Ghana is a highly diverse nation with people from different ethnicities and cultures. It makes sense that Ghana wedding traditions and rituals differ from tribe to tribe.
The Ghana wedding procedures and rituals are known as “engagement,” which completes the marriage ceremony from a legal standpoint.
Nowadays, most rituals connected to Ghanaian marriages are fading away. The rise of formal education, Islam, Christianity, and social media continue to influence age-old customs and practices.
Many parents no longer have the patience to wait for the complete set of wife’s clothing in a box before permitting their daughters to join the husband in the home.
Moreover, ethnicities that receive cattle as dowry have reduced the number of cows to reduce the expense of marriage, allowing more men to marry.
The current trend for Ghana weddings is to do the traditional ceremonies and follow them up with a court or white wedding.
9 Ghana Wedding Traditions and Rituals
1. Opon-akyi bo
The “Opon-akyi bo” or “Knocking on the Door” ceremony is arguably the most famous ritual in Ghana and is even more prevalent in Nigeria, Cameroon, and other West African countries.
This ceremony involves the potential groom, alongside senior members of his family and community, going to the bride’s father’s house to announce the marital intentions of the future husband.
This ceremony is often performed a month or two before the traditional marriage. The “knocking ritual” (kookoo ko) dates back to the ancient custom of a visitor who knocks on the host’s door to announce his arrival.
Knocking on the door with an “empty hand” is taboo. Consequently, the groom and his family members must bring some traditional items, which vary from tribe to tribe.
However, some gifts are mandatory, no matter the tribe or culture. These items include kegs of palm wine, kola nuts, and money to be presented to the bride’s family.
2. Tiri Nsa
No Ghanaian marriage is complete without the presentation of drinks. Most custodians of Ghanaian culture do not accept the validity of a wedding where the groom doesn’t provide drinks – to show the importance of this ritual.
Africa, as a whole, emphasizes “respect” for elders, and this is even more so during a wedding ceremony.
Tiri Nsa Practice
The groom’s family’s eldest delegate gets tasked with presenting the drinks, also known as “head drinks” or tiri nsa. He begins by using the most flowery speech to state the purpose of their visit.
For instance, he might say, “our most beloved son (pointing to the groom) was passing by when he saw the most beautiful flower in your lovely garden. “He wishes for your permission to pick this flower.”
The significance of this praiseful speech is that the groom is ready to do what is right by custom to ask the bride’s family for their daughter’s hand in marriage.
Ghana wedding traditions amongst many ethnic groups – particularly in the Upper Regions and Northern Ghana follow the same process. When a Ghanaian man aims to marry, he presents the bride’s family with gifts.
These gifts are known as “aye-yo-dee” and may include yams, tobacco, schnapps, ogogoro, kola, and meat. The symbolism of the gift presentation is to make the bride’s family recognize the intended groom as a potential son-in-law.
In the Gonja tribe, the man must present the bride’s family with bushmeat and yams. However, ethnic groups like the Dagomba, Kusasi, Mamprusi, and Frafra prefer the gift of cows.
The community determines the number of cows, which often depends on the status of the bride’s family. A bride from a wealthy family will receive more cows than a bride from a less privileged home.
Further, the bride’s academic qualifications often influence how many gifts her family will receive. For instance, a bride educated at the university will receive more gifts than a bride who only went to high school.
4. The Acceptance
In some Ghana communities, the bride must accept the wedding proposal. After the groom pays the bride pride, the bride is ushered into the arena and asked if she would like to marry the groom.
Some tribes, like the Asante, will ask three times, while others, like the Fante, will ask only once. If she accepts his proposal, drinks and money will get presented and shared with her family.
The cash distribution amongst her clan indicates that each member bears witness to the wedding ceremony.
After her acceptance, the eldest amongst the bride’s family (often her father’s uncle) will present the bride to the abusuapanyin (head of the groom’s family).
He will tell the delegation that the bride must be taken care of. She, in turn, must continue to look as beautiful in the future as she is today.
5. Bride Price
The bride price is on this list because it’s the only ritual that completes a Ghanaian wedding ceremony by itself. A man may skip all the traditions, customs, and mandatory procedures.
But so long as he pays the bride price in full, the woman is legally his wife according to culture and law. The contents of the bride’s price or dowry depend on the tribe and community.
While cash is prevalent in many Ghanaian cultures, other dowry types include farm animals like cows, goats, or sheep or precious metals like gold.
Interestingly, when a man wishes to divorce his wife, he sends her back to her father’s house, and the dowry gets returned to him. The bride price is often symbolic and doesn’t necessarily mean the groom is ”buying” the bride like an object.
Some families prefer to receive a token sum which symbolizes the fulfillment of this tradition to make the Ghanaian wedding valid under law and custom.
Under Akan custom, in addition to the bride price, the groom’s entourage must also present the akontasekan (money) to the bride’s brothers and male cousins if she’s the only female child in the family.
Vofofo is a tradition by the Ewe where a man of marital age sends a pot of palm wine to the father of his intended.
Once the father receives this palm wine, he asks the groom’s messengers to return for his answer in a month.
This timeframe gives the bride’s father the time he needs to enquire about the potential groom, his status, and his family. If the bride’s parents are satisfied with the groom’s family background and conduct, they consent to the marriage’s performance.
7. Presentation of Kola
The presentation of kola is on this list because the kola nut is the lifeblood and soul of many West African cultures, including wedding ceremonies.
The oldest person in the group takes the kola and offers prayers. The kola nut is broken into pieces and gets shared with the gathering, from the most senior to the youngest.
If the bride’s family accepts the wedding proposal, they each take a bite of the kola as a sign of approval.
8. The Engagement List
This is the part of the Ghana wedding tradition the groom is most wary of. The infamous list. The engagement list is not to be confused with the presentation of gifts for the bride’s family.
The engagement list contains all the items required to pacify the community into giving away the daughter to the groom.
This engagement list and the gifts within are of higher significance when the groom is from another district or tribe. When the bride marries the groom, she becomes a member of his community and no longer the society of her father.
The gifts within this list take care of the different age-grade unions, the elders, women, and the youths – all the other groups that make a community. A Ghanaian marriage can face significant problems when the items on the engagement list don’t get fulfilled.
Some brides even help their would-be husbands with funds to purchase the engagement list items, including Kente fabric for the female folk, cows, sheep, whiskey, crates of Fanta and coke for the youths, and boxes of beer for the male elders.
The bride’s family may give the groom a “soft landing” by demanding little gifts that won’t set the groom back financially.
However, they have little to no say regarding the engagement list. The elders in the community decide what goes into the list, including the sharing formula for the community.
The Nansiung-lika is on this list because it’s the most crucial aspect of the wedding process among the Bulsa people of Northern Ghana. It permanently joins man and wife together until death.
This ritual also proves the groom has carried out all the necessary marital rites and customs required to make the woman his wife, including a legal claim of all the children from the marriage.
Interestingly, most Bulsa men perform this ritual only when they’re sure the woman can bear children and is willing to stay in the marriage for life.
Most men take precautions to let the woman give birth to a few kids before finalizing this ritual.
However, it’s considered an abomination for the man to perform this rite when his wife is pregnant. The items for the ceremony may include a hen, cola, a hoe, or sheep. Accepting these items by the woman’s paternal family signifies the ritual’s completion.