As a Christian student on campus, I am part of a movement called, Campus Crusade for Christ (Cru.). Through Cru., I have had the unique opportunity to travel to Ghana, Africa on a missions project this past summer. The project was life-changing. My passion for the Lord grew and I had an amazing opportunity to show God’s love across the globe. Furthermore, it has inspired me to learn more about the West African Culture.
West African weddings are unique compared to the traditional American wedding. There are several defining characteristics of a West African wedding, and I will mention a few here:
Family: The significance of family is clearly evident in West African weddings. Unlike in the U.S., Africans tend to view marriage as the joining of two families, not two people. West African weddings are so steeped into the tradition of family, that many West African individuals refuse to marry other individuals not part of the same tribe or ethnic group.
Bridewealth: The practice of bridewealth, or marriage payment, is also very common in the West African society. A bridewealth is a payment given to the bride’s family by the groom. This process is known to ratify the marriage. In most cases, a marriage can’t end in divorce until the bridewealth is paid back.
Polygamy: While not every man has multiple wives, polygamy is still a common practice in many West African countries. More often than not, polygamy is found in the tribal areas where polygamy is more readily accepted. A huge contribution behind polygamy is the diverse religious backgrounds of many West Africans.
Adinkra Symbols: Adinkra symbols actually originated with the Asanted tribe of Ghana. These symbols are placed throughout the wedding ceremony on jewelry, clothing, bowls, etc. to represent different aspects of marriage. For example, the gye nyame symbol signifies the importance of unity and God. It literally stands for, “except for God.”
Gye Nyame = "except for God"
Attire: West African traditions require not only guests, but the bride and groom to wear bright colors during the wedding ceremony. The colors are usually unique to the family’s tribe and are used to portray the heritages of the joining families.
Overall, West African Weddings are full with tradition. The reality is that each African wedding is so different and unique, it would be nearly impossible to list every West African wedding tradition. Hopefully, this provides a basic look into West African culture.