Monthly Archives: January 2011

Wedding traditions – Ghana/Ashanti

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!)

 

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The Any Campaign

In thinking about what Jeffrey and my wedding day could be like I’ve thought about all sorts of venues. I seem to spend a lot of time thinking about and keeping an eye out for potential reception venues – this includes time spent on bus journeys to Camden and Angel, walks around Bethnal Green, and a drive to Oakwood for Priest and Monk Agyeku’s (a friend of the Boakye family) 50th birthday. I’ve also spent many an hour browsing the intern for ideas – be it from Facebook, wedding blogs, wedding magazines etc.

Corinne, a work friend of mine, is currently on a 6 month sabbatical back in her home country of New Zealand so that she can catch up with family and friends, and get to attend two of her close friends’ weddings. One of these weddings was just before Christmas, in a sunny spring Wellington (I think) and it was outdoors in what looks like beautifully landscaped gardens, with a small gazebo and sunglasses galore. It looked glorious. And what a lovely idea.

Just a few days prior to browsing the photos of this wedding I came across the Any Campaign. It turns out, while outdoor weddings seem to be very popular in countries across the globe – be it woodland, beach, or garden, as per the examples below – open air weddings are not permitted in England. The law states that a marriage ceremony venue must have a roof, be moored to its foundations, and be licensed by the local registrar. In addition, regulations set in 1937 state weddings must take place between 8am and 6pm, apparently to stop people marrying the wrong partner in the dark in the days before electricity.

This seems such a shame when there are some wonderful outdoor locations in Britain where I’m sure many many people would love to tie the knot. Therefore someone somewhere has set up the Any Campaign – a campaign to get the law changed on open air weddings. Sign the petition. Then we can get thinking on how we can improve the British weather to hope that it won’t rain on our big open air wedding day.

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The venue search continues

So, those of you reading this regularly will be aware that, on 27 December, Jeffrey and I had two potential reception venues that we thought we could see ourselves holding our wedding reception in. These venues took quite a lot of work to find as we really aren’t in to the generic, stuffy wedding venue options out there. Unfortunately we haven’t really got much further than this. In the meantime two of my friends – Nicola and Lizzi who got engaged to their boyfriends 11 and  5 days before us respectively, have since set their wedding dates having got their venues booked. I am now fearing that Jeffrey and I are lagging behind and really want to just get the venues sorted, get it in the diary and forget about it all for a little while. No such luck yet.

Now, we’re not behind in the way that we don’t have neither the civil ceremony or reception venues sorted. While we don’t have the ceremony venue booked yet – we were too late in mid-December 2010 too book for August 2011 apparently, and too early in January 2011 for March 2012 – we do know where we want the ceremony to take place, and that it’s available when we think we want it, so we will be booking that as soon as we can be sure of the reception venue.

But the reception venue is proving to be a difficult one to pin down. The two potential venues we like differ significantly – one is nice enough community-type venue in lovely surroundings on the outskirts of Regents Park, the other a BEA-U-TI-FUL Georgian house in a lovely central London square. The first is a lot cheaper in terms of venue hire, the latter much grander and seriously cool. We knew when we saw the house that we could really make that into something special. However, there was one problem. While the first venue has tables, chairs, tableware, catering options and staff all ready to go, the house has not a snitch of what you would need to have 50-60 people come and eat and have a nice time. This means external caterers are a must. And oh my word, what a farce. External caterers, with equipment hire and staffing are just extortionate. Granted, we have only had two quotes so far (however these were from caterers that are recommended by the venue as they need to have full insurance and have worked in a Grade 1 listed venue before), but it’s looking like the whole second option is off. We are looking at having 60 people absolute tops for the whole day – ceremony, drinks reception, sit down meal or buffet, dance (without DJ or DJ equipment might I add) – and the quotes we received were both between 7 and 8k.

Yup, between 7 and 8 THOUSAND of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s very finest British pounds for 60 people (plus 5 kids) to sit down and eat (see the image to see what that looks like in actual physical cash, dough, wonga, cheese, paper, money, peas, or whatever you like to call it). That worked out at around £108pp not including venue hire, flowers, clothes, drink, ceremony venue, and whatever else it is you need to pull off the British idea of a wedding. When Jeffrey and I are funding this wedding completely by ourselves need I tell you that this is waaaaay over our anticipated budget for the whole thing? We just can’t justify spending that much money when we really don’t earn that much; spend at least 65 per cent of our monthly take home pay on mortgage, living and commuting; and own just 50 per cent of our flat – and that on mortgage.

So we’re hoping the first, community-type venue comes up trumps. But in the meantime we’re also contemplating other ways we could spend our wedding day. And let me tell you, it probably wouldn’t be via the conventional route, and may well disappoint or annoy some people. But we really want to enjoy our wedding day and really do see it, like I said at the end of my very first Sophie Kingo’s Getting Married post, our wedding day is a means to an end for us. It marks the beginning of the rest of our lives together, rather than what is often, for some, a chance to be centre of attention for a day. We’d much rather invest in our future than blowing our hard-earned cash on an over-priced wedding day.

I’ll be sure to keep you informed…

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Tips for a smooth wedding (2)

A few days ago I discussed a couple of tips around wedding planning thanks to getting mine underway with  a glorious Excel workbook and gantt chart. When I sat down to start planning on Thursday night I had intended to watch BBC iPlayer for a bit of decent telly. Until I stumbled across something that would compliment the beginning moves of wedding planning – Runaway Bride. And did I learn things from that?!

For those of you who don’t know Runaway Bride here’s a quick summary: 1999. Romcom. Maggie (Julia Roberts) is afraid of marriage (gametophobia). Maggie has achieved tabloid fame by leaving three men standing at the alter. New York reporter Ike (Richard Gere) travels to Maggie’s home town to write a feature on Maggie. Maggie is preparing for her forth attempt to marry. This time it’s Bob. Ike befriends the couple. Sparks begin to fly between Ike and Maggie. At the rehearsal the night before the actual wedding Ike stands in as vicar. Maggie walks down the aisle, eyes transfixed on Ike. Ike and Maggie kiss. The wedding is off between Bob and Maggie. Ike and Maggie agree to marry the next day. Maggie leaves Ike standing at the alter and flees in the open door of a FedEx van. Ike goes back to New York. Maggie goes to New York and proposes to Ike. Maggie hangs up her trainers. Ike and Maggie marry in a field. The end.

Riveting stuff. Anyway, I learnt a few things from this film. And here they are. Your tips for today:

  1. If you have a fear of getting married, don’t say yes.
  2. Don’t run away from the alter.
  3. Don’t kiss someone else the night before the wedding, especially not in front of your fiancé.
  4. If there’s a risk you may run away, try not to have any mode of transport around to allow you to. No horses and certainly no FedEx vans.

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Tips for a smooth wedding (1)

On Thursday night I had the pleasure of having the flat to myself for a few hours, as Jeffrey was kept back at school by a Senior Awards evening. Having been ill for the past five days I was taking it easy and thought a little wedding planning in front of the television might be achievable.

My colleague, Vicki, got engaged in March 2010 and planned a wedding for between 150-200 guests by September 2010, along with the task of finding and furnishing a new home for her and her husband to be – no mean feat. Now those of you who know Vicki from work will know that she is a serious project lead. What Vicki doesn’t know about managing projects and gantt charts (a graphical representation of the duration of tasks against the progression of time) frankly isn’t worth knowing, which is probably how she managed to pull off the onerous task she faced. Therefore, when Vicki offered me her project management Microsoft Excel workbook complete with gantt chart, ‘phase’ information and budget sheets,  I jumped at the chance to use it.

So Thursday night was the night to transform Vicki’s wedding workbook into mine – changing the ‘phases’ to suit our own ideas, adding and removing elements from Vicki’s ‘phases’, lengthening time frames, moving elements around and amending the guest list. I might also add here that, being a self-confessed formula geek, I developed self calculating cells to analyse my guest list. I know there are definites, probablies, maybes and nos on there so incorporated formulae to monitor that, along with adult/child status. Anal, perhaps, and a little unnecessary for a small wedding guest list of approx 50-60, but it works for me.

So where is this blog post going, what does it have to do with tips for a smooth wedding, and what can you expect from similar posts in the future? Why, it’s a few hints and tips of course, of what I’m learning – from various sources – about what one should and shouldn’t do in the run up to their big day. Here are a couple to start us off:

  1. Invest time in some decent wedding planning tools that work for you. For some this may be Excel and gantt charts, while for others it may be a physical wedding planner/folder. Alternatively, for those with serious cheese, an actual living, breathing wedding planner may be an option (see Franck from Father of the Bride). If you would like me to share my Excel workbook I’m more than willing. Just drop me a line.
  2. Find a ‘buddy’ who has been there, done that and got the t-shirt. Vicki planned a lovely wedding in just 6 months and is keen to hear all my progress on planning, offering some pearls of wisdom as we go along. Though I fear this may be more because I made a point of bugging (read mocking) her all through her planning stage on where she was with her ‘phases’.

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