By Amandla Karungi

I got married on 8th December 2017 and the morning of my wedding day was hectic. I had managed (for the most part) to stay above all the anxiety, panic, excesses and potential meltdowns of pre-wedding ceremonies and my traditional marriage ceremony, the Kuhingira. I was actually even praised for being the most calm bride ever! I believed I would conquer this final rite too with a few deep breaths and a peaceful mind.

I had a plan. I would sleep early and wake up refreshed, and then I would play my favourite Hillsong song on the speakers and it would reverberate throughout the house. I would then go out and sit in lotus pose on my yoga mat in the grass, inhaling and exhaling slowly as the first warm glimmers of dawn broke the grey skyline. Namaste.

However, that morning, my sleepy (definitely not morning people) bridesmaids were sprawled across floors and beds in deep sleep, three of them heavily exhausted after having just gone to bed an hour before. They had spent the entire night making flower arrangements, after a particularly cruel game of cat and mouse game with our decorator, who had over promised and under delivered. Thankfully, my sisters were able to compensate with their own hard work, but this would be later. So, a few people knew something I did not know. I was later told about it a few minutes before entering the church.

I had a final impromptu pre-wedding ceremony called a Kasuze Katya that my father insisted be performed by the groom’s family. It was a mixed culture wedding but because that particular ceremony is a preserve of the groom’s culture, I had not planned for it as part of our over crowded morning program. But there was a knock on my door and my aunt requested that I go out and receive guests from the groom’s family. It turned out to be a hybrid ceremony of both cultures, if not a hijacked version of our own. It is an official seeing off the bride on the morning of her marriage and it was heavily emotional but I refused to crack.

The hair dressers were the first to arrive and they were shocked to find the bride atop a small garden house wrapping poles with pink ribbon. I wanted to have a fun photo shoot in there before I left. I never got the time.

I sat down to get my hair done but an hour later, the stylist had failed to create my desired style, in spite of a step by step YouTube video tutorial and pictures. I even showed him pictures of an alternative style but his hands were like a machine which is only programmed to do the same thing. Finally I broke down and ran off with what looked like a black furry kitten sleeping on my head. We were running late!

The first time I had worn my wedding shoes two months before, they seemed to fit well enough. They could be a size smaller, I thought, but they will work. Two days before the wedding, I found that I could barely walk in them. I had not picked them out for myself, my mother had, and they were classier than anything I had tried to find around this capital city with its low quality unoriginal bridal commodities.

As I ran out of the house that morning, forget inhaling and exhaling slowly, I could not remember to breathe at all. I had one goal, to get to church in time. Worst of all, I could hear in my mind my husband-to-be teasing me as he had done many times before, “You will be late even on our wedding day!” The insoles I had stuck into my shoes shifted uneasily as I hurried down the driveway, promising to become totally useless later when I really needed them to stick.

When I got to the car, the gates were closed. When I inquired about why we were not moving, I was told to go back to the house for one more bridal photo with my parents at the entrance of the house. There is not much surprise that this picture would not be used in the albums anyway because emotions were raging and faces were distorted and the pictures captured it all. By the time, I was released, (unknown to me there were instructions from ‘above’ that no-one touches the gate until they are told to do so) I had burst into tears, and threatened to throw myself with my bouquet through the windscreen if the car did not start moving.

Writing this, I see now, that I could write several series out of this day and the days leading up to it. But for now, my tips for a bride.

Tip #1 – If you are like me and do not like to “disturb people” or to ask for too much, your first instinct will be to dial down your special status as a bride because you are so afraid of becoming a Bridezilla. You are the kind of person who disappears into walls and never calls attention to yourself. Well, to you I say, FUSS. Be a bride who knows what you want. Do not wait for people to know what you want or to get you want you want. You are uniquely YOU. It’s been said many times. Well, believe it.

Tip #2 – Choose a dress that you LOVE.

Tip #3 – Try on your wedding shoes several times.Have alternative shoes, most probably wedges or even cute flats.

Tip #4 – Have a hair trial, maybe even two, with the same stylist who will be doing it on your day. I had my hair trial done months before my wedding by a different stylist in the same salon and somehow I believed that the new stylist would interprete my idea correctly. It was pretty simple to me, but I guess, even the simplest thing can go wrong on a wedding day .

Tip #5 –  Have someone, who is not emotionally invested, to take care of logistics; a militant aunt perhaps, to make sure all the bridesmaids’ dresses are there and they all fit, the entourage has breakfast and lunch, to manage the salon timetable and sleeping arrangements and very importantly, someone to mind the parents (especially emotional mothers) among a host of other things.

Tip #6 –  If you get an inkling, a hiccup, a skipped heartbeat, your first doubt, that your service provider is not what they are claiming to be, or will not provide what they are promising, LISTEN to it. Do not leave any space for doubt. Because as soon as you pay them their much needed deposit, if they are like most Ugandan service providers, they will treat you as if they are doing you a favor, as they walk jauntily away with your money.

Tip #7 – Remember to keep a balance, that elusive balance. It is your wedding day, but there is a marriage forthcoming, spend one on one time with your husband.

Tip #8 – Do a setup of your entire decor beforehand.

Tip #9 – Create a detailed program for the day and ensure that everyone who needs to know it, knows it. Also, make an allowance for things to not go as planned. For example, a backup plan when there is a one or two hour delay.

Tip #10 – Be aware that even with all this done above, you might encounter some challenges.

Tip #11 – Surround yourself ONLY with people who love you and who are happy to be around you. A supportive, happy entourage is extremely important.

Tip #12 – Forget about pleasing people who are there to make sure that they are not pleased.

Tip #13 – Write your speech. Let it be true and honest. Remember to thank each and everyone who needs to thanked. Therefore, take time to prepare this speech, a month before the wedding and dust it up, two days before. Make very sure that it is accessible when you need it.

Tip #14 – You need a handkerchief. Those glaring lights and staring eyes will make your sweat glands work.

Tip #15 – Download all the music you need, put it on a flash drive and have your most dedicated friend stand over the DJ’s head like a hawk. Never trust the DJ to do his work unsupervised.

Tip #16 – Have a team of super-talented and more importantly supportive, dedicated sisters like mine. One of my sisters, B, even though she was totally swamped and stretched thin by the end of my wedding, she was the God-sent ever present support and help I needed. She was there everywhere and whenever I needed her to be. She was a chief organizer, chief planner and at the same time a committed assistant.

Tip #17 – Have faith. It had been a rainy season for the past two months before the wedding, and we (the groom and the bride who chose to believe in what the groom believed in) decided not to have a tent. It was cloudy and there were echoes of thunder right from the early morning, but in spite of our friends’ and families’ well meaning advice, we still did not get a tent. And even with the clouds and thunder, it did not rain on our outdoor wedding!

Plan appropriately but believe for great things to happen. God provided everything that we needed and gave us left overs too as He had promised.

Tip #18 – Be happy, enjoy the experience of your wedding to the man you love, with your closest and dearest family present, in good health and happiness, to witness your union. That is the best wedding present you can ever be gifted with. That to me was my biggest reason to be happy. Thank you so much God.

Happy planning!