Customary Marriage – How to go about it.
In Ghana, customary marriage is seen as complete in itself. This is to say that after the customary marriage ceremony, the couple is recognized as husband and wife and can start living and relating as such. This has been part of our tradition for a long time and no matter how advanced we are as a country, it is still an integral part of our identity.
Although the process involved in this tradition differs from tribe to tribe, some practices cut across.
Marriage is a union not just between two people but two families, due to this, the families of both the man and woman are involved in the union right from the beginning.
The Knocking Ceremony
The man, together, with representatives go to the house of the woman to formally ask for her hand in marriage. Each family has a representative who acts as a spokesperson. These representatives can be from the family or hired for that purpose. They are usually dramatic in their dealings and bring some sort of comic relief to the occasion. This gathering is not open to friends, only family. The family of the man presents items, usually drinks and some money to the woman’s family. These items differ from tribe to tribe.
The woman’s family asks the agenda for the meeting and a conversation starts between the two families. The man’s family expresses their interest in making the lady in question a part of their family through her union with their son. The ceremony is successful after the family accepts the bride price and a date is set for the marriage ceremony or what is popularly known as engagement
The Engagement (The Customary marriage)
This day is characterized by a lot of joy and excitement. This time, the ceremony is open to both friends and family. People dress in their best clothes to support the couple.
Both families select a representative for the ceremony.
The man enters with an entourage bearing the bride price. The woman’s family complains about the bride price is not worth their daughter, both representatives go back and forth concerning the bride price till finally, the woman’s family gives in accepts the bride price. This also varies from tribe to tribe. Some tribes don’t even ask for a bride price at all. In such a case, the man may give what he deems good.
The woman’s representative asks the man’s family the reason for their coming and once that is established, the ceremony goes on. Each family’s representatives introduce the families they are representing to the ceremony. A check is made to ensure that all the items stated in the bride price have been brought. It’s very important that all the items agreed on as bride price are presented at the ceremony.
Whilst this is going on, the woman is not present though she watches from a distance. She is called for and she makes her entrance with her own entourage amidst dancing and merry-making.
The woman joins her husband and they put rings on each other’s finger amidst shouts of joy from family and friends. An opportunity is given to experienced family members to counsel the couple.
Finally, refreshments are served. In some cases, gifts or favours are presented to the guests present.
The customary marriage ceremony is a time of joy for both families and signifies a journey everyone prays will last till death parts the man and his wife.