Friday, December 15, 2006

Tying the knot in Namiyembe

A couple of weeks ago--on a Saturday, which is "the" day for weddings in Uganda--I headed for Namiyembe to officiate at a wedding ceremony. To "join the couple" is how they say it here. "Namiyembe" means "place of mangos," and one can see many a dark green mango-tree crown among the lighter greens of other trees and bushes and the greyish brown thatched roofs of local huts.

I've learned by experience that whoever drives a motor vehicle to a wedding ceremony, at least in rural areas of Uganda, also gets to dog-leg over to wherever the bride is being dolled up for the occasion, wait from one to three hours while she and her retinue ready themselves, load them all up (or as many as can be crammed in) and proceed (much more slowly than on the first part of the dog-leg) on to the wedding venue. Happily for me, this trip was atypical in that the bride and her crew were actually ready when we reached the place. After I recovered from the disorientation of not having a two-hour wait, I managed to get back into the pickup and drive on. We paused only briefly along the way for someone to pluck a couple of sprays of deep fuchsia bougainvillea flowers and poke them for decoration into crannies on each front corner of the truck.

There were already over a hundred people at the church building on the edge of Namiyembe trading center when we arrived. They had rigged a tarp for extra shade along the side of the building for the people who couldn't fit inside. It took me about 90 seconds to get from the pickup to my seat inside the building. The bride and her company accomplished the same feat in about 45 minutes.

Eventually she and the matron of honor were seated to my left, between me and the audience, and opposite the groom and his best man on my right, also between me and the crowd attending. There followed a couple of hours of introductions, choirs presenting songs, reports from relatives on the backgrounds of the bride and groom, and a sermon on marriage.

My part on this occasion -- supervising the vows, ring exchange and signing of the marriage certificate -- came on the heels of the sermon. The master of ceremonies urged me to do some more preaching before the vows. So I did, but kept it to just a few minutes since the afternoon was waning quickly. For the vows, I stated each phrase in English. Then a translator repeated the words in Lugwere, so that the couple could say them after him in turn. The end of each set of vows triggered applause, cheers, and loud ululations, as did the presentation of the signed certificate and introduction of the couple as Mr. and Mrs. James Wakula. Decorum does differ in definition from one culture to another!

It was getting on towards 5 p.m. as the ceremony itself concluded, and the reception and meal were still ahead. In order not to drive home in the dark, we asked to be excused to leave as the celebration continued. Our hosts were understanding of our situation, but insisted that we eat something, at least, before going. They ushered us over to a small room in a nearby shop and served up a fine repast of rice and chicken with sauce.

We did make it home just before dark, but I could do little justice to supper after having feasted so shortly before it in the Place of Mangos.

James the groom (near side) and his best man

Here comes the bride!

Robina, the bride, with her matron of honor and bridesmaid

1 comment:

Cheryl said...

We were just at a wedding in Ft Portal...ours had a marching band :-). It was lively.
Greetings to all yours...