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Monday, June 19, 2017

The one with the four-day wedding and a baby naming

                The differences between a British wedding and a Ghanaian wedding are evident from the start. Firstly, there no need for an invitation, because you are invited. Everyone – even if it is your second counsin’s ten times removed neighbour’s nephew – is invited. The whole of Kalpohini (an area of Tamale) was shut for business on Sunday. And a month before-hand there were posters plastered everywhere advertising the wedding, as if it was going to be the next block-buster to hit the cinema. We were told weddings are a key social event in everyone’s calendar and it was promised to be the highlight of our time in Ghana. So, naturally, we jumped at the opportunity to attend.

The wedding lasted for four days. It began on a Friday and finished on a Monday. Throughout the weekend a huge operation takes place all around the neighbourhood, as the meals are cooked for the attendees. Everybody comes together to help with the preparations. We woke up on Sunday morning to find our house had been turned into a cooking operation on an industrial scale. There were trees literally being fed sideways into the fires to fuel the massive feast being prepared.

Once you get to the actual ceremony, the first thing you will notice is the myriad of colours. All the women have traditional Ghanaian cloth cut into a stunning shapely dresses. The men stride up in Islamic robes of white and the bride herself wore a yellow dress embedded with golden sequins and hands adorned with henna designs. Unfortunately, we didn’t quite get the dress code and was told off by a few of the women for not ‘wearing [our] cloth’. Therefore, should you ever get the opportunity to attend a wedding, make sure to get a highly colourful dress made for you by one of Tamale’s many seamstresses. For one you’ll avoid the embarrassment we encountered; secondly, you’ll never again be able to wear such a bold dress as you can sport to a Ghananian wedding.

                And now on to what actually happens at the wedding. It is very much like a British wedding, you get the opportunity to take photos with the bride and very unlike a British wedding you will get money stuck onto your forehead in the middle of dancing with most of the congregation watching you. Across the street peoples’ back-gardens were open to the public and in each house there was another little party going on. Towards the end of the evening we went onto a bus and were driven a good half an hour away to the groom’s house…ahem palace. It was only then we realised that the groom was the grandson of a former president of Ghana – (and the first functioning toilet we’d used in weeks!). We danced a bit more and got dragged into some photoshoots.

                To conclude the weekend we attended a baby naming ceremony. In Ghana a child only receives its name seven days after it was born. The seventh day is when the priest attends to the child and the name is announced to the whole family. Again, free food, photos with the child and greeting the entire of our host family’s community.

This weekend highlighted the wonderful sense of community that exists here in Tamale. All weddings are a party for everyone, every child is everyone’s child to celebrate and everyone contributes to the labour. In Ghana they often say when you enter their home; ‘you are invited’. It not only means you are welcome, but you are welcome to eat their food, dine with them and stay however long is needed. This wonderful idea of hospitality is so defining of Ghanaian cultural that, in the end, it means a few strangers from England can feel right at home in the middle of Northern Ghana.


By Bronte Wright

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