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A couple of weeks into my stay, one of my cousins came round to tell us that he’d proposed to his partner. Obviously exciting news.
The first step in the traditional Ghanaian engagement and marriage process is ‘The Knocking’ or ‘Kokooko’ where the groom's family asks the bride’s family for permission to marry their daughter by ‘knocking on the door’ as a symbol of respect to the upcoming unifying of two families.
The groom is usually will be accompanied by his family to formally ask the bride’s family for the bride’s hand in marriage. So my cousin had come over to ask my aunt (who’s also his maternal aunt, as his mum, my mum and my host aunt are all sisters) to form part of his family party, which goes to see the bride’s family to declare the intent to marry a woman in their household.
So one weekend in June, my aunt headed off to my cousin’s partner’s family house for the ceremony. Traditionally, the groom’s family brings bottles of spirits and money with them to present to the family. If his ‘knock’ is accepted, the families celebrate and the couple’s engagement officially begins. One of the functions of the ‘Kokooko’ is for the groom’s family to ensure that the woman is indeed single and not promised to any other suitor.
Once the knocking is complete, the bride’s family must tell the groom’s family the items they would like in exchange for their daughter’s hand in marriage. This is the groom and his family’s way showing that they have the means to take care of his betrothed when she becomes part of their family. And the gifts are also tokens of gratitude to the bride’s immediate family for raising her.
Fast forward to August and the day of the marriage ceremonies. Here, I’ll point you to all to YouTube and ask you to type ‘Ghanaian traditional marriage’ into the search bar. Dozens of professionally produced wedding ceremony videos pop up – make sure you check some of them out as they do a great job of illuminating the proceedings.
[Image description: Screenshot of ‘Ghanaian traditional marriage’ YouTube search showing couples in opulent marriage finery]
Here’s a general overview of what happens at the traditional marriage ceremony:
– Groom’s extended family enters and greets the bride’s family.
– Bride’s family gives groom’s family water.
– Bride’s extended family then greets groom’s family.
– Speaker for bride’s side introduces members of the bride’s family and speaker for groom’s family introduces the groom’s family.
– Speaker for bride’s side asks for the reason for the visit. Note: the speaker is always the most charismatic aunt or elder cousin from each family and will always put on a show, cracking joke, and generally being a highly-skilled MC.
– Groom’s family tells the reason for their visit, reminding everyone in attendance of the ‘Kokooko’.
– Revealing of the groom with his groomsmen and/or friends with all the dowry gifts.
– Revealing of the bride with her bridesmaids and/or friends.
– Groom is asked to confirm that this is the bride.
– Member of the groom’s family officially presents the dowry gifts.
– Bride is asked by her family three times if they should accept gifts.
– Bride’s family officially accepts gifts.
– Groom comes to ‘take’ the bride.
– The couple will sit side-by-side in their ‘sweetheart’ area.
– Prayer for the couple.
– Vows are exchanged and the marriage is blessed.
– Two people from each side of the family give advice to the couple.
– Closing prayer.
The couple are now officially and legally married. However, colonial laws meant that these traditional rites weren’t deemed proper or Christian, so there is now a legal requirement to register the wedding.
Many couples also decide to have a white wedding ceremony too, with a change of outfit for everyone involved. I was honoured that the couple asked me to play violin at the ceremony as the bride walked down the aisle 👰🏽♀️ 🎻.
And then comes a third and final outfit change for the bride at the reception, where there’s food, drink, music and dancing until late. However, due to new covid restrictions announced at the end of July, wedding receptions are currently banned, which was a disappointment, but what can we do, eh?!
Dowry – a payment, such as property or money, paid by the bride’s family to the groom or his family at the time of marriage.
‘Kokooko’ – ‘The Knocking’ is the first step in the marriage process, and is a symbol of respect in the direction of unifying two families. The groom will be accompanied by his family to formally ask the bride's family for the bride’s hand in marriage.
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I’m Almaz Ohene, a Creative Copywriter, Freelance Journalist and Accidental Sexpert.
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Edited and Proofed by Poppy Beale-Collins, a writer and editor. People who would like to work with Poppy should get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org.