A Description of Ghanaian customary marriage

ghana-customary-marriageA young bride wore kente blouse with slit maxi skirt and a silk head kerchief, and sat on a wooden stool at the side of her paternal uncle. She looked downwards as he asked her, for the third time [in Twi], “Nana, should we accept these [bottles of] drinks this young, handsome man is offering us, to take you as his wife?” The bride lifted her face in deliberate fashion, and for the third time also, she said out loud with, joy “Yes, Uncle!”, and immediately, the large gathering of family and friends let out loud cheers.

Then, the uncle declared to the gathering that her family have accepted the drinks and dowry the groom has presented. After that declaration, a younger uncle took the brides hands and led her to the groom who had been smiling and waiting for that moment. Just then the women in the gathering started singing, “Aba emu ewuie…”[“It’s done…”]. The groom embraced his wife and helped her to sit on the chair next to his.

That was the high-point of  our customary marriage ceremony, when I married Nana Ama. This week marks the fifth anniversary of that colourful custom and now I take a look back at the ceremony which has conferred new status on me and my partner as married couple.

Inter-ethnic

Our marriage is an inter-ethnic one between an Ewe man and an Akuapem woman, and so was our customary marriage ceremony. Although Nana and I have different ethnic origins, the marriage customs of our peoples are very much similar: right from the mix of items that make up the dowry to the format of the marriage ceremony. My family and I arrived from the Volta Region that day for the event.

Bride Price

For the bride price, the bride’s family demanded bottles of schnapps, two crates of beer and mineral drinks [soda]; a set of wax print cloths, fine silk head kerchief, jewelry and a bible for the bride. In addition, there were 12 yards and six yards quality wax prints, respectively for father of the bride and her mother. Then there was a token sum of money for one of her brothers.

Indeed, the marriage ceremony was like those of my own nieces that were held in our Ho family house a few years earlier; but now the roles have changed. On our day, an elder among my paternal uncles presented the dowry. Similarly, bride’s older paternal uncle led the ceremony, received the dowry and gave her hand out to the man on behalf of her father.

A ring & honour

As Nana and I sat in front of the happy families, the catechist walks over to us, prays over a gold ring and a bible, then I wore the ring on her left ring finger. Everything had gone well and at this point the joy I felt a sense of accomplishment: I’ve done something good for myself, I thought; and I’ve met one of my family and society’s significant expectations of me as a male. As I looked into Nana’s eyes I knew she was elated as much, for bringing honour to herself and her family. It was a very happy moment indeed for us

Now, popular gospel music played from loudspeakers that were mounted on the compound. Our families danced in a file to our seats to give us congratulations and best wishes for our life together as a couple. Of all the wishes we were blessed with, one especially had the most frequency: “Have many children”. Others were for joy, peaceful home, and many more. To all these we responded “thank you” and “Amen”.

Merrymaking

Drinks were served to start the final stage of the ceremony. My new mother-in-law, [I can call her that now] and her sisters had specially prepared a spread of sumptuous meals: fufu, banku, grass-cutter soup, goat-meat soup; rice and beef stew; abolo, fish and ground fresh pepper and tomatoes. Nana and I ate from the same bowl. Now that I’ve discharged the necessary obligation to her parents and family I kept her close by my side for the rest of the time. She clang to my arm gladly. I could see satisfaction and joy on many faces. It was a success.

A new home

As sunset approached, we thanked our in-laws for good reception and for a happy event. Our families are now one. I took my wife’s hand and walked her to the waiting car. She said good bye to her bothers and parents as the car started. Happily, we left for our new home, into the future with love in our hearts.

Now five years on, as I look back on that day and the ceremony, I feel the happiness; I believe it was a very good ceremony.

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