The background inquiry is made when the bride’s 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. This list is commonly made up of, but not limited to, the following:
a) Dowry /or bride price – often an undisclosed sum of money, 2 bottles of whisky or gin
b) Money for the bride’s father, 1 bottle of expensive whisky & a piece of cloth
c) A pair of sandals and money for the bride of the mother
d) Jewelry for the bride
e) At least 6 pieces of traditional wax print cloth for the bride
f) Engagement ring
g) Engagement bible
h) Shoes, headpieces, other gifts for the bride
j) Drinks, money and food for the guests that will be present to witness the ceremony
k) Money for the brothers or male cousins (if bride has no brothers)
On the set date the groom and his family, along with invited guests show up early at the bride’s house. The groom’s family sits on one side, while the bride’s family sits on the other side facing each other. Elders from both families begin the marriage ceremony with a prayer and introductions. The groom’s 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 groom’s family feels too much is being asked of them. The bride is not present in all of these proceedings. The groom, although present, is not required to 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 been presented to the bride’s family, the bride would then be brought into the gathering (she can usually be found sitting in her room awaiting her cue to come downstairs).
A decoy can be used to “tease” the groom, the groom is then asked to verify if this is indeed his bride.
Once he confirms, she is asked three times by her father if she agrees to marry the groom. She is asked if they should accept the dowry and accompanying gifts from the groom’s 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 then 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. Music and dancing feature heavily till nightfall.
N.B. This can be a costly affair for the groom so should not be entered into lightly! The parents of the bride can make heavy demands of the groom to bring as much money as he possibly can to assure the bride’s parents that he is capable of looking after his woman before the father of the bride will even agree to give his beloved daughter away.
This event is steeped in our cultural tradition and such cultural traditions should be observed. However, cultural engagements can easily be turned into a circus, with the emphasis being placed on how little or how much money the groom gave to the bride’s brothers or male cousins. Not forgetting how many items of cloth or lace he brought to be presented to the bride. In some cases a sewing machine will be given as a gift from the groom to his bride.
In the days of old, the traditional engagement was a small affair with the event being witnessed solely by the immediate family only. These days the engagements are more like wedding receptions with just about every member of the family plus friends being invited along to share in the experience of the bride & groom.
Lest we forget that as previously mentioned the happy couple have not even made it to the altar! The idea of wanting to “Keep up with the Jones’” can take things too far in some Ghanaian households. Mum wants to invite everyone from Akosua studying in Ghana to Uncle Ofori living in America.
This is a growing trend in the modern day, one that I have witnessed on more than one occasion. Not just within the Ghanaian community, I have been to lavish Nigerian engagements where the feeling of being at a state dinner would be forgiven! That being said, the notion of love & unity between the man and his sweetheart should not be forgotten as it is the only thing that matters.
As the old adage goes:
Love conquers all
By Caroline N. Mensah