Ghanaian Traditional Marriage Customs
by Kimma Wreh and Oscar Kofitse
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
- Customary marriage
- Civic Registration
- 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.