Over the weekend, I was in Koforidua, the capital town of the Eastern Region, to witness the marriage ceremony of a childhood friend. Truth be told, it was a flamboyant ceremony, to say the least.
At the ceremony, my mum asked, “Dela, when will your wedding come off”? I responded that I do not intend to have a wedding, but rather a ‘decent’ customary marriage ceremony. My mum did not appear pleased with my response. Her singular reason was that weddings bring pride and dignity to the family: a perception held by most Ghanaians. This got me wondering.
A quick research revealed that many schools of thought consider marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
Wedding, however, is defined by Black’s Law Dictionary as “the religious or civil proceedings that solemnizes a marriage”. The Concise Oxford Dictionary, 11th ed. on the other hand defines wedding as a marriage ceremony, especially one including the associated celebration”.
Irrespective of these definitions, it must be noted that be it wedding or marriage, there is bound to be a union between two persons. It is thus, quite baffling that people continue to place premium on weddings (ordinance marriages) over the other processes of formalizing a union.
My reading uncovered that the laws of Ghana recognise, arguably, three (3) types of marriages. These are: Customary, Mohammedan and Ordinance. All three (3) are different with distinct requirements.
Nevertheless, all marriages can be categorised into monogamous and polygamous. A polygamous marriage is one in which the law permits a person to have more than one spouse at a time whereas the monogamous marriage is a one- person-one spouse at a time affair.
As regards the key features of the three (3) categories mentioned earlier, customary marriage is basically marriage performed per the customs of the female whose hand is being sought in the marriage. All ethnic groups have peculiar rights that they perform during such ceremonies. It might interest all to know that the presentation of a bible and ring is not a requirement for a customary marriage. Again, this kind of marriage views marriage as a union between the two (2) families involved.
The Mohammedan marriage is one recognized and practiced among the Muslims. This is primarily tied to the religion of the person(s) to the union. Just like the customary marriage, it is not a requirement to present a ring. The basic requirement is for the marriage to be officiated by a licenced Imam. It is also required that the couple, and the bride’s ‘walli’ have the marriage registered at the appropriate District Assembly within one (1) week of the celebration of the marriage.
The last type of marriage recognized in Ghana is the marriage by ordinance. Interestingly, there are three (3) ways to get married under the ordinance.
The first is to go through some pre-registration formalities and then show up at the Registrar-General’s department (or a place duly designated) to have the union formalized/registered.
The second and third ways are what most of us know as ‘WEDDING’. This is whereby, the would-be couple need to adhere to some pre-registration formalities and finally have their union formalised in either a church or any place of their choice (preferably a garden).
It is noteworthy that NO WHERE has it been stated in the law that one needs to provide refreshment to attendants of marriage ceremonies before the said marriage could be deemed valid. Again, the law does not make provision for expensive cloths, apparel, décor, et cetera.
It goes without mention that, among all three (3) marriage ceremonies, weddings are the most expensive. The minimum amount of money a prospective couple is likely to spend on a wedding is about GH₵ 30,000. Compared with marriage under the Registrar-General’s licence which will cost less than GH₵ 5,000, the million-dollar question is – why do people still opt for weddings?
Interestingly, most will be partners, especially, the ladies go through lengths planning for the event and not the marriage itself. Although it is to do with once priority and affordability, it is still mind boggling that people spend over GH₵ 30,000 on just an event when they do not have a house of their own or even a plot of land.
Having said that, it is admissible the ladies have a number of legitimate worries they are concerned about, which pushes them to opt for an ordinance marriage. The first is, no lady would want to share her man. For a lady to secure her place in a marriage, that marriage better be an ordinance marriage. All other marriages permit the ‘guy’ to add on another wife.
Secondly, a lady would not want to share the fruits of her labour with others, and definitely would not want to be denied her fair share. Divorce under customary marriage is also not as cumbersome as under ordinance. For instance, I have witnessed cases where the ‘guy’s’ family will just send drinks to the lady’s family and that ends the marriage. The opposite also suffices. The bottom-line is, one can easily be kicked out of the home, if not married under ordinance.
That been said, the ‘guys’ also relish customary marriages because they claim ‘variety is the spice of life’ (whatever that means). I do not intend to glorify this thought.
Finally, my advice to the ladies is to endeavour to convert their customary marriages into ordinance/monogamous marriages by going through any of the ordinance marriages I mentioned earlier. To save cost, one can undergo the type mostly done at the Registrar’s office or the District Magistrate’s office.
Ladies, let us be realistic!
Guys, if your ladies are being unrealistic, I am here for you!
I will marry you all!
The writer is a final year student of GH Media School.
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