It’s a great honor to be invited to a Ghanaian traditional wedding. It’s normally one of two wedding ceremonies Ghanaian American couples host. The second is a Western-style wedding, sometimes called a “white wedding” to refer to the white wedding dress that’s customary in America. The traditional wedding is reflective of the African wedding customs native to Ghana. For this ceremony, expect a totally unique set of customs, but the underlying sentiment of love, family and celebration will be exactly the same as any other wedding you’ve attended.
Here’s what you should expect at your first Ghanaian traditional wedding.
Ghanaian traditional wedding rituals
To start, important spokesmen from both families will stage a playful, symbolic negotiation at the wedding. From the bride’s side, the head of her clan or tribe who is often the eldest relative on her father’s side and the spokesman from her family will sit on one side of the room, along with her family. On the other side, the groom’s family will sit with their family spokesperson. The two spokesmen are the only people to speak during the negotiation, which includes officially asking for the bride’s hand in marriage. This is not a formal meeting and both sides will have a lot of fun jokingly bantering with each other during this part of the ceremony.
Next, gifts are presented to the bride and her family from the groom and his family. Akonta Sikan are gifts to the bride’s siblings while an additional set of gifts are given to her parents in appreciation for taking care of her up until this point. The bride receives a dowry, which is a little like a wedding registry in that her family curates the wish list of things she needs to start married life. The dowry typically includes kitchen utensils, jewelry, makeup and clothes. These items are brought to the wedding ceremony in a decorative trunk and presented to the bride.
Lastly, a string of “fake brides” are presented to the groom to ensure he knows the woman he truly loves. These women have their heads covered, but the groom and the family are completely in on the joke, so there’s no chance he’ll choose the wrong woman. The bride is the last to enter the ceremony and the two are now officially wed.
Bridal fashion at a Ghanaian traditional wedding
Ghanaian American brides will wear a special bridal cloth for their ceremony. Kente is the traditional cloth of Ghana and is created in a variety of colors and patterns, each with different meanings. Some brides will wear a Kente variety for their traditional weddings, while others will wear cloths in other colors, like white and gold.
Brides will also be adorned with a tekua, a traditional, crown-like bridal headdress. Gold jewelry and colorful beading is also part of the bride’s accessories, which might differ depending on her family’s tribe.
Guest attire for a Ghanaian traditional wedding
Guests should feel free to wear African prints to traditional weddings, if you have them. If you live in an area with a sizable Ghanaian American community, you will likely be able to find seamstresses who are skilled at creating gowns, skirts and separates from traditional cloth. (They will also be able to help you source cloth.) Online artisans also create ready to wear pieces in cloth from Ghana or other parts of West Africa, like Nigeria, that would also be appropriate for a Ghanaian traditional wedding.
However, if you don’t have or don’t want to purchase traditional clothing, feel free to wear your favorite wedding-appropriate gear. Unless stated on the invitation, the traditional wedding won’t be formal, so Sunday Best clothing is usually the best option, and you’ll blend in just fine.