Dave often calls his African adventure his post-wedding financial recovery deployment since both our daughters married within two months of each other the summer before he left. He wished we had known about the Ugandan marriage customs of a bride price and the groom paying for everything — before the girls got married.
The amount of the bride price depends on the region the couple lives in. For example, in Moroto, a pretty, young woman who is pleasant, can cook and is a virgin at her marriage is worth 100-200 cows. However, closer to the cities, the fewer cows it cost.
“Wait until I talk to Andy and Tyler,” Dave said. Andy seemed indifferent, perhaps sensing a trap. But Tyler offered to pay Dave in steaks. Dave thought this was an acceptable arrangement and quickly accepted Tyler’s offer.
At Camp Kasenyi, over dinner Dave’s driver, Moses, talked about how he met his wife at church and arranged for the marriage. Moses and his best man met with his wife’s parents to negotiate the bride price – five cows as a dowry in this case, arrange the wedding and receive a letter of agreement from the parents saying the marriage can take place.
After agreeing to the terms, the groom assembles a planning team, which decides everything – location, food, the guest list, and where to get the money to pay for it all. The team holds fund-raising events to pay for the wedding and the honeymoon.
After the wedding, the couple leaves for a honeymoon night. As they prepared to leave, someone whispered in Moses’ ear to take his new bride to a very exclusive and expensive location, but he did not believe that person. His best man, however, confirmed that location was correct and everything was in place. They had a wonderful night, Moses said.
“Moses was really cute. They’ve been married six years and he just glowed like the wedding just happened,” Dave said.
Dave found it most fascinating that the women in these marriages were proud of how many cows they brought into their family.
“For me, a U.S. citizen, the idea of ‘selling’ my daughters is preposterous. For the women of Uganda, it is the pride of helping their family become more affluent in their community. For some, it is a pecking order. ‘Really? You only got 50 cows for your family? I got 75 cows!’
“I had mixed feelings. It bothered me that it seemed daughters were for sale. On the other hand, it sure would have saved us a lot of money and the responsibility for everything shifts to the prospective groom…”
Good thing the girls were married before this trip!