A few weeks ago I wrote a post on wedding themes and how it seems a ‘theme’ is an integral part of a wedding – be it based on colour, something of the moment or a novelty. This seems to be very typical of English/ American weddings in particular and got me thinking of the variety of wedding traditions on offer. Now we’ve all seen a number of weddings from different cultures, either from television programmes or real life experience. I find different cultures fascinating having studied Anthropology at uni and experiencing different traditions throughout my life. From the top of my head I can recall wedding traditions from Britain, Ghana, Denmark, India, Greece, Gypsy/ Traveller, America, and others and will share some of them with you over time.
With Jeffrey’s family being from Ghana and half of mine from Denmark and half from England, it seems only natural for us to include some wedding traditions from these cultures where possible. But what to include? Let me give you a run down of Ghanaian tradition for a start. Danish tradition comes later.
In Ghanaian culture, or more specifically Ashanti culture as that’s where my term of reference is, couples hold a ‘traditional’ wedding followed by a religious/legal/civic wedding. This means that couples are married in the eyes of the community, and in the eyes of the church or law.
The ‘traditional’ wedding is a very important element of the unifying of the couple and is typically a group affair, involving immediate and distant family members and all members of the local community. The groom will be accompanied by his family to formally ask the bride’s family for the bride’s hand in marriage. This starts with a knocking on the door ceremony. The groom, his father and family elders visit the bride’s house to knock on the door following the traditional “kookoo ko” knocking on the entrance of the house. Here the groom is greeted by the bride’s male family members who make the groom and his party wait by not opening the door for some time. Eventually the groom is allowed in, presenting alcoholic beverages (typically schnapps used to pour libation as a traditional form of prayer to the ancestral spirits and God) and some money to the bride’s family. Following this, a spokesman from the groom’s delegation announces their intention, saying that the groom has seen a beautiful flower in the grounds of the house and would like to uproot it. I believe the flower is a metaphor for the bride or her purity/virginity.
Once the intentions are announced, both families sit on opposite sides of the room with elders from both sides beginning the marriage ceremony with prayers and introductions. At this point the bride isn’t in the room and the groom doesn’t speak. The groom’s family presents the dowry to the bride’s family who decide whether enough is being offered. Once the dowry is agreed and everything has been presented to the bride’s family the bride is brought into the room. But not before a few decoys are brought into the room to tease the groom who is asked every time a decoy is presented whether this is his bride. Eventually the bride will be brought in and is asked three times by her father if she agrees to marry the groom, and whether they should accept the dowry and gifts or not. Once she has agreed the groom slips a ring onto the bride’s finger and a bible is presented to the couple as a symbol of the importance of religion in their marriage. Prayers are said, blessings given and congratulations and advice given by all elders. Topped off with a big party, food, music and dancing, the couple are now married in the eyes of the community.
Now most of this is geared up towards the bride’s side of the family, so I believe we won’t need to build any of this into our wedding day, though I am looking at whether there’s anything we can incorporate for the Brits and the Danes to enjoy. We shall see!
See photo below for an example of the arriving of the groom’s family in the traditional Ghanaian wedding ceremony. (I would use pictures from Jeff’s sister’s traditional here, but not sure whether they’dlet me!)