She sits over there. Sometimes with friends over lunch in the Parliament dining hall. For about four months, he watches her. Notices how she makes a sign every time before she eats. And how her rosary rests on her chest, slightly hidden by her clothes. ‘She is Catholic,’ he notices, for no particular reason. She is calm, beautiful and the most graceful person he ever saw. His brain somehow notices that there are stretches of time that she is away before re-appearing again.
Although, he enjoys watching her, Charles Odongtho is a busy person. When he is at the Parliament, it is because he has a show to run, Our Parliament at Wizarts. The Frontline show on NBS TV also awaits. Sometimes though, when no one is looking, he feels alone and in those moments, he realizes someone is missing.
One day he decides it’s about time he said hallo.
“Hey, long time,” he says. She smiles, surprised because she would have remembered meeting him.
Soon, Hon. Mary Paula Turyahikayo, whom she (Linda Bernadette Kyarikora) works for as a personal assistant needs media coverage and she remembers him, and his easy nature from lunchtime. A call to him changes their course of life as they decide to deal first with the emotion rummaging through them.
“We started to chat a lot and I noticed when he took too long to answer to a text or call, I would get mad,” Linda reveals adding, “I love his laughter. He is honest and kind and loves the Lord.”
Odongtho reveals feeling peaceful with Linda. Soon they were attending church service at St. Charles Lwanga Catholic Parish, Ntinda where he serves together.
“It meant a lot to me that we shared the same faith and values,” Odongtho comments.
Eight months later, Odongtho knew he had found his missing rib. He proposed to Linda on her birthday at The Golden Tulip hotel, which he says he chose due to its imposing view.
Amidst a few friends, a surprised Linda was led into the middle of rose petals shaped as a heart. She shivered, her mind going numb at the surprise as her friends cheered her on.
“Keep calm. It is going to be well. I want you to be my wife. Bestie, will you marry me?” the whisper of the man she loves penetrated through to her. He wanted to be with her. She wanted to be his. There were kisses, hugs, dinner and more cheering.
“I was happy. I had prayed for everything and I knew the kind of man I was dealing with,” Linda reveals.
Odongtho notes that when he was looking for an engagement ring, he chose a decent but relatively cheap ring, “It made more sense that the marriage ring is the expensive one and I wasn’t going to wait too long before slipping it on her finger.”
A mix of cultures
Marriage is a blend of families and the two embarked on a journey to let their parents know. However, while Odongtho is an Alur that hails from Nebbi, his wife is a Munyankore and comes from Rukungiri, therefore there were a few cultural differences to address.
Linda notes that the Alur use uncles as messengers of marriage while in the West, the go-between tells the father of the bride.
Linda found a go-between who knew Odongtho very well but was also a close friend to her family, “My father trusted him and knew he would never have represented a questionable person. This made it easy for us.”
It was then Linda’s turn to impress and meet her in-laws in Nebbi, “I asked Charles about their customs, if they kneel or hug, how they greet and so on.”
With his help, Linda was set to meet his side of the family where she was welcomed.
On November 30, 2019, Odongtho went for a kuhingira ceremony at Linda’s home where he paid a bride price of cows that he took in cash.
The male entourage and their sense of style stood out at the kuhingira as they showed up uniquely dressed in African wear instead of the usual suits. “Suits are a sign of respect to your in-laws but when I asked my girlfriend she was excited for us to do something different, so we made custom African shirts,” Odongtho says.
Choosing white shirts with green and mustard yellow, the groom and his entourage used NLB-House of fashion to make their attires. For the eight people on the entourage, the cost of attire was Shs3.2million.
“We started the work early and the shirts went through many changes before we came up with their final look,” Odongtho reveals.
A week later, Odongtho and Linda were set to wed. Odongtho’s family threw Linda an all-female bridal shower where they all wore kitenge attires. “It was a surprise. They had tailored attires for me and my sister and they fit well,” Linda reveals.
The bride was gifted with traditional gifts like mats, mingling sticks, baskets, pots and many others.
With the two main functions close to each other, the couple was very busy with preparations.
“I decided to do the running and my wife took care of her dressing and the cake. She was expecting and I didn’t want her stressed.”
As an expectant mother, getting the perfect dress was no walk in the park for Linda, “I went for my first fitting but if the dresses were fitting, they were too heavy and caused me some pain.”
Two weeks to the wedding, the bride-to-be still couldn’t find her perfect dress, “I finally found a tailor in Kikoni, a former intern for Anitah Beryl who made my gown at Shs1.8m.”
The tailor also made her a rose gold changing dress at shs800, 000 and designed her bridesmaids’ dresses at Shs240, 000 each.
On December 1, the couple said I do in the midst of friends and family at St Charles Lwanga Catholic Church in Ntinda. Later, they hosted their guests at Hilltop Hotel, Naguru.
With the help of a very organised team, Odongtho pulled off the wedding which hosted up to 1,200 people, “I had a great team. Allan Gitta was the chairman of the wedding while my sister Patricia Apecu and Steven Cwinyaai controlled the finances.”
He further accords his successful wedding to very generous friends who gave up to Shs150m of his Shs164m wedding budget. Other people offered resources in kind. It was however still challenging.
“At one time, even with all the help, my brain couldn’t work anymore. A simple call from a friend saying, ‘Charles we shall stand with you’ made a great difference at that moment,” he comments, highlighting the need for more than financial support for people planning a wedding.
One of his biggest challenges was making a guest list.
“I made a list with categories including; family, church, clergy, friends, army, OBs, OGs and workmates. I would further break it down to OGs mass communication, OBs law school, OBs UMI, Workmates- New Vision, URN, NBS, Wizarts. Parliament- MPS, press office and so on.
Even then, Odongtho says that some people missed and took it as a personal insult. “ Your mind can easily skip people at the moment. Some, however, came for the church service and went home. I am grateful for them.”
One other challenge was matching people to sit together considering some politicians don’t see eye to eye.
The wedding was attended by many dignitaries including the Prime Minister of Uganda, Dr Ruhakana Rugunda, MPs and clergy among others.
“My best moment from the wedding was having a lot of clergy grace our ceremony. There was a bishop, 23 priests from Nebbi, the Central and the West,” Linda comments.
The wedding also stood out as the new model of Prado V8s was used for transport. The groom reveals he used his social capital to secure them from friends at church and Parliament who fuelled them before handing them to him, “I was glad they were willing to help, however, in my line of work, I do not like to take favours using my position so I paid a little fee.”
After the wedding, the couple spent a few days at Royal Suites Bugolobi.
“It was very nice being around and relaxing off the stress of the wedding without the pressure of travelling too far,” comments Linda.
Odongtho reveals that apart from being cost-friendly and relaxing, Linda was also almost due, to travel far which made the more sense to stay around.
Odongtho advises couples organizing weddings to get good organizing committees, make use of committed friends, invest in good social capital and only make weddings they love and can afford.
The couple has since been blessed with a baby girl.
My Wedding congratulates them upon reaching this milestone.
Hilltop Hotel Venue cost them Shs4m inclusive of music. They had their own cooks which made it easier to accommodate the extra people that attended.
The couple had an all fruit cake made by Aisha Cakes at Shs5m. It had 5tiers and 20 small cakes.