.  The aunt becomes the official go to person between the two parties.  After the letter is written, the letter is taken to the Ssenga, or messenger, (with little money for transport) and from there is taken to the Bakulu Bano (fellow respected elders). One of the contents of the letter is asking to be allowed to get born in the in-laws family, by going there to ask for their daughter's hand in marriage.  Usually, it takes two weeks to receive a reply.  The Bakulu, or fellow elders, accept in writing and specify the date for the husband to be, to “get born into their family.”  It’s also specifies in the reply that the mzee (father in-law) specifies his Mutwalo, what could be taken as the bride price.  Some fathers in law don't ask for alot of the Mutwalo (bride price).  Some only ask for Bible or a Hymn book or both.  These books typically are traditional symbols for the parents to give away their daughter. However, some ask for other things (3). 


What to Offer?:

                 On being introduced, the boy would pay something to the girl’s parents not as part of bride wealth, but as a gift. He will have to show up where she lives and ask for her hand in marriage.  The "soon to be groom" will be accompanied by his father, uncles, siblings and friends (All who which are male).  The groom will have to carry gifts for the girl’s parents. The gifts will vary depending on religion, tribe, or ethnic group.  Sometimes, the girl's parents will demand a list of items that groom must present to them, and other times, the girl's parents will completely leave up the choice of gifts to the groom.  While the Mutwalo is the traditional bride price required by the father in-law, there are a lot of other required items that have to be taken along. Some are optional, but these items have become a basic requirement at any ceremony and they are carried in traditionally made baskets.  These gifts typically include all of fruits and vegetables except for egg plants and a few others.  There also has to be bread (a good number of loaves), sugar, salt, soap, paraffin, cooking oil, curry powder, and more.  Some other gifts that can brought are animals such as cows.  Typical gifts include: fabric, cattle, goats, money, sugar, furniture and more.  The groom cannot ever show up empty handed, or there will be no proposal or marriage.  The practice was known as okutona, but the day the girl introduces her husband to her parents is calledKwanjula.  Kwanjula means to introduce. It is a day when the bride to be introduces her future husband (and his escorts) to her parents and relatives (3).

Wedding Ceremony:

                After agreement of proposal, 2 or 3 meetings have to be organized. These meetings provide ground for friends to contribute the little they have and give a base for good counsel on what is required or should be done for the Kwanjula(marriage) to be a sounding success (3).  After exchanging gifts, the process that follows would involve the groom inviting the girl's parents to come and meet his family.  This is when they would assess the bride wealth.  The girl’s family would normally go and assess the groom’s wealth, but they would not be able to leave the cows.  In Uganda, depending on how many cows you own, depends on your wealth.  If one were to own only one cow, this means that you are very poor and yourself worth is basically nonexistent.  The occasion involving meeting of both parents would involve a lot of dancing and feasting.  The boy’s parents would arrange to deliver the bride wealth to the girl’s family. The occasion of delivering the bride wealth is another joyous occasion.  It involves feasting, dancing and merry making.
                Then there is the Kanzus for the Father in-laws and brother in-laws, Gomesis for mother in-laws and Ssengas (Kanzu and Gomesi are cultural dresses for males and females respectively). These are a must. You also have to prepare money for the envelopes- for the father in-law, mother in-law, Ssengas, brother in-laws (with a special one and a cock for the official brother in-law) (3).
                 The traditional kanzu has maroon embroidery around the collar, abdomen, and sleeves. The embroidery is called the omulela. The kanzu is worn at wedding ceremonies during the introduction.  During the Kwanjula the groom's family is required to appear dressed in kanzu and they must also present kanzu to the bride's family.  The kanzu is always worn with a suit jacket, blazor, or sport coat.  It is customary, for Tribal Chiefs to wear the kanzu with a black bisht. On informal occasions the kanzu is worn with a kofia, a small, round cap. However, the cap is never worn during formal events. The danshiki and the kanzu are common throughout Uganda. The dashiki is typically limited to informal events. Traditional female attire is the Gomesi. (4)


A Joyous Celebration:

                After this occasion is completed, the boy’s mother, accompanied by another person would go to fetch the girl from her parents. She would go singing all the way and reach the girl’s family around 8:00pm. The boy’s mother would be given the girl, and the girl would be brought back home, with the mother singing the whole way there.  Once reaching the groom’s home, the girl is not supposed to sleep with the husband before being washed in the ritual ceremony of okunabbya omugole. The girl and the boy, already being married would stand under a tree and bathe in the same water furnished with appropriate herbs. Then singing, they would prepare to come to the courtyard.  The mother in law would bring a basin of water and pour it on the girl’s back. “The girl would spread her fingernails out as custom demanded and the older men would inspect hem for any signs of pregnancy. Thereafter, the girl’s brother would officially hand over the girl to her husband and the girl and her husband would move to their house. The woman could not eat from her husband’s family until she had first eaten food sent from her parents. (2)”