It is another Saturday and just as it was on Saturdays past, couples already married will be made to marry all over again.
This is because we have contrived to make nonsense of our local system of marriage, decorated a foreign marriage system and made it the main
In view of this, our Tradition marriage has been named Engagement and foreigner’s traditional marriage named wedding.
Even after paying the Bride Price and getting the approval of both families to legitimize the marriage, couples are required to exchange vows before a priest, affirm their love to make their marriage ‘marriage enough’.
Admittedly, people can marry the traditional way alone and be accepted but we cannot overlook how they are treated as inferior to those who marry again in the White way by society and even the Church.
The sad part is that most of our Church leaders who entrench this error in marriage are those who married the old way without needing a second wedding to be accorded the needed respect.
In some Church, couples who decide to marry traditionally without the White Wedding as they call it don’t get the full support of the Church. Even the Head Pastor won’t attend such function.
This is why marriage has become so expensive and an avenue for competition and wealth display. This is also the reason behind so many frustrated bachelor and spinsters. Stretch it further and you have children in broken homes.
The question one may ask is: what is the right way to marry in Ghana?
Traditionally, when two people agree to marry, the man has to go to the woman’s family first to introduce himself with a relative to do what we call kokooko (knocking). Knocking is meant to inform the family of the lady about the intention to be married to her, seek their approval and also confirm her availability. Once the family agrees and confirms the interest of the lady, a few items are provided depending on the tradition of the lady to give legitimacy to the relationship. At this stage, the woman is engaged. Engaged here means that though she is not married, she is not available to another man because both families have agreed to their decision to marry. Sometimes at the knocking, a date is set for the Traditional marriage ceremony, on most occasions though, the couple will decide on that at a later date.
Between that, the family of the girl will provide a list of items to be presented by the man when they are ready. On a few occasions, some families decide not to provide a list and ask the man to use his discretion to avoid the impression that they are trading off their daughter or to make it easy and unburden the new to be family. There are also times when some families provide an outrageous list to be honoured by the groom before they part with their daughter. In such cases, the groom is allowed to negotiate. A family can decide not to take anything at all from the groom.
At this stage, a date is set for the Traditional marriage. The process differs from culture to culture but what cuts across is that the Pride Price (If demanded) will be presented. Today, there is always a prayer section by Ministers to seek God’s blessing for the marriage. The new couple is advised and the marriage is perfect, endorsed by all and therefore legitimate.
The Western Marriage
In Europe and America for instance, a man meets a woman, after dating for some time, if he wants to marry her, he gets a ring, ask if she’d marry him and without the consent of anyone, she is engaged if she says yes to the million dollar question: will you marry me? She is given a ring and that ring is called Engagement Ring to signify that the door is closed.
At this time, they meet both families at their own convenience and inform them of their engagement and intention to marry. This is the white wedding. It can take place anywhere the couple choose even though at this stage, they make room for the families to make inputs though none binding. On the day of the marriage and in the presence of the priest and their family, they exchange vows, exchange rings and affirm their love for each other. At this stage, the woman doesn’t wear the engagement ring because she is moving from being engaged to being married. Some women decide to wear their wedding ring along with their engagement after the ceremony. This is why a European can propose with his mother’s engagement ring. The white wedding can take place anywhere including a church with the presence of a priest and get their union blessed. This is the White Traditional Marriage we call Wedding.
Unfortunately, in our typical Ghanaian copycat best, we have relegated the kokooko (knocking) to the background, named our main marriage Engagement and taken the whites system of marriage as the main marriage. In view of this, most couples who didn’t get to be married twice like most of us in 21st Century Ghana do are forced to bless their marriage so that the man can wear a ring and the woman: two.
Why isn’t the man given a ring at our Traditional Wedding? Because the traditional wedding is treated like the Engagement of the whites that sees the man give the woman a ring to make her unavailable to other men. This should have happened at the Knocking stage and not at the main Traditional Wedding because there, they are married to each other and should, therefore, mark each other as such with a ring.
The other issue is that most Ghanaian traditions that allow the man to marry multiple women. Due to the right of the man to marry multiple partners, he is not given a ring.
Couples, therefore, look to the wedding as means to secure their marriage and bind the man to just one woman. The solution should never be another marriage but a simple agreement at the Marriage Registry where couples can sign to a polygamous marriage or the possibility of such or none at all. Truth is that wedding in itself does not mean a man cannot marry twice, it is the marital agreement that makes it so. This means that similar standards can be applied in the Traditional Marriage if the couple wants to it.
But this is not the case
After engaging her through knocking and marrying her customarily, the two are ushered into an entirely new system of marriage based on Western Culture under the guise of marrying before the Lord. Who said God doesn’t recognise our Traditional System of Marriage? Who said the presence of God dwells in the Church Hall.
I knew this before getting married but the current system has been so enforced that it’d have felt like letting my wife down if I enforced it. In fact, I raise it but it failed to meet the standard of a prima facia case.
So rooted are these errors that it takes boldness to insist on it if when your eyes are open to the correct way of doing it.
The truth though is that we cannot let the future generation repeat our errors. The Church have a huge responsibility here. The Church Building is not the presence of God, the Bible does not impose methods of marriage on people.
God recognises our unique Customs that do not constitute worship and therefore accept every people’s our way of marriage.
Marrying in the presence of God doesn’t mean it should be done in the Church’s Auditorium. It is the responsibility of the Church to demystify the Church Building so that believers will appreciate the presence of God everywhere they go.
Pastor’s should go out of their churches to the homes of their members and support them in marriage. This is what fathers do and this is what a father should be to his children.
Organising the marriage should be the duty of the family, they should decide where and how the Church should offer support but should not in any way usurp the family to determine the legitimacy of the marriage. If the parents of the couple agree and endorse a marriage, even without a ceremony, it is a marriage acceptable to God. We should know that marriage is all about both families accepting and recognising it as such. Recognising courtship doesn’t make it marriage: don’t forget this.
When we recognise marriage this way, which is indeed the right way, it will become simple for young people to settle early, make families early and have time to take care of their children. I am 33, my first born is just a little over a year old: this is not right. In some jurisdictions, my first child should be about six years.
Unfortunately, in our part of the world, in spite of the majority being poor, we entangle ourselves with so many needless burdens like White Weddings, expensive naming ceremonies, massive funerals and make basic things in life become burdensome.
Many young people go for loans in order to marry, others wait for so long before they are able to do so: let us free the new generation of Ghanaians, my son and his mates from this slavery.
It is not right to use your accumulated salary of one year to marry and start life from ground zero.
This is what marrying customarily and topping up with white coloured wedding do to young people starting life.
To add insult to injury, many Churches don’t allow these ceremonies on the same day. This means two separate refreshments arrangements has to be made for the two separate marriage ceremonies. Family members have to travel twice for an event that should be one-time event.
The expensive wedding gowns, the decoration, the cake, rented cars, outfit for groom, best men, maid of honour are all extra cost that can be avoided but have become necessary.
One will argue that this is not forced on anyone but we know for sure that the ascribed glory and respect accorded those who do it all makes those who don’t feel inferior. Women wearing the wedding ring feel they are properly married than those who don’t.
What people should know though is that the so-called Engagement Ring was supposed to be for the knocking and the White Wedding Ring for the Traditional Wedding. The white wedding then, the most of expensive of all becomes the waste of money, useless in legitimizing marriage and should be scrapped.
In view of this, a woman married customarily is qualified to wear the wedding ring and the engagement ring. This must be established
It is high time the Church makes a conscious decision to stop the duplication of marriage ceremonies, collaborate with the families and marry members of ones in the Ghanaian way. The presence of God is everywhere His name is mentioned.
Wearing of the veil, exchanging of vows written by another, walking down the aisle are all Western Traditions entrenched by the Church of today that has nothing to do with Christianity.
This is why we have many frustrated singles old enough to marry but without the means to. This is why those who manage to overcome the cost of marrying start life as couples with debt on nothing in the account.
Going forward, the Church must throw away this concept of Church Wedding, find a way to make our traditional marriage the only system of marriage. If the Church has nothing to offer beyond the white wedding which is not by any means more Christian than the Ghanaian Tradition one, they should allow the family handle it and offer support where necessary. It is enough for the pastor to come to the traditional Wedding to pray for the couple: it is enough.
Everywhere in the Bible, the marriage ceremony is a family thing: the church should step aside if they can’t align with the family’s tradition.
God is cool with it.
By: Isaac Kyei Andoh