Traditional weddings in Uganda are a step towards the church wedding and it’s almost done by every culture. Each tribe in Uganda has their own culture and norms when it comes to traditional wedding in Uganda and these have to be followed during the function. Known as Kwanjula in Buganda and Kuhingira in the west, traditional weddings are considered official weddings as parents sign and handover their daughter officially to the husband with many witnesses available.
Traditional wedding in Buganda
Before the Kwanjula, there is another function known as Kukyala which is the first visit and it’s done at the senga’s place. This is a formal introduction where the groom to be meets the paternal aunt of the bride who acts as an intermediary between the father of the bride and the groom’s family. During this function is when the bride price is discussed and a date for the Kwanjula is suggested after the family of the bride has accepted to go on with the wedding.
After the Kukyala, the Kwanjula date is set where the girl officially introduces her man officially and it involves a lot of activities that are done by both the groom‘s and bride’s family. The function involves a lot of things like the girl introducing her man to her friends, relatives but it also has central points that are focused on during the function and they are listed below:
1. Dress code
The dress code is a traditional wear for the ladies called a Gomesi in Buganda, a Mushashana in Western Uganda and the gentlemen put on Kanzus. It’s improper for the adults to put on leggings, short dresses as this shows disrespect to the in-laws and the traditional wear is a sign of respect and shows off dignity. There are a lot of places that one can purchase the traditional wear around town either by hiring from the different agents or by making their own from different materials.
2. The request for marriage
The groom has to write a letter to the bride’s parents informing them about the reasons for visiting their home which is known as Ensonga. The letter is delivered by the senga and this acts as the formal way of asking for the hand in marriage of their daughter and it should be noted that the Kwanjula cannot go ahead without the letter.
3. The gifts
When the letter is received by the girl’s family, the father in law writes back to accept the visit if they have no issues with the groom’s family. The family of the groom is supposed to bring a few gifts for the bride’s father commonly known as the Omutwalo. The Mutwalo is the main bride price for the bride although the groom is at liberty to bring other gifts wrapped in either baskets or any other decorative things.
4. The senga
The senga is the main person during a Kwanjula as she acts as a go between of the bride and groom. She is a paternal aunt of the bride and she prepares the bride by telling them what they are supposed to do as married women.
5. The spokesperson
Time immemorial, the spokesperson has always been taken for Kwanjula to talk on behalf of the groom and bride’s family. The spokesperson needs to know all the idioms and riddles used in the culture and the exchange between the spokespersons is an entertaining one for the guests that have come to attend the Kwanjula therefore he is an important figure on the traditional wedding.
During the Kwanjula, the bride is paraded from the house to the tents where the visitors are while dancing to a wide range of songs. The senga then introduces the groom again to the group of people present and later on the gifts brought as a sign of appreciation to the girl’s parents.
Traditional wedding in Achloli
Commonly referred to as the Nyom by the local people, the wedding ceremony takes two days where on day one it’s all about merry making and preparing food which takes place after the arrival of the groom and his entourage who find the compound dark and have to use lamps to light their way to the hut where negotiations take place as the girl who has no contact with the man till the negotiations are done.
In Acholi culture, the girl is given a bracelet or bead from the man that she is intending to marry and the whole process is known as luk and preparations begin. The family of the girl is made fully aware of the intention of the man towards their daughter and incase of agreement from both families, then the girl’s home is renovated using a mixture of dung and mud and cowhide seats are prepared for the boy’s family.
On the day of Nyom, the man’s family kneels throughout the function as they are being questioned by the father of the bride and during this same meeting, dowry that is a token to the mother of the girl is discussed and the date is set as to when the dowry should be delivered and the groom’s family has to crawl to hut for negotiations about the bride price.
Traditional wedding in Ankole
Traditional weddings in Ankole are known as Kuhingira and it’s mostly done by a third party known as the Kateraruume and his task is to bridge the two families. The go between takes care of the negotiations on behalf of the groom’s family and makes sure that the family of the bride accepts.
During the negotiations, the bride is not part of the discussions since she is hidden away from the public in an elusive room while the groom also keeps quiet throughout until the negotiations are done. In traditional Ankole, the girls were meant to be heavy and that’s why are made to feed on milk so that they become a bit fat since slim girls were not an option then.
The bride is escorted by the Enshagarizi to the groom’s home after receiving gifts from uncles and aunties that are used in the husband’s home after the Kuhingira and this is done 10 days after the Kuhingira. The traditional wedding night in Ankole is a bit interesting as it’s not a surprise to find the aunt of the bride waiting for the groom to show the daughter what to do with the husband during their marriage.
Traditional weddings in Ateso
Itesot weddings used to happen in two ways that is the boy would approach the girl directly and ask for her hand in marriage and if the girl was interested then she would inform her mother who would in the end tell the father of the girl. The parents of the girl then invite the boy and ask about his intentions. If they both accept that they are both interest, arrangements are made and the bride price is discussed and if the family of the boy cannot pay the bride price at once, a later date is discussed and the bride price in installments.
The second way was through arranges marriages. Here the two families would agree that their children will get married once they have grown up and they would indeed end up married to each other in order to carry out their parents’ plans and this is still being done by the traditional Itesots. The bride price is checked and inspected by the in laws before the groom and his families are allowed to enter the compound on the fateful day.
A group of girls come out to dance for the guests and they are asked whether the bride is among them and when she is not, the girls are sent back and others come out to do the same until the bride comes out top meet the groom. The party goes on till the next morning as long as Ajono is served throughout.The Itesots also value a girl’s worth according to the number of cows brought to the function by the groom’s side. The less the level of education, the less the girls and the reverse is true.
Traditional weddings in Uganda depend on mostly the culture of the girl and the pocket worth of the groom. Before the introductions were done in a quiet indoor manner with a few friends and relatives but recently people make their introduction weddings like concerts with the man bringing a lot of things and gifts for the bride’s family since the more the gifts, the more respect a man gets from the in laws nowadays and the bride also changes more than three times.
In conclusion, when you are in Uganda know that a traditional wedding is considered legal according to the laws of the country and if you attend one be sure you are going to enjoy all kinds of local delicious food, drinks, music and the best of current designs showcased by the bride and other people present.