When and how did you meet?
Sarah: We met in 1979 at a Christian convention, one of those that were always organised at Stephen’s home. His father, Estone Lubale, a retired civil servant, turned his home into a Christian camp ground at Busalamu Luuka in Jinja.
How did marriage cross your mind?
Sarah: My mind was open to marriage because my father John Byakika, then an inspector of police, had passed on the previous year and I was longing for love. When my sister-in- law (the wife to Stephen’s elder brother) came to me with a message in January 1980 that Stephen wanted my hand in marriage, I prayed about it as we had been taught to do at church. It was scary for two weeks but considering Stephen’s family background and character traits, it was impossible to resist.
How did you approach Sarah?
Stephen: I was brought up in a Christian family and they discouraged us from asking girls for a hand in marriage. One had to tell the church minister because we believed he knew everybody in church. We were taught that beauty was not about physical appearance but the Christian character traits. Unlike today, where fund-raising takes centre stage, weddings were simple and we did what was within our means.
What attracted you to each other?
Stephen: I wanted a devout Christian and Sarah was my perfect pick. Beauty is skin-deep.
Sarah: I wanted a Christian husband and back then, girls were not after fame or money.
When did you come up with the wedding date?
Stephen: In February, after our introduction.
Who was on your entourage?
Sarah: My sister-in-law Norah Lubale was my maid of honour. Jennifer Tasi Kibumba, her late sister Deborah Tasi, my sister Monica and another lady whose name I do not remember. We were church mates and belonged to the same prayer team.
Where did you shop for your wedding attire?
Stephen: Norah had shopped for her attire in London for her wedding a few months before us. We used those garments and this saved us in expenditure on the bridal garment.
What kind of transport did you use?
Stephen: We had three Peugeot 504 wagons, a pickup and a lorry which our family offered. We did not hire any vehicle for the function.
What did you serve the guests?
Stephen: Our guests were treated to sodas only but I do not remember how much it cost. Family met most of our requirements.
Sarah, what was your colour theme?
Sarah: We did not mind colour themes at the time but our brides maids wore cream and we did not have our reception decorated.
Did you go for premarital counselling?
Stephen: Yes, Pastor Musonge counselled us and officiated our wedding. He said marriage is not for angels but people raised in different families. He added that our bonding should be given time, a great lesson which has made our marriage last for 35 years.
What was going through your mind during the event?
Stephen: I was wondering how best I would care for the new family. I wanted to be a good husband. I had spent the eve at home meditating on the decision I had made.
What are some of the lessons you have learnt from your marriage?
Stephen: The law would not have any criminal charge against anybody marrying at the age of 18. Anybody above 18 can marry but it depends on how prepared they are. At 30, some people may not be ready for marriage because marriage is advanced and maintained by the maturity of the mind.
Sarah: Marriage is a joint venture; you do not live alone, think alone or decide alone. We have watched our ideas materialise because we plan together.
What does it take for one to be happily married?
Stephen: Marriage is a partnership. When you marry because of the extra work, you cannot do at your house, then you will view your wife as a cook, house cleaner and laundry person causing you to find faults based on the chores of the house.
How did you come up with an anniversary celebration?
Stephen: This anniversary was the idea of my daughters, Peace, a Nairobi-based lawyer and her husband John Mbugua, a businessman; Hope an employee of Uganda Christian University; Patience a teacher at Busiro secondary and her husband, and Faith who is studying Law at Uganda Christian University. These worked together with others whom I mentored.
What do you think makes today’s marriages short-lived?
Stephen: The marriage begins as a big mirage where everything will work out in a magical way. There are many high expectations before they make a home (like the house they should build, the car they will drive and the business they will do) and when those expectations don’t come as fast as expected, the relationship begins to crumble.
Sarah: Many of these marriages begin with stress. Much money is spent on introduction and wedding. The couple gets loans and fights over unnecessary expenditure. Also, lack of communication about certain things ruins the relationship. They forget that openness is vital for marriage to thrive.
What is your advice to those planning to wed?
Stephen: Weddings should focus more on the church ceremony and we should develop the culture of people buying their own food at reception and the couple will only be responsible for cake.
Sarah: Do things relative to your income. Weddings should not be turned into fanfares. My daughter did her wedding in Nairobi and was attended by 3,500 guests; we needed a football pitch to entertain our guests; that was a fortune.
The children bought a five-tier black forest cake at Shs 300,000 from a supermarket. It had raisins and cherries to celebrate their love.
The children opted for black and white for the tents décor because those are their parents’ favourite colours. This was spruced up with a touch of red, orange and yellow flowers.
Showing some love
To get lovey dovey after three decades of loving and trusting each other, the Ibales served cake to each other. This gesture left guests nodding.
To stick to their tradition, Mrs Ibale wore an animal print gomesi which had a red sash to stick to the colour of love. This befitted the occasion and she did not have to struggle with a changing gown.
For unique entertainment, the Ibale children teamed up to sing for their parents. This was adorable and gave the function a unique touch. It saved them the hustle of hired traditional dance groups and artistes.
When children are part of a function, it is always healthy to keep them in one place. One of the best ways is to feed them in time so that they do not become restless and disorganise the function.
Date: May 17, 1980.
Groom: Stephen Ibale
Bride: Sarah Byakika
Honeymoon: Guest wing of Stephen’s home