Like many other millennials still concerned about weaving their careers to make ends meet, for ex-radio queen, Siima Sabiti, the idea of her wedding was not one that gave her sleepless nights.
The thought of her walking down the aisle in an elegant gown, starring admiringly to her charming partner or running around to make sure the wedding goes as desired was far fetched. Until Friday evening when she finally walked that path.
Siima together with Bernard Mukasa, a city lawyer staged a mock wedding on Friday in what is a first, at least in Uganda. The ‘couple’ who had never set their eyes on each other until yesterday exchanged vows at a lively party held at The Square in Kampala.
Over 200 guests, many of them young Kampalans including friends, well wishers, tweeps and the press graced the event. Everything was a replica of what you would except at a wedding (plenty of cake, elegant bride and groom, bridesmaids, groomsmen, good decor, entertainment) except for one thing – the reason why Siima and Bernard were ‘getting married’.
A few weeks ago, Bernard while scrolling through his Twitter feed read a tweet by a lady called Lulu Jemimah. Lulu is a 32-year-old Ugandan who is pursuing her Masters Degree at Oxford University in the U.K.
Lulu had tweeted about her recent wedding during which she got married to her own self. The story behind Lulu’s awkward marriage was that she had decided to put to rest the societal expectations and pressures (to get a husband) so she could pursue what her immediate desire was – finishing school.
What was also strange about Siima and Bernard’s wedding was that one had to pay to be guest. Tickets went for Shs 20,000 (US$ 5.2) before 7pm and Shs 30,000 (US$ 7.8).
“I identified with Lulu’s tweet. I was thinking this girl has been forced to make a statement about the pressures of society. So I responded, then Siima responded to my tweet saying this is something everybody is facing,” Bernard said in an interview with SoftPower News on Friday.
“So Siima jokingly said ‘Why don’t we get married?’ Then, everybody jumped on it, companies came together giving us offers for the wedding”.
The two then approached some companies requesting for support to put together a fake wedding whose purpose was to raise funds for Lulu’s tuition fees at Oxford. That is how Friday’s wedding came to be pieced together.
One has to wonder – There are thousands of Ugandans who would do anything to finish their education, and they need any support they can get. They may not be willing to do exactly what Lulu did to get that support. What was it about Lulu’s life story that really captivated Siima and Bernard to go beyond the normal to back her cause?
Siima who is the Editor for Flair Magazine told SoftPower News it is because she personally relates with the realities that Lulu faces.
“What caught me about Lulu’s story is that I understood where she’s coming from. Instead of people focusing on my achievements, there’s always the question of ‘Why aren’t you married and having kids?’. And it was disappointing that what I achieved in my career was not celebrated because of the fact that I am not somebody’s wife,” said Siima.
“I identified with her when she said she was going to get married to herself and make a commitment to herself, the same way I made a commitment to myself that I will be working to make myself a better person”.
And for her, the buzz about her ‘wedding’, coupled with fact that so many people attended and others made contributions goes to show how much Lulu’s reality is relatable.
In his advice to Ugandans grappling with pressure to get married, Bernard said: “Everything comes naturally. I want to get married one day, but I want to get married for the right reasons. It’s not a time table… like finish school, get a job, get a house, get a wife. No. It’s not that simple”.
People should be left to grow into relationships and finally marriage, he said.
“We are pushing people into marriage just to satisfy society and they end up doing the wrong things in God’s eyes. I’m a lawyer and I know the divorce rates are through the roof, and it comes from that”.
Siima on her part underscores the need for everyone to have a strong sense of self, amid the pressure by family and society.
“You need to be very strong with your convictions and make decisions based on what you feel is right for you not to make others happy. Because it’s you that’s going to live with that,” Siima told SoftPower News.
The night was lively and the hashtag #TheKaBernzWedding was buzzing with real-time updates given the good representation of almost everyone that influences Twitter conversations in Uganda. There were perfomances from comedian Daniel Omara and singer/guitarist Kenneth Mugabi.
But like one would expect, a lot of out-of-the-ordinary things characterized the event, perhaps to keep the guests alive to the nature of the wedding.
The ‘sermon’ delivered by Rudende, Siima’s longtime radio co-host as well as the vows were some of the highlights.
“I promise to keep my beard game strong. I promise to Retweet and Like even when its hard, especially when she [Siima] is going on about Idris Elba [Siima’s crush also Hollywood actor],” Bernard vowed.
In return, ‘bride’ told the ‘groom’: “I vow to always Retweet you when you make sense, to be yo friend, recommend sheer butter treatment for your beard, to graciously overlook the fact that yo an Arsenal fan, until OTT does us apart”.
Lulu, in her brief remarks later, was appreciative of whoever turned up for the event. She told this website that she was surprised and humbled by the fact that Ugandans have been supportive to her cause both financially and emotionally.
“It shows that if you believe in something, people are going to have your back. But it’s also encouraging me to help people. Whatever has been given to me, I will give back in whatever way I can,” Lulu said.
While the mock wedding is over, Lulu is not yet out of the woods as yet. Out of the US$ 10,197 (Shs 40m) she needs to complete her second year at Oxford, US$ 72,000 has so far been contributed through her GoFundMe account. She is still looking to well wishers to donate US$ 3,000.
She told SoftPower News that her dream is to teach (writing) at the university here in Uganda. However, for that to happen, she has to have a PhD which is preceded by attaining a Masters Degree. Once she has acquired a Masters at Oxford, she can get a funded PhD at a good university.
“I want to get back here and teach Ugandans how to tell their stories. Not just creative writing. To do that, I need credibility as an academic,” Lulu said.