This was written by my friend and brother Paul Turyagumanawe and posted here with his permission. He implores the challenges that face Ugandan weddings today. He tackles the fact that weddings in Uganda today seem to be synonymous with having money or being rich. Worse still people would spend what they don’t have/earn to have a huge wedding party at the cost of even a good marriage. There seems to be a misconception that a wedding and a marriage are the same.
Friends, we have come of age at a time when the biggest part of the marriage is the wedding day.
An American friend told me a while ago that if you come to Uganda for a wedding ceremony and fly back immediately, you may go away thinking that Uganda is a land of only rich people. It was meant as a joke, but seriously, when it comes to wedding ceremonies, haven’t we seen people (even poor people) spending on things they don’t need, money they don’t have, to impress people that don’t care? All in the name of celebration… This ‘celebrations’ virus has even started invading Church Thanksgivings… where it has sometimes become more about impressing people than giving back to God.
Wedding preparatory meetings (and more recently, thanksgiving preparatory meeting) have become a financial cancer…swallowing up meager savings, establishing reciprocal demands for support, & creating an unsustainable culture of gathering only for spending…in one day, what could have been more sustainably used for wiser spending later.
Am okay with those that have the money to blow it as they please, but what about those that don’t? & more importantly, what are these ‘extravagant’ weddings doing to marriage as an institution? So many young people (unemployed or underemployed) are pushing off the idea of a day-time wedding (obugyenyi bw’omushana) because the bar has been set so high. They can scrape together the dowry, but they realize that the attendant cost that comes along with the acceptable standard of contemporary weddings is out of their reasonable reach.
This superficial standard automatically makes wedding meetings absolutely necessary, even for the well to do (& it especially works for the well to do because they are more well-connected). But is this wedding meetings thing sustainable? Is it even healthy for our economy? ( Isn’t this thing of ‘Even when u don’t spend it on yourself, you spend it on supporting others to spend it on their wedding day’ is logically self-defeating?). & If u are the generous type, you are the most doomed here, because you’ll start hating Sunday evenings…Besides, for the groom, if people are spending their savings on your wedding, how will you keep from spending (all) your savings on it? But where does this leave the newly formed families? With this scale of unemployment, & the increasing expenses of raising a decent family…where do such extravagant ceremonies leave our young families?
But I refuse to accept that we can’t do anything about it. In the past, I’ve suggested that we replace wedding meeting with marriage meetings (pooling resources to build an income stream for new families)…
I still hold true to that position, but having realized how unrealistic it is to demolish quickly something that has been building over decades, I want to now suggest lean weddings (less than 100 people) and big anniversary celebrations. Begin strongly (not shiny), and celebrate, in as shiny a way as you can afford, the milestones along the way. It’s important not to burn almost all the fuel at the beginning of a journey…
Maybe then, honorable marriage weddings can still be an affordable option when our children come of age.
Image: Jenny Demarco Photography