I’s Married Now…
Shug Avery uttered these words in the 1985 classic, “The Color Purple.” These words have taken on a life of their own as the 1985 film has legendary status in the black community in the United States. It’s not uncommon to meet a black American who can quote various lines from the movie.
I really like this photo…minus the guy in blue.
It was those words that I jokingly uttered to my family as we were making our way back from the Rwandan civil ceremony that took place on Thursday, June 2, 2016. Marriages in Rwanda (as I have mentioned) have various ceremonies and traditions. After the Gusaba, where my family makes the request for Sheila’s hand in marriage, there was the civil ceremony. Unlike in the United States where state governments have empowered pastors and government officials to officiate wedding ceremonies, the government of Rwanda does not recognize your marriage without participating in a government ceremony. So, on Thursday we trotted down to the local government authority in Gikondo, a neighborhood of Kigali to become a legal union in the eyes of Rwanda. The local government authority had agreed to conduct our ceremony in English and separate from the larger Kinyarwanda ceremonies that took place earlier in the day.
During the civil ceremony, two officials representing the local authority read the Rwandan law that addresses marriages. The law addresses everything from how couples share resources to what are the legal grounds for divorce. At one point, the speaker provided me with what qualifies for a couple to divorce but then told me “in Rwanda, marriages are forever…” I was thinking, then why legalize divorce? We were extremely grateful for the men for conducting our ceremony but the lack of sleep that week and the rising temperatures in the small room didn’t help my present condition. Within 15 minutes of the start of the civil ceremony my eyelids were closing fast. I tried my best to stay alert but sleep was quickly overtaking me. At one point, one of the officials asked, “Barnes, are you listening?” I quickly retorted, “YES.”
A photo after our civil wedding ceremony. l to r: Andrew, me, Sheila and Walter.
Our final ceremony was a traditional church wedding or “white wedding” as they say in Nigeria. We chose an event garden (Sunset Gardens) with a view of Kigali’s rolling hills as the location of our ceremony and reception. Our wedding photos will show the amazing scenery of our location. The preparation for our wedding was stressful. Sheila shouldered most of the planning and organization, as I was thousands of miles away in Abuja. There were some stressful moments once I arrived in Kigali and at one point, I was becoming frustrated being pulled in a thousand different directions. But all the planning and organization all came together on our wedding day and I struggled to hold back my emotions as Sheila floated down the aisle on her mother’s arm. Her beauty and the responsibility that she would be my wife overcame me. While it was true that on the morning of our wedding I was struggling to control my sinuses, no one believed my excuse as I read the vows that I had written to Sheila.
At our wedding reception we were moved by all the people that traveled so far to celebrate our wedding day. We had friends from the United States, United Kingdom, Thailand (by way of the U.S.), Serbia, Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya, and South Sudan. If I am missing someone, please forgive me. But we were honored by your presence and grateful to call you friends.
Weddings aren’t easy affairs but during the ceremony/reception it all sunk in as people came together to celebrate the start to our new life as husband and wife. My brother had to fight back tears when toasting Sheila and I and Andrew House had the crowd in stitches as he tried to convince them that my baking skills contributed to his present size. He was also spot on regarding his advice to Sheila regarding my habits. Our wedding was a beautiful occasion that Sheila and I will relive over and over through countless photos and videos that capture our occasion.