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Unique Ghanaian Wedding Traditions & Rituals, Explained

What is a West African wedding like? Here’s what you need to know.

As the second most populous country in West Africa, Ghana has a rich culture, many languages and one-of-a-kind traditions. Though it’s a place full of diversity, weddings typically have looked the same throughout its history, with a few updated touches in recent years. A Ghana traditional wedding is a truly exciting event. Cultures around the world have their own unique customs for nuptials, and Ghana is no exception. Let’s take a look at how Ghanaian weddings bring their extraordinary twist to saying “I do.”

A Brief History of Ghanaian Wedding Traditions

Though it’s unclear exactly how and when their traditions began, Ghana over the years has maintained its wedding customs and modernized them. Generally, after two to three dates, men will propose marriage, because any longer would be “taking advantage of the friendship” according to their beliefs. Once the couple is engaged, the traditional prewedding events kick off which include gifts and ceremonies.

Ghanaian Prewedding Traditions

Before a Ghana traditional wedding, the “knocking” ceremony (kokooko or “Opon-akyi bo”) must be completed. This is where the family of the groom “knocks on the door” or approaches the bride’s family to inform them of their son’s wish to marry their daughter. It serves as an introduction between families.

Once the proposal has been accepted, they may set their wedding date and present the “engagement” list, which is a dowry that includes gifts like clothes for the bride, jewelry, money, or other items for the bride’s parents. The bride’s brothers are also given money, called Akonta Sekan, for protecting their sister.

Historically, according to tradition, the bride and her family will pay for the wedding and reception while the groom and his family cover the rehearsal dinner.

Ghanaian Wedding Attire

Couples will dress in clothes that make them feel like royalty on their big day, in a traditional African fashion called kente cloth, made of handwoven silk and cotton. For the occasion, it is often brightly colored and patterned or embroidered, along with gold jewelry to accent the attire. The bride may fashion her kente as a gown or into two separate pieces, a top and skirt, while the groom may wear his as a toga or wide-flowing rove called an Agbada. The bride also wears a traditional headdress that resembles a crown, called a tekua. Colors hold symbolic meaning for couples. For example, gold means wealth or royalty, pink means calmness and tenderness, blue represents the sky and means love, harmony and good peace, and maroon is protection from evil.

Guest Wedding Attire

For guests attending a Ghana-traditional wedding, any formal attire is appropriate. You can choose kente cloth in colors that represent good tidings for the couple, or you can just choose a brightly-colored and ornately designed outfit that will fit right in with the theme. If you’re unsure, ask someone in the wedding party for their advice.

Ghanaian Wedding Ceremony Traditions

Usually, the marriage ceremony will take place at the bride’s home or any other suitable venue. Before the ceremony, music from traditional “adowa” groups or a live band will play. For the ceremony itself, members of both families will sit across from each other, and spokespersons assigned to each party will engage in friendly chitchat. The bride’s family will be seated to welcome the groom and his family, who comes in bearing the items on the marriage list or “aye-yo-dee” gifts. A long line of family members come with gifts in their hands or on their heads.

One symbolic aspect of Ghana weddings is the bride giving her consent three times when asked for her hand in marriage. This is to demonstrate that she’s not been forced into the marriage, and though this dates back many years, modern weddings still participate. The bride is then presented to the groom’s family after her acceptance.

As part of the ceremony, the groom will provide drinks to the father, such as palm wine or Schnapps. This is called Tiri Nasa, and in Ghanaian culture, this usually seals the marriage.

Ghanaian Wedding Reception Traditions

After the ceremony, a reception with meals, music, and dancing follows. The bride and groom will go around the greet their guests and thank them for coming, and customized wedding favors are given such as chocolates, mugs, or pens. Guests are welcome to dance to the traditional Ghanaian music, enjoy the local delicacies, and revel in each other’s company to celebrate the newlyweds.

During the couple’s first dance, the groomsmen or other guests will “compete” to throw money at the two at the end of the song. This helps to provide the newlyweds with funds for their new life, while also providing some fun and friendly competition for the guests. The couple will cut their cake and give speeches, and sometimes separate events after the wedding will be offered to guests who traveled a long way, such as a luncheon.

Ghanaian Traditional Wedding Food, Drinks & Desserts

After the wedding ceremony, the wedding party and guests alike can feast on traditional Ghanaian food such as jollof rice, grilled fish, red bean and fish stew with fried plantains, roast goat and roast ripe plantains. Traditionally, the meal will be served buffet-style, and the large spread is a big part of the wedding customs. They also serve wedding cake and popular Ghana desserts such as ripe plantain cakes and spiced doughnuts called bofrot.

Ghanaian Postwedding Traditions

In some Ghanaian cultures, like the Bulsa of Northern Ghana, they participate in something called the Nansiung-Iika or “Closing of the Gate or Entrance.” This ritual is believed to be the most crucial, as it is said to join a man and woman together permanently until death. This ceremony may be performed after the wedding, but before a woman is pregnant. The items for the ceremony may include a hen, cola, a hoe, or sheep, and the acceptance of these items by the woman’s paternal family signifies the ritual’s completion.

Frequently Asked Questions About Ghanaian Wedding Traditions

What else is there to know about Ghana-traditional weddings? Here are some frequently asked questions.

What is the Typical Cost of a Ghanaian Wedding?

The customary marriage cost is between Ghc 4,000 (or $891) and a “white wedding” costs about Ghc 15,000 (or $3,335.00).

What are Traditional Ghanaian Wedding Gifts?

While gifts aren’t mandatory for Ghanaian weddings, it’s always good practice to send a gift if invited. Couples in Ghana may appreciate serveware and appliances for their new life together, but take a look at their registry to see what they need most.

Source: The Knot