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In Ghana, marriage is constructed according to the custom of ethnic group of which the couple live. Usually this includes a religious ceremony and a civic registration ceremony commonly known as a wedding. Generally, marriage in Ghana is recognized as a union between a man and a woman with the knowledge of both families of the bride and the groom. In the Volta region of Ghana area, marriage is a union between a man and a woman who agree to live together as husband and wife and have gone through all procedures recognized in the society for such a purpose.
In Ghana, the purpose of marriage is to provide companionship for the couple, the means to offer support for each other, and a legitimate avenue for sexual satisfaction and reproduction. Marriage is usually a group affair which involves not only the immediate relatives of the couple but more distant kin folk.
However, in selecting and accepting a potential spouse, certain important conditions have to be met. Members of each family are screened for incurable or contagious diseases, criminal backgrounds, violent behavior, respectfulness, employment status or standard of living, and religious background. Generally, many Ghanaians prefer a spouse who is hardworking and respectful, peaceful (not violent or do not advocate violence), and of the same or compatible religious background. Christians and Muslims do not generally intermarry. However, conversions from one religion to another is preferable prior to marriage.
There are three-(3) primary criteria in classifying the marriage process:
1. Customary marriage
2. Civic Registration
3. Religious marriage
Customary marriage forms the basis of all three-(3) types. Inquiries are made by both families to ensure the the family of the prospective son-in-law or daughter-in-law is respected. Usually violent behavior, immorality, witch craft, incurable or contagious diseases, and insanity in a family are not approved. The customary rites or marriage ceremony, as practiced by the woman's ethnic group, are performed by the man's head of family, by the father or uncle or any member of the family who is recognized by the community as honorable.
Presentation and acceptance of drinks and gifts known as dowry bride wealth signifies the consent of family members to the marriage. It is also a sign or a token of support for the marriage and is used to compensate the parent for the loss of the services of their daughter. The dowry or the bride wealth does not represent the prize at which the woman has been sold to the man.
Customary marriages differ among societies. Despite the differences, drinks and cash are widely used. Although cash is involved in the northern part of Ghana, drinks and cola are also used. One characteristic of customary marriage is that it allows polygamy thus it allows the man to marry more than one woman. However, Christains who complete a religious marriage usually abide by the biblical principle of "one man one wife".
Religious marriage involves administration of the marital union by a Priest, religious minister or Imam. However, the customary marriage and the registration of the marriage in the court or district metropolitan assembly should occur before Christians marry.
The Islamic marriage ceremony conforms to the Islamic law and traditions. According to Muslim traditions, parents arrange a suitable partner. Compatibility is not considered important, the choice is entirely in the parents hand.
The Ghanaian marriage ceremony is a traditional ceremony where the groom accompanied by his family formally asks for the bride's hand in marriage in the presence of family, friends and well wishers. The traditional ceremony is a necessary common rite of marriage for all Ghanaian couples. In Ghana today, some couples perform this alone as a marriage ceremony, however, most couples also go on to perform the western wedding in a church in addition to the traditional marriage ceremony.
The marriage ceremony starts with the "knocking" (kokooko) on the door ceremony. In the knocking ceremony the groom, along with his father and some elder members of the family visits the brides house to announce their marriage intentions. Often times this ceremony is performed a week or two before the actual marriage ceremony. The knocking ("kookoo ko") is derived from the Ghanaian tradition of knocking on at the entrance of a house before entering as a visitor. For the knocking ceremony the groom's family brings along two bottles on alcoholic drinks, some money and cola to the house to present to the brides family. In the past, and to date, the drinks are used to pour libation. (Libation is a traditional form of prayer to the ancestral spirits and God). When the drinks are presented, a designated spokesman from the grooms delegation formally asks the brides family for permission to enter the house and announce their intentions. If the drinks are accepted then it means permission has been granted to the visitors to state their intentions. The spokes person will then explain in the most lyrical language, that the groom, has seen a "beautiful flower" in the house of the brides family that he desires and would like to "uproot" that flower, not steal, from its keeper, hence they are here to ask for the brides hand in marriage and inquire about what is required in order to make that flower his own.
Once the intentions are announced, the brides family may ask the groom and his family to come back at a set later date during which the brides family will investigate the grooms family background further to see :
a) if the family has no chronic illness or genetic disabilities in the family
b) if family has a good reputation, that is no immediate family member such as a sibling, an aunt or uncle is known to be a thief, prostitute or murderer
c) if the groom has no illegitimate children or has another marriage elsewhere etc.
d) if the groom is of good character and well matched to the bride
Often times the background inquiry is made when the brides family knows nothing or knows little of the groom's family. If they are satisfied and pleased with what they find out, they will send a list of things to the groom and his family to provide before they can marry the bride.
On the set date the groom and his family, along with invited guests show up early at the brides house. The grooms family sits on one side, while the other brides family sits on the other side facing each other. Elders from both family begin the marriage ceremony with a prayer and introductions. The grooms family begins by presenting the dowry and all the other items on the list one, by one. At each stage, the items are checked to make sure everything asked on the list is being presented. Negotiation is possible if the grooms family feels too much is being asked of them. The bride is not present in all of these proceedings. The groom, although present, does speak in all of these proceedings as all the speaking and negotiation is done on his behalf by the designated spokes person from his family.
Once everything has presented to the brides family, the bride would then be brought into the gathering. Because a decoy can be used to "tease" the groom, the groom is asked to verify if this is indeed his bride. Once he confirms, she is asked three times by her father if she agrees to marrying the groom. She is asked if they should accept the dowry and accompanying gifts from the grooms family. When she agrees, then the groom will slide the ring onto her fingers and kiss and hug her. An elder presents a bible to both the groom and bride as a symbol of how important religion should be in their married life. Prayers are said and blessings are given. The married couple is now congratulated and each elder in the room offers marriage advice to the new couple. Once all of this is done there is a huge celebration reception where food & drinks are served. There is lots of music and dancing till nightfall.
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