Cover Photo: Olive & Fred at their Kukyala powered by Mozart Pictures
We once said that when a couple starts courting, there comes a time when they have to take things to the next level as their relationship and intimacy continues to grow. To the ladies, for a guy that intends to put a ring on your finger, there will come a time when he asks to meet your parents.
Traditionally, this kind of process towards marriage was overseen by a girl’s marital auntie (senga), although a few contemporary couples have deviated from the norms. “In the past and in good order, the girl introduced her boyfriend to her auntie who later helped her smooth the way before breaking the news to her parents,” says Senga Mary Nansamba, resident of Kinaawa in Wakiso.
“As a matter of fact, the auntie talked to the girl’s parents about their daughter’s boyfriend and his intentions of Kukyala (visit) to make things more official,” she adds. After consenting discussions with the girl’s parents, a letter would then be written to the boyfriend in response to his earlier submission or request allowing his visit and also indicating on which day he was expected to make that visit.
Although some have defied the old rules of ‘Kukyala’ and met with their parents-in-law at the same time with the marital auntie for the first official time, it doesn’t make it any right. To worsen matters, in some cases, they even meet parents first and then the auntie later, especially in today’s settings were people hire some of these aunties. Others that have tried to do it the old fashioned way still just meet these aunties unofficially at family parties or events and consider that done.
Upon granting the swain’s request to make the visit on a particular day, the girlfriend, her parents and close family members made necessary preparations for that day to ensure that it’s a success. The girl’s boyfriend then made his visit with an entourage of about two or four people depending on what he wanted. He could be the company of his friends or a brother and a sister. These never came empty handed. He and his team carried some few items of personal preference such as chicken, some sugar among other things as gifts for the family they’re visiting.
This was always a small closed door event for the couple that intend to get married with a girl’s family members and may be a few invited close relatives in attendance. However, today, things have changed so much that couples are choosing to make this visit almost a public event. In some cases, tents, chairs and Public Address Systems are staged with a long list of invited guests, ranging from family members, relatives (both close and not) and friends from both the man and woman’s side for just a kukyala. The boyfriend and his expected or unexpected big team then carry lots of items as if they have come for a mini-introduction.
The good thing amidst all this modern day drama is that at least the purpose of kukyala has not changed. According Mrs Kikaawa Winnie of Kikajjo in Wakiso who tied the knot in 2009 and a mother of two, the key purpose for this visit is for the parents to get acquainted with the man that wants to marry their daughter.
“The visit helps the parents to know the man as an individual and his brief family background. This is intended to avoid a clash on cultural norms such as one having to marry an unknown family relative, which would be incest or marrying from the same clan, something that is strictly forbidden among the baganda,” articulates Mrs Kikaawa.
The other reason for this meet-and-greet is to set ‘omutwalo’ (bride price), which is part of the possible dowry required by the parents. According to senga Nansamba, “a man among the Baganda cannot be allowed to marry someone’s daughter minus paying this bride price.”
Lastly but not least, it is during this kukyala that a date for the ‘kwanjula’ (introduction/giveaway ceremony) is determined or agreed on and perhaps even the wedding day.
It is during this very special and important visit that a girl’s parents determine whether you’re the right man to marry their daughter or not. You’ll know when they approve or when they don’t.
Senga Nansamba also explains that out of curiosity, some parents would later meet as elders to discuss a few things in an attempt to get an insight on which family their daughter was getting married into or in which family their son was marrying from in case they hadn’t already. It was always important for the elders or parents to know a few things about their future in-laws.