By Claire Balungi
Elijah Paul Mugalu and Zion Nyakato Mugalu’s union was nothing like your ordinary function. After letting go of the dream to have a destination wedding which was watered down by the pandemic, the couple ended up with both their traditional and official wedding done in one day, at the same venue.
The groom, who was initially afraid of introducing the idea of having the ceremonies in one day was exhilarated when his would-be-wife suggested the same. He convinced his bride that she wouldn’t have to go through any stress with the preparations. The couple officially held each other’s hands as husband and wife on the eve of Valentine’s Day and started their honeymoon on the rosy day of love.
They shared their story with us.
When did you meet?
Zion: It was in May 2019. It was at a company anniversary dinner.
Tell us about your courtship. Why did you finally accept him?
Zion: Our courtship was a year and 3 months. On that journey, there were very many things I discovered about him, through his actions and what he said. I could tell that he’d make a good father and a fine husband. You can almost tell from how a person thinks, what they say, if they fulfill promises… we were friends, even when we were just girlfriend and boyfriend, we had a friendship going on, we were both open to each other.
Before Elijah, I’d been out of a relationship for a while and I’d told myself the next man I fell in love with had to lead to marriage, he had to bear certain qualities like being born-again, he had to be financially solid and he had to love me. He also had to believe in abstaining till marriage, which Elijah did.
When I was getting to know Elijah, I got to know the kind of Muganda man he was. By the time I accepted, I knew the whole package I was saying yes to and I was willing to settle down with him.
There was also a confirmation from God; I had prayed about my future husband. I first introduced him to my mother on a simple home visit one day in March 2020. When he left, mother ‘put a stamp on it, she thought he was the one. We also introduced our intentions to our spiritual father, Apostle Grace Lubega who gave us a go-ahead. All those were confirmations. Even within my spirit, I felt he was the right man- the one I’d been praying for, the one God had sent. There’s a difference between a person God has sent and one that is not sent of God. The one that’s not sent of God comes with confusion; you’re not sure of your place in their life. The one that’s been sent of God comes with a certain assurance. All those things were with him. I felt a certain peace and assurance that he was mine. I loved him too and he was serious. That’s why I finally accepted him.
He ticked all the qualities of the guy I’d finally settle with; my last bus stop.
Did you know he was going to propose?
Zion: I knew he wanted to propose. I just didn’t know when he was planning to. He’d already expressed his interest to settle and said he wanted me to be the mother to his kids.
How did you come to the decision of having all the events in one day?
Elijah: Initially, we wanted a destination wedding. In March 2020, Covid-19 hit and we realised that it may affect our goal to go for a destination wedding so we chose to consider Uganda as an option.
In my mind, I had the idea to join events but I feared to introduce it to her. Out of the blue, she said, “You know what can’t we join these?” I had to endorse it immediately. That’s when we started thinking through venue ideas; Royal Suites Bugolobi, Rivonia Suites and more… Then we had to look at how to introduce the idea to our families so they could buy it. As a couple, you can plan and plan but your relatives may not be willing to comply.
In the meantime, we came up with budgets for kuhingira. I asked her to introduce the idea to her mother and twin sister first. Thank God her sister welcomed it. We then had to package it well and find a way to introduce it to her mother as well. That was in October, towards November 2021.
When it was considered, the issue then was how to introduce it to the organizers. To be honest, it’s not easy to pull off those functions in one day but we are born-again, we always confess positively what we want and our God can deliver as He has always done.
We got support from relatives, but of course, there were people who kept saying, “Who does that? That’s London style, you can’t apply it here.” But the moment we met our emcee, Uncle Mark at Forest Cottages, he was the first person to endorse it since he’d ever emceed such an event.
Zion: After the proposal, you get so many ideas, you hear from many people and google ideas. In the process of preparation, I came across a couple that had joined the functions on the page for My Wedding. I thought, preparing for all these functions takes a lot. We could do the preparations at once. I introduced it to Elijah. I told him I’d seen a couple that had done the same. He told me he had thought of it.
We’d had a very private and simple kukyala since we had the other two functions coming ahead. We didn’t know how to tell our families about the joint functions, but we had already been planning. On 13th February, we got married.
How did you get the family and other guests onboard?
Zion: The guests were not an issue. We just had to give them invites and brief them about the time. When my fiancé and I explained to my sister what we wanted and got her on our side, we prepared her on how to approach my mum and sell her the idea. We got my mum and an aunt, sat down, and explained to them the idea. The moment we convinced them, the rest was a smooth ride. They convinced the other adults. On Elijah’s side, things were easy since he’s the firstborn and a man. In Buganda they really respect men, it wasn’t hard on his side.
Was there anything about that particular date, 14th February being Valentines’ and having your wedding just the day before?
Zion: Yes, we could have done 14th but that was going to be a Sunday, we decided to have our wedding on 13th and start our honeymoon on Valentines Day.
Where was the event?
Zion: It was at Forest Cottages, Bukoto.
We had the kuhingira in the morning, then church in the same venue. We’d gazetted the place after registering with URSB. We then had the reception. It was all in one big tent- the 100-seater tent. It’s only church that was separate, it was in the hall at the same Cottages.
How did you manage to have the place be made officially gazetted for a wedding to take place?
Zion: We’re born again praying under Phaneroo Ministries International. They were given the authority to officiate weddings, so if you’re having the wedding in a different place, say a hotel, for the government to recognize it as church, it needs to be gazetted. You go to URSB and go through the procedure and then it will be gazetted and recognized as church.
Wasn’t it a difficult procedure?
Zion: You have a lawyer that helps you out. In our case, the lawyer was part of the ministry, so basically, the ministry helped us.
How many people did you invite to the function?
Zion: We invited 100. Initially, we wanted 80 but when family came in, the number was pushed to 100.
How long did each event take, seeing that everything had to happen in one day?
Zion: We informed people that the arrival time was 9 am including the bako, breakfast was at 9:30am. 10 am was when the function was to begin. Unfortunately, it rained so much in the morning.
(Elijah intercepts): It was not a problem, the rain was God’s blessing, it made us, the bako arrive a little late but whatever it did, it was for our own good.
Zion: We began at around 11 am and made sure we did the most important traditional things. For instance, I didn’t have a lot of girls, I just had one group of girls coming out to do the kugema. They greeted first, then I came out. Elijah’s sister brought flowers, I picked him out and introduced him to my family, then I went back to change and when I came out again, I was given away.
What bits did you cut out?
Zion: We removed things like cutting the cake with my brother, speeches were pushed to the reception time in the evening. Usually, there’s a man of God that preaches but since my brother is a pastor, we asked him to step in and because he knew about the time frame in which we were working, he was so brief. That’s how we were able to do only the most important traditional things and get done with the kuhingira. Then we had church.
What did Elijah’s family bring and how did you manage to transport the bride price home from the venue?
Zion: Traditionally, among the Bakiga, the bride price comes before the kuhingira. Usually, when the groom comes for the first official visit, which is called okugamba obugyenyi, that’s when discussions on bride price are held. After concluding and agreeing, when the groom is ready, he brings the bride price. It had already come home before the kuhingira was organized. However, on the day of kuhingira, he still came with gifts. When the time came to present the gifts, my family received them and immediately loaded them back on the same truck. A prior arrangement had been made by my husband to have the gifts brought to the event venue and presented and thereafter driven home on the same truck. My family didn’t have to worry about that. All we had to do was have some relatives on the truck to take it home and get it offloaded, and for someone to stay home and oversee the activity.
How long was church?
Zion: The church began at around 1:00 pm and it took about 45minutes to 1 hour just as we’d planned. The man of God was right on point.
Coming back to reception, was décor changed?
Zion: Yes, the decorators used the one hour of church to make touch-ups. In the morning, there were no charger plates. There were table liners and centerpieces, but no charger plates or napkins. The high table had been left plain without complementary furniture. On the photo booth and welcome signage, they hadn’t put flowers yet. There was just one major chandelier up on the ceiling in the morning but by reception time, they’d put more chandeliers, napkins on the tables, charger plates, flowers on the photo booth, and the welcome signage.
What time did the function end?
Zion: Our organising committee was looking at 7 pm. In my heart, I really wondered if we could be through by that time, but surprisingly, around 7-8 pm, we were through.
What would you say are the pros and cons of having all the events in one day in one place?
Zion: The advantage of joining events is the beauty of hitting two birds with one stone. You get to prepare for everything at once rather than first preparing for the kuhingira, then you prepare for the wedding. Even when you’re getting financial support when people get to know that it’s more than one function, their financial support increases. We also realised that on a kuhingira, we’d need a DJ, on a wedding, we’d still need a DJ. Still on both events, one needs a decorator, basically, the same service providers are required. Why not just have them once for the two functions on the same day?
The advantage of using one venue is that you just have to gazette an area and not go into a church building. Then the Man of God comes and officiates. There isn’t a lot of movements, even the guests just come and leave at once. Everything was done at the venue including my saloon.
Elijah: In the eyes of God, any wedding should be witnessed by at least 3 people, the rest are events. As a couple, we decided that all the events be turned into one so that the same people can come and celebrate the same couple, using the same food, decoration, cake, photography.
It simplified my life as well as hers. She had no stress, I’d told her that she wouldn’t be stressed at any one point with the preparation because it was going to be done in the easiest way it could. As for the venue, we were given the venue for all the functions; at Forest Cottages, we only paid for food. One plate could accommodate someone for the whole day.
Zion: The cons depend on an individual. Not everyone is going to come for the kuhingira. There are people who would like to intentionally come for only the wedding.
Elijah: The other disadvantage is time-keeping. Some people highly consider the wedding as the most important part of the joint functions. If it rains, it might stop some people from coming for a particular function. Another disadvantage is on the decoration; the deco for kuhingira and that of the wedding are different.
We had cultural dancers, our walkway was damaged because of their dancing style, which also affected the deco. The Bakiga have that dancing style where one jumps for almost an hour. The place should also matter, joining events is good when you’re going for an open/outdoor place, that’s when you can consider using a tent. If you put your function in an enclosed place, it might be difficult for you to pull it off. Think about the part of giving gifts. If your venue is in a place, say upstairs, the bako may struggle to bring the gifts up.
How did you handle food?
Zion: Since we knew that our guests were coming early, we did breakfast in the morning and then planned for a brunch in between as we were going for church. We then had late lunch at the reception.