By Lilian Magezi
Despite resistance from his in-laws Deo Kabwende Tumusiime stuck to his idea of a simple wedding. He and his fiancee share their story . . .
July 7, 2007 will forever ring melodic memories in our minds. It is the day Judith and I walked down the aisle at the Lourdel Chapel in Nsambya. The church ceremony was presided over by the Rev. Fr. George Eeckhout (RIP), a longtime friend, who had paid part of my fees at university.
This month, we marked seven years of a blissful marriage, in which God blessed us with two daughters. Our journey to marriage is a testimony that it is possible to conduct a wedding within one’s means. It is sad that many couples have chosen to cohabit and when asked why they are not getting married, their response is always lack of funds to finance the wedding.
Prior to our wedding, I had received several messages inviting me to wedding meetings, even from people I did not know and they all expected me to contribute money towards their functions.
This is when I decided not to hold wedding meetings. We planned to conduct the introduction and wedding in the simplest manner and I was lucky to have the support of my fiancée.
Initially, I had envisaged a simple function over dinner, the way it is done in Europe. However, my mother-in-law insisted that since the introduction was one of the biggest family events, I had to adhere to all the traditional requirements.
I was never going to be an easy suitor though, I voiced my thoughts clearly, until we reached a compromise. I did not (and still do not) believe in the idea of pricing women under the guise of appreciating parents. So, I explained to my mother-in-law that she should expect no bride price from me.
However, I assured her that I would love her daughter as my own sister. We only took a few goodies for my in-laws.
I loathed the idea of drawing cash from the bank to deposit for my wife, as if buying a sack of posho (maize meal). True, I did not have much to give my in-laws, but even if I had, I would have spared it to use as I started my new family.
Unlike the traditional practice, where negotiations for marriage are done through a go-between, I did all the negotiations myself, conscious that I would be responsible for any eventualities, should the expenses get out of hand.
After we had reached a compromise, I informed my in-laws that I would attend the introduction with a seven-man delegation. I advised anyone opposed to the number, only do so with a cheque to pay for the extra expenses that came with more people.
The delegation of five gentlemen and two ladies that traveled to Fort Portal to fetch my wife at a glamorous introduction ceremony was small by any conventional standards. We fitted in a Toyota Prado that was offered by a friend, who was also the driver.
On arrival, we found a multitude of people seated under tents, waiting for “the big man” as people like to say nowadays. When asked to kneel before my in-laws, I obliged and I answered all the questions put to me. It was the best introduction ceremony I had ever attended.
Our wedding took place a week after the introduction. Since a wedding is mainly organised by the groom and his family, I had total control over every aspect.
My fiancée and I struggled to compile the list of guests, which grew bigger by the day. We had a tough task of deciding who to invite and who to leave out. Therefore, we decided to drop anyone we had not heard from in three months.
We also decided not to invite relatives who would require transport and accommodation refund as is the case today. Our target was to host only the must-have guests, and the rest would be notified via e-mail or social media, after the function.
In the end, our list had only 70 guests. We did not print wedding cards, and invitation was by SMS. Invited guests were required to confirm attendance a week before the function to avoid wasting money on people who would not attend. Whoever could not make it was replaced.
A final list was drawn and guests were required to verify their names at the reception venue or risk being bounced. Thankfully, we registered only handful casualties.
In some cases, the invite was strictly for one spouse, where the other was either unknown or not a friend to either of us. Those that did not make it to the final list, but felt had to attend, were advised to pay an amount equivalent to what they would consume at the reception.
Those that confirmed attendance were informed that if they did not come for the function, they would pay a compensation charge to cover hotel expenses.
All our guests were required to attend both the church service and reception, so they moved as one group to the reception, after the service. Those with cars offered lifts to those without.
We had one bridal car. Within seven hours, both the church and reception were done, and we closed off at 10:00pm, after a brief dance, to allow guests time to return to their homes early. The next day, we took stock of the event and we realised that we had surprised everyone, including ourselves. We had financed everything, without help.
However, we faced some resistance and fury from different corners, but that did not count.
The idea of a small wedding had initially been mine alone, but I sold it to Judith and she appreciated my determination to formalise our relationship, which is by far the dream of many girls, much more than a big, white wedding.
Maybe her desire for a big white wedding was overshadowed by my ideology, but we could not have it both ways, and she did not show any sign of remorse. I have come to know Judith as a tough girl and for this, she took no shame in having a small wedding.
She was, however, torn between siding with me or with her mum when we disagreed on certain issues, especially during preparations for the introduction. But at the end of the day, we had enough cash to buy our first car within just a month.
Seven years of marital bliss
Seven years seem like such a short time and we have hardly felt it.
Besides the fact that we were obviously meant to be, one thing that has kept my wife and I entwined, is the appreciation that we are not super human. And being human means that we have both erred along the way, lost tempers a few times, slept facing opposite sides, cried in anger; but we always turn back to each other and reconcile.
This may sound funny, but on a few occasions, having a quarrel or being away from each other has proved to be a blessing, because whenever we get back, we cling onto each other like never before. My wife, Jay 4 Dee, as I often call her, is and will forever remain the single most important person in my life. I am proud to talk about her, even when I am away, and there is no single day we are not in touch.
Deo is a loving man, who decided to love me 100% and this he committed when we were still dating. The promise has not cracked for seven years.
The same love has been shared with our children, which really translates into a happy family.
You seem to be too much in love with each other.Don’t you, sometimes, feel suffocated by the love and want some space?
Suffocated? Maybe that is not the right word to use, but true, sometimes we get to a point where we almost take each other for granted.
However, we both travel quite a lot, which forces us to be apart for days, weeks and at times months. Each time this has happened, even being away for a day, we miss each other terribly; and when we get back, it feels like we have just fallen in love.
In fact, we fall in love all over again. Whenever we are away from each other, no day passes without communicating, unless it is unavoidable.
A FEW QUESTIONS FOR DEO . . .
What has kept your marriage special?
Quite a lot, but I would single out perseverance. We have had a lot of good times together, but even when we face bad times, we do not let them distract us from the cause of our marriage.
Why do you think she is your soul mate?
It is not just a thought, but Jay is truly my soul mate, no question about that. On countless occasions, we find ourselves doing the same things by reflex, for instance typing a message for each other at the same time. Other times we say the same things at the same time. So, even though the anniversary found me out of the country, I made sure Judith felt my love throughout that day.
Why do you call her Jay 4 Dee?
Her official name after our wedding is Judith Tumusiime, having adopted my surname. I take it to mean Judith for Tumusiime. To give it a romantic tinge, I call her Jay (the sound of letter J for Judith) and she calls me Dee (the sound of letter D for Deo). Jay 4 Dee ideally means Judith for Deo. And obviously Dee is 4 Jay.
What attracted you to her?
I was attracted by Jay’s beauty, and I vividly remember my first impression of her the day we first met.
How did you meet?
I met Jay at a press conference at Amber House in Kampala. I was working for the Weekly Observer newspaper and she was at the Daily Monitor. I arrived at the venue earlier than her, and as we waited for the minister to arrive, Jay appeared.
She looked so beautiful and innocent and well nurtured. I greeted her and asked for her phone number, which she wrote in my notebook. I was feeling ill that day, so I did not stay to the end of the conference.
I left early and did not get to speak to her again, till later on phone. I invited her to my crib in Seeta, Mukono district, to take care of me since I lived alone, but she turned me down. Somehow, our communication broke down within weeks and I even deleted her number. A year later, in March 2006, she called just to say hello, and I was shocked that this girl could still think about me. Since that call, we have never looked back.
What is so special about her?
My wife is accommodative. More often than not, she lets me be, though she is never shy to stress her opinion. She is also not money-minded. In fact, while still dating, she would sometimes pick the bill without being asked, yet she was still a student at university. You do not find many of the kind in Uganda today. She is extremely reliable and set on achieving the best for our family.
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How we pulled it off: No ''begging'' meetings, invitations by SMS