We had been warned that it was going to be a long day and after two weddings in Rwanda, experience told us that a box of sandwiches would be a good thing to take with us, except that in the heat of Uganda in February they wouldn't last until lunchtime. It was also a chance to dress up. All the women, including Mrs R were turned out in traditional Ugandan dresses, complete with fancy bows around the waist.
Maggie is one of the teachers at Sure House School and this was her big day. Strictly, it wasn't a wedding but an 'introduction', something equivalent to the western engagement but a lot more serious. The whole village goes along to see the two families being introduced to each other in a day of music, dancing and celebration.
What we didn't realise until we were there was that the two of us had been co-opted as Elders in lieu of the groom's absent family. Their absence was excusable. Joeri hails from Holland and only flew into Uganda last week. He and Maggie plan to have a formal wedding in Holland later in the year, but today was about observing local tradition in Uganda.
The introduction of the families is the culmination of months of negotiations. Needless to say, as only pseudo-elders we hadn't taken part in this process. If we had, there would have been the real possibility of Joeri politely being told that Maggie wasn't available. Arranged marriages it seems are still common in Uganda, but happily, everyone seems very pleased with the arrangements, and in return a Nissan truck-load of gifts are grandly offered in a long procession. Stacked up on the ground in front of the receiving family were salt, soap, cockerels, assorted gift-wrapped boxes, sacks of grain and even a new bike for the 'old man'.
After sitting for most of the day, we were invited aside into a small house to meet Maggie's family. Her parents had both died when she was a child so these were the uncles and aunts who took responsibility for her. There they declared to us in solemn tones that Joeri was very welcome into the family. He was given a certificate, embellished with the emblems of all the tribes in Buganda (see the article Uganda's kingdom). This is the first new wife we have seen that comes with a lifetime guarantee. After the formalities we were treated to a not insubstantial feast. The sandwiches wouldn't have been needed after all.
Back out in the heat of the afternoon, there was yet more gift giving, this time between the bride and groom, followed by cake-cutting and fireworks. We witnessed the local equivalent of that age-old Scottish wedding tradition - the poor-oot. Some of the cake fell onto the ground to be engulfed within seconds by a swarm of children from the side-lines.
By early evening the festivities were all but over and our party headed back to Kiwangala leaving the locals to dance the night away until dawn. We are very sure that they did. If there is one thing the Ugandans do very well, it is stay up all night to loud music.