Kwanjula: A Real African Experience

Kwanjula  (Qwan’-ju’-la’ ) – Traditional wedding in Uganda. The two families of the bride and groom come together to seal the marriage. The bride price that has been negotiated is given and the groom receives his bride.

I had heard much about Kwanjulas but had never been a part of one until now. On Sunday, June 28, I experienced my first Kwanjula, and it was a great cultural experience.

When I first begin to come to Kampala, Uganda, I met a young man by the name of Buyondo. He worked for a missionary family and often translated or helped in our ministry. Pam and I developed a friendship with him that has existed through the years. So, it was a great surprise when we learned that his Kwanjula would take place during our stay here this summer.

Pam was given a African dress to wear by Christina Berry. Not the formal dress that all the ladies would be wearing but a very nice African dress that would be acceptable for the event. I borrowed from Joseph of Bible Way a dark blue striped sport coat and the long, cream-colored gown that African men wear to the Kwanjula. Amazingly Joseph and I are exactly the same size.
The Dudes copy

At 12:30 the family of the groom gathered at a local restaurant to proceed to the bride’s house, the location of the Kwanjula. Two pick-up trucks were almost completely loaded with the gifts that would be presented to the bride’s family. There were very many beautifully decorated bowls filled with sugar and spices. A basket full of chickens. A rocking chair and an ottoman. Two whole sides of beef, legs and hoofs still attached. And a goat with a great big blue bow around its neck. Pam and I were amazed at the number of gifts and the nature of the gifts. I don’t know if Beyondo had to supply any cows or if he paid any money the equivalent of a designated number of cows, but no cows were present. The bride price usually involves cows. We have helped several young men raise the money to buy cattle to secure their brides during our work in Uganda.

Pam and I went with Andy and Christina Berry. Long time friends and IMB Missionaries.

The groom was late. He didn’t arrive until 1:30 and then we lined up and paraded to the bride’s house. The lead truck had a man with a video camera taping the entire procession.

women lined upAfter about an hour’s drive we came to the brides house. The yard was filled with tents and the bride’s family was present and waiting for us. We formed two lines. The women in one and the men in the other. Then in an orderly procession we entered the yard and took our seats opposite the bride’s family. Each family had a spokesperson. We could not understand what was being said but everyone was having a great time. Much laughter was heard.

There were very many people present. I think well over 300. And the chairs were very tightly placed together. Not to the specifications of Americans for sure.

The family of the bride was presented. Groups would come from the house and be introduced. They didn’t just walk out, but they came out dancing. There was a particular route they took from the house to the front of the groom’s family and friends. It was a lot of fun.

At one point several women came from the house and begin looking for the groom who was sitting in the back with us. They searched the crowd till they found Buyondo and led him to the front of the group where the bride was now seated.

carrying giftsWhen it came time to present the gifts, all the groom’s family and friends left to get the gifts from the trucks. It was an amazing site to see the line of people, men and women, standing with bowls and chairs and ottoman and chickens in a basket. We marched back into the yard and presented these gifts to the brides family. The women had to carry the bowls on their heads. Many like Pam could not balance the bowls on their heads so they had to hold them with one hand.

All the gifts were spread out on the yard and then presented to the family. Men came forward and took out the chickens. Several more men stepped forward to try out the rocking chair and ottoman. Now, you should have seen these men as they one by one sat in the new rocker, placed their feet on the ottoman and rocked. Women received the bowls and carried them into the house. It was an interesting and amusing event to watch the bride’s price being paid.bride gifts

During the proceedings we were given a soda and snack box to hold us over to dinner that was served at around 7:00PM. The meal was great. All African. Matoke. Rice. Beans. Potatoes. And a lot of foods that I did not know. The meal was very good. We were served in a very orderly manner. Row by row was released to go to the serving lines. They did this a lot better than most of the churches I have had meals with.

We left soon after eating. Andy and Christina have a couple of children they had to return to, but the proceedings would continue till almost midnight.

It was a great cultural experience. Rich in the traditions of the tribe that the bride is from. It is amazing to me that through the years, these traditions continue as strong as they do today, given that the fact that we have lost most of our traditions in the west.

Buyondo and Rita are now married by the traditions of their tribes, but not in the eyes of the state or church. They have an official church wedding scheduled for late August. Then they will be man and wife officially. So, until then they remain apart.

The cost of the Kwanjula is up to the groom to pay, so is the cost of the wedding. Many men have no way to come up with the enormous fees, bride price and wedding cost, so, they just live together.

The goatNow, the very good Lord blessed Pam and me with two wonderful daughters. And I wonder, where is my goat? My rocker? My ottoman? My cows? Where are Pam’s spices and sugar?

Are you listening Jason and Kevin?


  1. Jimmy-

    I simply LOVE the nightee gown ! But should you really wear it to a wedding? (Just kidding, I still remember you commenting to a whole church on MY night shirt while we cleaned up our flooded guest house)

    Pam looks great in her dress ! Sounds like you two are having a great time in Uganda. God bless.


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