I’ve been told most women plan their weddings with its beauty and elegance inseparable from that of a fairy-tale before even meeting a man—and this is the white wedding.
Though women would normally argue about the true position and importance of marriage in their lives, the exhilaration of the white wedding cannot be debated. For some women, it’s a big white wedding or they would never become a Mrs.
White weddings have stolen into its credit a religious significance—to the extent that certain churches are fully booked for the next 3 years and the waiting queue can’t be measured without losing count.
The ‘stolen credit’ has tainted the actual wedding; which in Africa remains the traditional wedding. Today, certain people consider themselves not fully married until the all enchanting white wedding takes place.
During the early days of its introduction in Africa, white weddings were just the icing on the cake but today, it has somewhat become the actual cake.
These expensive and huge weddings mostly organised by the Church or specialized wedding service providers under the supervision of the church has rendered several people bankrupt but that’s not the point of this article.
Apart from the additional social status white weddings may sloppily offer, the actual significance of this fully adopted way Europeans conduct their marriages by Africans remains in the dark to me— and relegating our well established customs to become a backdrop of white weddings poses a major threat of cultural annihilation.
A white wedding is no more an option for most young couples looking to share their lives together forever. It’s a prerequisite of the ‘everlasting’ union and until the white wedding has been duly executed, certain churches and societal persons wouldn’t recognise marriages even if all the traditional rites have been performed.
The above perhaps sprouts from the hovering misconception bought into by many, that marriage is a religious institution when in fact it’s indisputably a social/cultural institution adopted by religion.
It would be difficult to openly detach cultural from religion and here, I am talking about the various African traditional religions. However, the position of marriages in the religion-cultural conundrum when it comes to Africa can’t be mistaken; marriage was a widely cut-across cultural institution. You may freely argue on this but you cannot say before the coming of the white man, Africans were not getting married.
Today, Africans have completely uprooted marriage from its true position and have unbendingly placed it within the ambit of religion in a form of white wedding for Christians. The church does not celebrate marriages anymore, it conducts and defines marriages. Therefore, unless a Christian has been appropriately ushered into the unbearable cost of an expensive white wedding, her position in certain churches as a married woman sometimes raises questions.
I’ve heard of instances when certain pastors wouldn’t recognise marriages conducted outside the churches’ supervision, including traditional African marriages. And worse, the church seems to even dictate how traditional marriage rites should be performed these days—with many requesting for certain items like ‘alcohol’ to be excluded purely because of their Christian faith.
This is not the time to argue mark 12:17; ‘give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God’ because when something fully belongs to Caesar, it ought to stay as such. God can’t forcefully take it away from Caesar and turn around to tell Caesar how he should handle it. This ‘charlatanism’ is outside the scope of God’s dealings—because He is a JUST God, right?
I do not necessarily have a problem with Africans seeking to hold second marriages in a form of white weddings—my fret lies with the fact that it has increasingly become so; until the white wedding happens, marriage in Africa or by Africans is not absolute, even if all the necessary rites which define marriage has already taken place.
At best, white weddings should stay in the conversation as a celebration of marriage for those who can afford it. In the intellectual space, it occupies the same position as honeymoons; not necessary to the recognition of marriage as complete but remains an aspiration of newly married couples defined by affordability.
In Ghana and all other African countries (I stand to be corrected on this), the legal position of traditional/customary marriages are clearly established. The law fully recognises that once the established customary rites in relation to marriage are performed subject to a procedure requirement of registration in certain countries, the marriage is legal and the couple enjoy all the existing constitutional rights.
I’ve not come across any laid down procedure from any God in relation to how marriage should be conducted. It has always been a cultural event and that explains its varying structure when you move along the cultural spectrum—with white weddings well fitting the contemporary European culture.
Africans have our way too but as usual, we’ve almost discarded it for that of our colonial masters—and not only that, we treat the residue of ours with contempt. Thus, the increasing white weddings among Africans are not to the glory of God but contempt of Africa’s rich cultural heritage.