Just as is common in a typical African traditional marriage, a boy who requests for the Ghanaian engagement list from a bride's family is classed as one who is actually to marry. Virtually all African cultures take the traditional ceremony very seriously. In fact, except this type of marriage rite is performed, a marriage ceremony is not accepted to have fully taken place. There are various procedures that a man who is ready to marry is expected to fulfil, among which is the provision of the items in the engagement list presented to him. Therefore, in this article, we take a look at some of the items to look out for in the engagement list given by the Akans. Then, we also consider different types of marriage in Ghana among others.
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In the tradition of Akan, marriage is considered a very vital and sensitive occasion. The people do not see or handle it as just an event or a ceremony that is held between a man and a woman. They see it as an event bringing the two families of the intended couple together. More so, the people of Akan do not consider traditional marriage/wedding as an engagement but a full marriage. This is because while an engagement means an occasion connoting two parties promising to marry each other, traditional marriage, to the Akans, is recognised under the Customary Marriage and Divorce Law PNDC law 112 (1985).
The moment the traditional rights or obligations have been carried out which they refer to as the "awareɛ", then, the couple can as well proceed to a court of law where they would register their marriage as stipulated by ordinance. Apart from this, they are also permitted to carry out a church or Islamic wedding if they so desire.
Types of marriages in Ghana
There are basically three legal ways recognised in Ghana through which a marriage may be conducted. These types of marriage are the traditional or customary marriage, the Islamic marriage, and marriage under the ordinance.
1. Customary marriage
A customary marriage in Ghana takes place between a man and a woman. However, before this can happen, there are some obligatory marriage rites that have to be carried out. Depending on each ethnic group, there are various forms in which the traditional marriage can be conducted. However, irrespective of the variations that exist in their customs, there are usually two things which are non-negotiable; they are compulsory to take place. One of them is the coming together of both the families of the bride and that of the groom to be. The other has to do with the payment of a stipulated amount of bride price which is usually given to the parents of the bride.
2. Islamic marriage
The Islamic kind of marriage holds under the rules of Islam. The rules followed are those that relate to marriage based on their doctrinal belief. The process requires the couple to inform the Registrar of Mohammedan marriages and divorces about their intentions. But then, when they are doing this, they are expected to notify him a week before the actual event. If this is not done on time, the marriage could be considered or declared as null and void. After the whole event had taken place, the marriage is supposed to be registered under the Marriages Act. A failure to carry this out automatically means that the marriage will be considered as not valid.
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This kind of marriage is usually conducted by a religious leader. He is the person who acts as the marriage officer after he has obtained the license to conduct marriages from the government. However, before the marriage can actually take place, one of the intending parties (i.e either the bride or groom to be) would have notified the Marriage Registrar about their intention. The notifier will also give other information like where they would like the marriage to take place, a proposed date for the event and so on. It is after this has been settled that the Registrar goes ahead to publish the information. Afterward, he would wait for a period of twenty-one days to see if there would be an objection to the marriage. Once there is none, the couple will then be issued a certificate.
List for Ghanaian engagement
Before a traditional marriage is performed in Ghana, it is expected that a number of requirements are met. These requirements are held in a very high esteem so that, except they are carried out, a true traditional marriage is not assumed to have held. Among the requirements is a formal presentation of the traditional engagement list to the family of the groom to be. In a typical Ghanaian engagement list, you will find items like Schnapp, clothing materials, a specific amount of dowry to be paid, and some money that would be given to the family of the bride-to-be.
As mentioned earlier, every tribe has a variation as touching the items that are contained in their marriage engagement list. The bride's family and individual preference are some of the things that influence what the items on the engagement list would be like. However, here is a sample of Ghanaian engagement list:
- A bottle of Gin or Schnapp/whiskey
- About six pieces of traditional wax print or cloth for the bride
- The dowry/ bride price
- Some money and a pair of sandals for the mother of the bride
- A bottle of whiskey for the father of the bride. Then, if the groom deems it fit, he may include some money and piece of cloth for him.
- Money for the bride's brothers or male cousins. This is known as the "akontasekan"
- A presentation of an engagement Bible and engagement rings.
Akan traditional marriage in Ghana
Before a traditional marriage can hold in Akan, there is a process that must be followed. It begins with a man who sees a lady from the Akan tribe and decides to marry her. The first thing he does is to inform his family to keep them informed. Afterwards, they would fix a date that his family would go and visit the family of the Akan lady to make their intentions known. The father of the man would then send a message to the lady's family to keep them aware of the date they chose for the rites. The first stage in the traditional marriage is what they call "kɔkɔɔ kɔ" which is called the knocking ceremony in Ghana.
The knocking is the short way of saying knocking on the door. It comes from the traditional way of knocking at the entrance of someone's home before entering the house in Ghana. The main reason why the ceremony is held is to inform the family of a lady of their son's intention to marry the lady he has seen and loves in their family. It is a formal way of announcing the wedding plans to the lady's family. The parents of the man or any of the man's senior uncles within the family could go and represent the entire family at the occasion. Even though this knocking ceremony used to be done separately in olden times, in recent times, both it and the traditional wedding now go together.
At the time the knocking ceremony is taking place, the family of the intending man would offer two bottles of Schnapps as against palm wine which they used in the olden days. This drink offering is very important in the whole marriage rites. It is called tiri nsa which means "head drinks". It is what seals the whole marriage process. There are those that offer some money as well. Once the family of the lady accepts the gifts, it means the man is welcome. Afterwards, they call the lady formally to give her final consent as to whether she wants to marry the man or not.
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Once everything is perfected, a day would be fixed for the marriage to properly take place. Then, the list of items that would be needed in order for the traditional wedding to hold would be presented to the man's family. This happens on the same day of the knocking ceremony. After receiving the engagement list, the man's family goes back to prepare for the real marriage ceremony.
Akan marriage list
As said earlier, every tribe has a set of items that they include in the marriage list which the man would present on the day of the traditional marriage. Then, while families may adjust the list based on their discretion, in most Akan marriage list, you will find some of the following items in it:
- The dowry/ bride price
- Head drink, usually a whiskey or wine
- A new suitcase containing some shoes, lady wears, headpieces and some other gifts that the bride would need
- The father of the bride gets a bottle of whiskey and some money
- The mother of the bride also gets some money and a pair of sandals
- A minimum of 6 pieces of wax clothes bought for the bride. The clothes are expected to be traditional wax print
- Some money would be made available for the bride to start a business with
- An engagement ring
- An engagement Bible
- Some money for the bride's brothers. However, if she does not have any brother, then it will be given to her male cousins
- Cooking utensils which the bride would need for her home
- Exotic jewellery for the bride
- Enough food and drinks for the guests who would be present at the occasion.
Marriage in Ghana is designed for the mature and those who are ready to shoulder the responsibilities involved. At least, once a man gets the Ghanaian engagement list, then he has shown the sign that he is truly committed to his intention. While the man is expected to find a means of sorting out the items on the engagement list, it is advisable that the bride, on her own part, should be working on her wedding checklist. This is essential to help them plan their wedding budget, keep track of their progress and ensure that nothing is missed out in the process of preparation.
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