Yesterday I lived out the expression once-in-a-lifetime experience. My god-sister was getting married in a Ghanaian engagement ceremony.
In Ghanaian culture, when two people become married, not only do they become one, but so do their entire families.
The bride’s family and Okeyame or spokesperson begins sitting, looking toward the entrance. The immediate family or elders sits in the front row, in order to receive the gifts from the groom’s family. The groom’s family makes their way to the entrance, stating the reason of their presence.
The bride’s spokesperson signals for the groom’s family to begin knocking. They begin yelling, “Agoo!”
To which we responded, “Amee!” This was repeated two more times.
The groom’s family was then greeted and led to their seats by the bride’s family. They were then given water from the bride’s family as a comfort for their long travels and the heat.
Before the spokespersons introduced themselves, and gave us a pronounceable name to refer to them as, an opening prayer was said.
Following the prayer,the groom’s family speaks of their mission, leaving the parents of the bride to either except or deny their betrothal. The ceremony begins when the bride’s elders grant permission.
Usually, the bride’s spokesperson would give a list to the groom’s family according to tradition. But this had been done ahead of time, so as not to lose the bride’s interest.
The groom’s spokesperson present the ring, bible, hymn book and drinks, lots of them, to the bride’s spokesperson. This is the way of asking for the bride’s hand in marriage. After this, jewelry, clothes and anything else is presented from the groom’s family.
In thanksgiving for raising a wonderful and beautiful daughter, the parents of the bride are then given gifts. In Ghanaian tradition, a women is priceless. No price can be put on them, but the groom’s family tried their hardest to show their appreciation to the whole family. This includes the brothers or cousins, whom help the groom to fulfill his duties on the day of the ceremony and prior to.
At last, the groom’s family requests to see the bride. The bride’s family sends out a decoy, usually a sister or bridesmaid. The groom’s family begins calling out, “No! No! We want our real bride!” In order to receive the real bride, the groom’s family turned over an envelope of money.
The next decoy is brought out, and again the groom’s family began calling and yelling out. The decoy is then walked back to the room, where the real bride awaits. The groom’s family threatened to leave, if the next girl was not the bride. So to seal the deal, they handed over another envelope of money.
As the music began, people were getting antsy and hungry, specifically my sister. But as the bridal party danced their way in, everyone was on their feet, clapping and cheering. They greeted the groom’s family, and the bride was seated on with groom’s family.
After everyone was settled, the groom was brought in, dancing in a circle with
his family and friends, before being introduced to the bride’s family.
Approval must be granted from the bride’s elders, before the bride and groom can sit together on their love seat. The priest blesses the couple, bible, hymn book and ring, uniting the couple as husband and wife.
A closing prayer was said before the closing song of thanksgiving. Smiles were everywhere, as in the eyes of Ghanaian's, they were married.
The reception was fun, good music, different clothes, and interesting food. I never thought that people from Africa, listened to modern pop music, but they do, and even know all the words. The food was a different story, the only foods there I had heard of were, potato salad and rolls. The other stuff tasted very different than a burger or slice of pizza. I did try goat stew, it wasn't bad at all. My sister enjoyed the rolls and my brother enjoyed the salad. And the cake, all of us enjoyed that.
The thing that was the most strange was the attire. The only way I can describe it, is as abstract. Many bright colors decorated the pavilion. My first thought was why would you ever where that in public. But the outfits grew on me, as I saw the many different designs. There was something for everybody.
If you ever get the chance to experience something like that, I’d take the opportunity. Just those 4 and half hours helped me broaden my horizons. And for those who know me, you know how closed off I am from the rest of the world.