As told (anonymously) to Eunice Rukundo.
Like every girl, I’d always envisioned my wedding day down to the last detail. So, when he finally proposed, I was ecstatic. I couldn’t wait to live my dream. Serious wedding preparations started about six months to D-Day. I was excited; I was getting married, and to a man I loved with all my heart! Nothing could hold me down.
With a small committee of friends as consultants, the preparations kicked off and my fiancé and I drew up a plan for our ideal wedding. Copies of the budget and the plan were distributed to our parents and family for any corrections or suggestions. The final budget was drawn from there. I remember how almost disinterested my future mother-in-law, sisters-in-law and future cousins-in-law seemed in the meetings. They attended the meetings occasionally and when they did, they sat quietly, not bothering to speak up or offer suggestions or changes. I imagined that perhaps it was because they approved of everything we had drawn up—or maybe they simply appreciated that we were entitled to make our own choices for our wedding. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
In-laws from hell
It was just a few months to the wedding and everything was humming along smoothly. Everything was settled; the caterer had been selected, the decorations had been chosen, the church booked. That’s when my in-laws suddenly demanded that everything be changed. Apparently, the service providers we had chosen were not familiar to my future mother-in-law, who commanded that we instead use the ones she wanted! I didn’t understand it. Why hadn’t they mentioned these feelings earlier?
We held a family meeting in which my groom’s family expressed what the problem was, as they saw it: Apparently, we had cut them out of the budget drawing, as if we didn’t value their input, so they had decided in protest to stay away completely. At the 11th hour, they pulled an about face and decided to put their collective foot down. They wouldn’t watch their son/brother marry without their input, they had decided. Most upsetting was that they seemed to address all their anger and fury at me. I had known my fiancé for several years by that time, enough time to interact several times with his family.
At gatherings, his relatives had always treated me warmly and when we announced our engagement, they congratulated us enthusiastically. I knew—or thought I did—that they liked me and welcomed me to their family. And now, suddenly, it was as if they hated me, hated that I was going to marry their son/brother, and that he seemed happy. I was confused, to say the least. When I told my fiancé how I felt, he only reassured me that everything would be fine. “Maybe you shouldn’t fight with them,” he’d say.
As the wedding drew closer, two months to the big day, I realized that the problem was even bigger than I had thought. My desires were completely being supplanted by those of his mother and siblings. The music, the cake, the MC, the decorations—almost everything had been changed to suit my future in-laws! None of what we had originally suggested still existed. Not even the church was the one we had chosen because my mother-in-law wished us to wed at the same church in which she had gotten married. The very wedding date itself had actually been postponed upon her orders!
At some point, I gave up the fight. My husband was not backing me up but instead seemed content to stay out of the fray and simply let his family members take the lead on everything (which of course made me look bad when I did try to fight back.) So I let them take over the preparations and have their way on just about everything, including the number of guests we should invite. I was actually given a number of the people I could invite to my own wedding. I remember thinking that of all the things I had gone through, this was the toughest. I can’t count the number of times I cried to my friends about the way things were going. Even worse, my future husband’s family members, while demanding everything fit their wishes, didn’t seem to take our function seriously. They still came late to wedding meetings and acted disinterested.
One of my groom’s younger sisters even dared to shout at me at one of these sessions after I asked her not to waste time, as the wedding was almost upon us. I lost it, provoking another “family meeting” in which I was called “undisciplined” and “unfair” for lashing back.
I wasn’t even allowed the liberty of choosing my own matron of honour; my fiancé’s mother didn’t see any reason for searching beyond the family for a married friend when one of her daughters was available and willing to do the job. I strongly wanted a matron who was a friend, and I insisted on this. We finally agreed that my future husband’s married sister would stand beside me in church and then move aside for the real matron, the one I wanted.
Meanwhile, only two of the six maidens in my entourage were of my choosing; the rest were my future husband’s sisters and cousins who also didn’t seem to take my wedding as seriously as turned up shockingly late on the D-day after I had cried my eyes out.
I wished my husband would be more supportive and assertive
All through, I tried to stay focused on the prize; being married to the man I loved. I decided that it didn’t matter how I got married to him as long as I did. Sometimes, I found myself wishing with bitter frustration that he would be tougher, more assertive, and stick up for me! That he would appreciate that this was our wedding and we had every right to prepare for what we wanted! However, his love never wavered and this kept me going. I understood that it wasn’t his nature to put up a fight, especially against his own family.
Drawing the line
When I went shopping for my wedding gown, I refused to reveal anything about what I had in mind let alone take a family member with me, as I had been pressured to do. This was a stance that pissed off quite a few people. But I didn’t care. I had decided that I was drawing the line when it came to my wedding dress. Only my real matron, a friend who had been my roommate at University, knew before the wedding what I was planning to wear. At least I was happy with that.
The wedding day
When the wedding day came, I was glad I had stuck to my guns on the dress at least because it was the only thing that was truly to my taste on my wedding day. Everything else was not what I had wanted: not the wedding cake, not the music selection and certainly not the colour theme (the reception was decorated in blue and pink, which I hate.) The choir performance I had specifically said I wanted was not there. But I resolved to be happy at my wedding, and I lived through the service, smiling as I exchanged my vows like everything was fine. Because the sister-in-law who was supposed to be my matron of honour through the ceremony refused to shop with others, her dress turned out to be completely different and actually clashed with colours I had chosen for the rest of the girls in my entourage. Throughout the wedding, she fought to be recognized as the official matron, despite out prior agreement, to only be acting matron in church.
I felt like I was attending someone else’s wedding
From the high table, I looked at the cake I hadn’t chosen, the theme colours and decoration I would never have picked in a million years and listened to the music that wasn’t my taste. For a moment, I felt like I was actually attending someone else’s wedding. It hit me I would never have another opportunity to realize my dreams and if it hadn’t been for the advice of tough friends, I might have been wearing a dress that had been picked out for me too. I still wished my fiancé could have been tougher and stood up for me. Or that I had put my foot down about more things. Still knowing I had married the love of my life comforted me. I was happy enough to convince all the guests, three quarters of them unfamiliar, that I was the happiest bride ever.
I refused the wedding flop to spill into my honeymoon. I had vehemently insisted that my husband keep our honeymoon destination a secret from his mother, to her great distress. I was determined to enjoy every bit of it. We are happy in our marriage. Though, I must admit that I still avoid my in-laws, unless I really must see them. Maybe with time I will forgive them, but I doubt I will ever forget that my special day was turned into someone else’s.