Are you about to attend a traditional marriage in Ghana? Already attended one? If it’s neither one of those, be sure that at some point during your stay in Ghana you will surely be invited to at least one traditional wedding.
Weddings in Ghana are very different to any wedding you will attend in any other country. They are vibrant, rich in cultural heritage and full of dance and music!
If you have ever wondered what to expect from a Ghanaian traditional wedding this post is for you. We’ll prepare you for everything you should know as a first-time guest.
A traditional Marriage in Ghana
A traditional Ghanaian wedding normally has two ceremonies: the engagement ceremony and what we know as the “white wedding”.
At the engagement ceremony the bride and groom will wear traditional clothing, with the bride wearing a brightly colored kente cloth, which is a type of fabric made from interwoven silk and cotton and one of the most important artisanal ghanaian works you will see.
The couple will exchange vows, and rings are often exchanged as a symbol of their love and commitment to each other. A few traditional dances are also performed, and guests will enjoy a variety of Ghanaian foods and drinks.
The “white wedding” is a continuation to the celebration accompanied by more food, drinks, music and dancing.
In Ghana’s culture, marriage is seen as a lifelong commitment, and divorce is rare. Couples are expected to work through their problems and stay together for better or for worse. However, in modern times, divorce rates have been increasing in Ghana, particularly in urban areas where Western values and lifestyles are more prevalent.
Traditional wedding customs in Ghana
Kente Cloth: The Fabric of Tradition
One of the most iconic aspects of Ghanaian weddings is the vibrant and colorful Kente cloth, which, as mentioned before, you will most likely see at the engagement ceremony. Kente is a woven fabric with intricate patterns and vivid colors, often made from silk or cotton. It holds deep cultural significance and is worn by both the bride and groom, as well as many of the guests.
The patterns and colors in Kente often convey messages, such as love, wealth, or proverbs. As a guest, wearing a Kente cloth or incorporating Kente elements into your attire is a sign of respect for Ghanaian culture and traditions.
Brides will also be adorned with a tekua, a traditional, crown-like bridal headdress. Gold jewelry and colorful beading is also part of the bride’s accessories, which might differ depending on her family’s tribe.
Libation Pouring: Honoring Ancestors
At the beginning of any traditional marriage in Ghana, you might witness the pouring of libations. Libation pouring is a ritual where water, schnapps (a clear brandy made by mashing up fruit and distilling it to a clear spirit with clean, fruity flavours), or another liquid is poured onto the ground as a way of honoring ancestors and seeking their blessings for the couple’s union.
This is usually performed by a designated elder or spiritual leader. As a guest, it’s customary to stand in silence during this ritual as a sign of respect for the couple and their ancestors.
Bridal Procession: Music, Dance, and Pageantry
Ghanaian weddings are known for their lively bridal processions. The bride, accompanied by her family and bridesmaids, makes a grand entrance to the venue. Traditional music, drumming, and dancing are an integral part of this procession.
Guests are encouraged to join in the celebration, dancing and singing along with the procession. It’s a joyful and heartwarming moment that signifies the bride’s journey to her future husband’s family.
Betrothal Ceremony: The Exchange of Gifts
In a Ghanaian traditional wedding, the betrothal ceremony is a critical component. During this ceremony, the groom’s family presents gifts to the bride’s family, symbolizing their acceptance of the bride into their family.
These gifts can include items like jewelry, clothing, and money. The bride’s family, in turn, may present the groom with symbolic items. This exchange of gifts signifies the families’ willingness to unite and support the couple. As a guest, you might witness this ceremony and even be called upon to witness the exchange or offer your well-wishes.
Drumming and Dancing: The Heartbeat of the Celebration
Drumming and dancing are integral to Ghanaian culture, and you can expect to see and hear plenty of both at a traditional wedding. The rhythms of the drums, accompanied by vibrant dances, create a lively and celebratory atmosphere. Guests are not just observers but participants in the dance, so feel free to join in the festivities and move to the rhythm of the drums.
Blessings from Elders
Ghanaian weddings often involve blessings and advice from the elders. The couple may kneel or bow before the elders, who then offer their wisdom, guidance, and well-wishes for a prosperous and harmonious marriage. As a guest, it’s essential to show respect for the elders and the cultural significance of this ritual. Listening to their words of wisdom can be a touching and enlightening experience.
Tasting Traditional Foods
Ghanaian weddings are a chance for you to taste the delights of ghanaian cuisine. You might have the opportunity to taste dishes like jollof rice, fufu, groundnut soup, or kelewele (spicy fried plantains). Embrace the chance to savor these delectable flavors and experience the essence of Ghanaian cuisine.
Favors and Keepsakes
It’s common for guests to receive small keepsakes or party favors at Ghanaian weddings. These may include items like personalized tokens, small cloth bags, or beads. These symbolic gifts are meant to show appreciation to the guests for sharing in the joyous occasion. Be sure to express your gratitude when receiving these tokens, as they hold special meaning in the context of the wedding.
Money Spraying: A Shower of Blessings
Money spraying is a lively and joyful tradition at Ghanaian weddings. Guests often shower the couple with money, either as a symbolic gesture or a tangible gift. The money represents well-wishes, blessings, and prosperity for the newlyweds. It’s a custom that adds an extra layer of celebration and excitement to the event.
How to dress for a traditional marriage in Ghana?
Traditional Ghanaian wedding is a great place to show off your African prints. If you do not have one, you can always find a seamstress (there are many around Accra) to customize a special attire for you.
However, if you don’t have or don’t want to purchase traditional clothing, feel free to wear your favorite clothing that you feel comfortable in and think would be appropriate to wear to such a celebration.