What you need to know:
It is hard for Betty and Francis who got married in 1993 to understand why couples nowadays fail to get married just because they do not have enough money to hold an extravagant event. At their wedding, each guest was given an envelope that contained samosas, popcorn, cake and a soda.
The way we view marriage has greatly changed. Not only this, but also the way we get married. From the overwhelming expectations and insincerity while dating to the expensive events organised, it is safe to say that sometimes, deciding to take that bold step to formalise your relationship is not for the faint hearted.
Betty Lubelenga, a teacher and farmer, met her husband Francis Lubelenga, a retired administrator in 1972 at her workplace.
“I started out as a cleaner at the City Council after dropping out of school in Senior Two. I was later promoted to the department of the town clerk and this is where I met Francis,” she narrates.
At the time, Betty was only 18 years old and as a young woman, she was mesmerised by Francis’s personality and great sense of style.
“He was in his mid-twenties and was attractive to a fault. He was also always smart and would wear those chequered fashionable shirts,” she says.
For them, work was mixed with a lot of adventure and pleasure since the council’s administrators would always organise annual cocktail parties for their staff members. It is at one of these parties that Francis first paid keen interest to Betty.
“I saw a calm and gentle woman who avoided getting drunk despite the fact that a lot of alcohol would be provided at these parties,” he says, adding that since he was single, he decided to ask Betty out on a date.
Betty was born and raised in Makerere, Kampala, and was from a well-to do family while Francis was an orphan from Mulagi Sub-county in Kyankwanzi District. At the time, he rented a one-roomed house in Wandegeya, Kampala. Therefore, his request for her to join him in his one-roomed house was hard to accept.
“Since my father was a busy medical doctor always on work travels, I confided in my mother about Francis and what he had asked. After thinking about it for a while, she requested to meet him,” Betty shares.
According to Betty’s mother, Francis was not the ideal spouse as he was a workmate and she wondered whether this would not cause any conflicts. However, after three years of dating, the couple started preparations to make it official.
In 1975, Francis organised a visit to Betty’s family home after the birth of their first child. According to the couple, their introduction ceremony involved a few close family and friends as it was the norm at the time.
“Nowadays, the groom invites more than 100 people to accompany him to visit his fiancé’s parents which I think is uncalled for,” Francis says, adding that in his case, he was accompanied by 20 people, comprising his grandparents, close friends and siblings.
“Traditionally, among the Baganda, a man was not expected to show up with his parents for the introduction ceremony. These were meant to stay back and organise to welcome their children into the home after the groom had been accepted by the bride’s family,” he says.
Today, young men carry all sorts of gifts which Francis regards as a waste of money, especially when done only for show.
“I carried the vital requirements according to Buganda culture which included the mother’s gomesi (traditional dress), the father’s mutwalo (traditional dowry) inform of a Bible or rosary, some sugar, meat in bibo-baskets and salt,” he lists.
Unlike many young brides who go out of their way to have several outfits for the day, Betty opted for one gomesi she bought at Shs300,000 and this is what she wore for the entire ceremony.
Exactly 18 years after the introduction, the two walked down the aisle of Our Lady of Fatima Nakulabye Parish on December 18, 1993. At the time, the couple had six children.
Betty was overwhelmed by the support and commitment from their friends since, she says, her parents had for long waited for the big day. According to Betty, they were so blessed during the organising process that it is hard to know exactly how much money was used.
“My cousin was a florist and knew a good tailor who put together a cream round long skirt gown for me at Shs200,000,” she says, adding that Francis bought two suits for himself and his best man at Shs100,000 each.
Away from the overly lit decorations present at weddings nowadays, Betty’s cousin provided a few artificial flowers at their wedding reception held at YMCA Wandegeya, a few balloons and white table cloth. The couple treated their guests to a few snacks served in envelopes with each containing samosas, popcorn, cake and a soda.
Betty and Francis say most of the hurdles they have faced as a couple have been as a result of financial constraints. They believe they are not alone since a number of couples today face the same issue.
“We were both civil servants and working for the same organisation. Sometimes, we would not be paid for three months yet we had young children,” says Betty.
To solve this problem, Francis and Betty resorted to putting in place small businesses and use the earnings on their home expenses.
“We would communicate to our children about the financial situation and train them to adjust to what was available at the time,” says Francis.
Betty and Francis believe that marriage should be handled with respect and there are things that should be kept private.
“I am against this business of showcasing how your partner loves you on social media platforms since none of the people you are telling your secrets even care. Your partner’s love for you is a secret that should be between the two of you,” Betty advises.
She adds that spending 28 years in marriage is only possible by the grace of God. Therefore, couples must put God first in everything they do and let Him lead and show them the way. She also encourages couples to be sincere when communicating their feelings and always solve your problems together as a couple.
Francis says young people should take time while dating to learn each other’s likes and dislikes to avoid clashing with their spouse upbringing and character in marriage.
“Know your spouse, understand when they are upset and how to calm them down. This is the secret to lasting unity,” he says.