White Weddings: to the Glory of God or Contempt of the African Culture?

White Wedding; Photo Credit-pinterest.com

White Wedding; Photo Credit-pinterest.com

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.

White Wedding by Africans

White Wedding by Africans

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.

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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.

Traditional Marriage-Nigeria

Traditional Marriage-Nigeria

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?

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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.

Dress for Traditional Marriage-Ghana

Dress for Traditional Marriage-Ghana

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.


Amɛgbɛtɔ Amɛyibɔ Gh says:

Thank you Chris! This is a well-written piece. We are really getting a lot of things wrong as a people.

GoldenGurl says:

I guess I have to admit. You’re right…if I just did a traditional I’m not sure if I would feel officially married. Which is odd because I believe traditional weddings are recognised by law?

Lily says:

Good article Chris and good topic. I am an Africa from Gambia and I never also understand why we are never satisfied with our culture and always sough for validation from the west. This is a case of us thinking that of the west is better

karma says:

Anything western is readily accepted as a mark of authenticity in Africa. It cuts across every
aspect of our lives. The expense of these white weddings usually means most newlyweds are thrown into debt before their lives begin. Such a worry.

Tiffanybabe says:

This is something every woman should read. White weddings have become a must have. People are borrowing money for white weddings which is not really our true marriage. People don’t respect our traditional weddings and those churches we fail to recognise african traditional marriages are doing the wrong thing. This is our culture which we must respect

Peggy Afful says:

In Ghana, the ladies see wedding as a once in a life time thing and as such they try every means to have a wedding. Generally mothers in Ghana also play a role in the decision on their daughters going in for a wedding because they also get a part to play and feel honoured as well, but I think the reason why ladies now pay attention to weddings are the fact that some family claim ownership of the man’s properties when the man is no more and so wedding in a way keeps them a bit secured because they will be the only wife of the man and will not have to share properties with any second wife.