(Sorry if you're all tired of my weird movie references)
A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of attending a wedding ceremony. I was invited by one of my coworkers, who is a member of the congregation of the church where the wedding was held, and also plays drums in the church band that played at the wedding. I didn’t know the couple personally, but just like at the funeral, it really doesn’t matter. That’s one thing I love about African culture—it’s always, “the more the merrier.”
Now, I’m sure there is a lot of variance in wedding ceremonies, but the wedding I went to happened to be Pentecost Revival. Maybe I’ll get to go to another wedding while I’m here so I can compare. As for this wedding, the decorations were themed as white and gold, with balloons and canopies, and flowers everywhere…it was quite beautiful. There was also a red carpet running down the aisle, making the bride feel like a celebrity, I’m sure.
The wedding ceremony started with the groom and best man walking in, and sitting underneath a canopy, set at the front of the church. Then, the traditional processional starts, with the flower girl (who was the CUTEST ever), maid of honor (who was the only bridesmaid) and then the bride and her father. The father walked the bride up to the canopy, and then sat her down next to the groom in the front, with the maid of honor sitting next to the best man behind them.
After the opening prayer, the four officiating ministers (yes, four!) were introduced, and each of them said small words of congratulations to the couple. Then, there was a hymn and offertory made to the couple. Now, when I think of hymn and offertory, I think of people passing around a bowl while something like, to god be the glory ringing in the background.
No, no, no. Hymn and offertory in this church was much more fun than that. Everyone got up, dancing and singing, and formed a circle around the couple seated at the front of the church. As you dance around the couple, there was a small box on the right side where people dropped in their offering. I have a great video of this, but because my internet modem is stupid, I can’t get it to upload. But everyone was so joyful and energetic; it was really a lot of fun to watch. Also, they call the choir the “praise team.” :D
Once everyone has made their offering, the ceremony continued with the couple taking their vows and exchanging rings, followed by another bout of dancing and singing. Note: I did not go stand in the front of the church and shove my camera in the couples’ face. My coworker took my camera and was taking pictures from the band’s vantage point. I’m not that obnoxious.
Next on the docket was the sermon, which admittedly is going to be a little difficult for me to write about in a neutral fashion. The sermon started out with the lead pastor reading out divorce statistics in Ghana from each year since 2003, most of which sat around 55%. He then made the claim that the reason divorce rates are so high is because women are not “submitting to their husbands,” as the bible teaches them to. He spent an entire half hour talking about how, and this is almost a direct quote, “even if the fault is on the man, the woman must submit and say I’m sorry. Even if it is the woman who makes all the money and puts food on the table, she must submit and say I’m sorry.”
Now, I fully admit that I have a huge cultural bias. And I’m not going to talk much about this sermon, but I will say that I have never had to work so hard to keep my facial expression neutral. I will also say, that this sermon was well received by everyone else in the congregation. Women were even cheering after some of the things the pastor said, which I admit had me a bit confused. But you know, so many things are hard to understand on the outside looking in. For example, I would say most western women see traditional Muslim garb as a sign of repression, but many women in Middle Eastern countries prefer to wear burkas because they say it keeps men from ogling them in public, and it adds a level of intimacy with their husbands.
Because my job has me working only with men, I don’t really have a good perception of women in Ghana. As I am nosy and curious, I have talked with a lot of men about relationships, and most of them tell me that it is the woman’s job to do the cooking and the cleaning. I had one man even tell me that he married his wife just so he would have someone to cook for him. Another friend told me that if family sees that a wife is not taking care of the husband, like if the husband is seen cooking or something, the family can even step in and break up the marriage. On the flip-side, if a husband is seen going to the market, he is seen as being “cheap” or “stingy,” because when he gives his wife money for shopping, she can usually pocket what’s leftover. Of the few women I have talked to, some have told me that they like “taking care” of their husbands; because they give their wives money/gifts and make them feel protected.
This sermon, consequently, has also sparked numerous religious and gender equality debates between me and my coworkers, but that’s another story entirely.
In conclusion of this tangent, I do not understand a lot of things about relationships and marriage. But I do understand that social pressure is ENORMOUS. People are always in each other’s lives, usually in a good way. Also I need to make a greater effort to make female friends, I think.
Anyway, back to the marriage ceremony. After the sermon, another offertory was made, this time to the church, and was accompanied by just as much singing and dancing. Listed on the program, the hymn during the second offertory was supposed to be Oh! Perfect Love, which I thought was funny considering that that song is a wedding tradition in my family, but it wasn’t actually sung.
(How cute are they?!)
After the second offertory, the couple was presented with their marriage certificate; there was a closing prayer, and then the couple and wedding party recessed out (hmm is that the right term? It sounds awkward.) The couple then stood just outside of the church, so everyone could congratulate them on their way out, which was the completion of the ceremony part of the wedding. In between the ceremony and reception, the wedding party went to a garden across the street to take photos.
I did not stay for a lot of the reception, but the part I was there for was very similar to weddings I have been to in the US. There’s lot of drinks (nonalcoholic at this particular reception), and food. Music, dance, friends and family of the couple give toasts, the cake is cut, yadda yadda yadda.
Despite the sermon, it was a lovely wedding and I’m very glad I went. Some of my favorite experiences come from situations where I find myself with little understanding. Gender roles and religion are tough topics in every culture, and the more I observe in other places, the more I think about their implications in my own culture. Hell, just look at some of the things Rick Santorum says, and he’s made it this far in the run for President! But that’s a whole other can o’ worms, so I think I’ll stop here.
Happy Easter, or Passover, or weekend—which ever you choose to celebrate!