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Feature Article of Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Columnist: Okofo-Dartey, Samuel

Marriage In The 21st Century Ghana

: Opulence Versus Moderation

... leaders of the church have adopted a marriage policy to encourage decent but reasonably priced options for young people in the church who are planning to get married. Source: Ghanaweb.com

The quote above is a fraction of resolutions arrived at by the leaders of St. John Methodist church in Accra. Without doubt, it is a timely intervention to halt the frivolous cost of wedding ceremonies due to man’s inimical extremities in our civilised era.

In fact, a lot of young men of today who are willing to marry their beloveds are mostly ushered into the arena of disappointment. It is worth stating that this disappointment somewhat stems from certain artificial barriers engineered by some key actors in a family other than what may be perceived as conventional setbacks common to all love relationships . Therefore, what really might have prompted the leaders of the church to institute this policy among those not mentioned here deserves a critical mention.

Sometimes, we listen to some of our grandparents and elders narrate how they got married with little or no strong financial strength. They weave their stories with such refreshing alacrity that reflect the simplicity embodied in their unification process. The only common denominators as they will tell you that held and kept them sailing through life’s vile vagaries were love and hope. This hope hinged on the belief that with hard work and unflinching support from both partners, good fortune will never elude them.

However, the same cannot be said of today. In the twenty first century Africa and for that matter Ghana, many are those who perceive a marriage ceremony devoid of pomp and pageantry with no semblance of western appeal as pseudo wedding. The western style of marriage ceremony as it appears today has been extremely distorted by some of our country folks into an appalling caricature. It, therefore, does not come as a bolt from the blue if some young men coil into their shells if their fiancées propose the idea of marriage to them. Sometimes you hear some of our young men chorusing excuses in an attempt to buy time or forget about marriage for that moment.

Among other factors, the germane rationale that repels these young men from honouring the nuptial bidding of their respective ladies is probably the quantum of cost inherent in the marriage ceremony. The overwhelming nature of the marriage cost relative to the high cost of living becomes a disincentive that makes marriage unattractive. Nevertheless, there are those who for the love they have for their partners risk everything by honouring the inordinate whims and caprices of individuals who have a penchant for ostentatiousness. The negative implications after such inessential move are conspicuous: colossal indebtedness, low savings towards the future and petty fracas that can lead to the dissolution of the marriage.

Well, I must admit once more that in the midst of this challenge, there are those who can shoulder the huge cost element and flamboyance of their marriages without sweat. In reality, to them such display has no disturbing bearing on their financial standing. In other words, it is just like pelting an elephant with pebbles.

But what seems to be the nut that I find so hard to crack is the situation where a cross section of society seems to conventionalise such needless public display of opulence. It has, so far, being engraved in the psyche of many a Ghanaian to the extent that any “proper” marriage must possess a modicum of extravagance. It has degenerated to a level where marriage ceremonies have become competition among friends and even families. Another worrying phenomenon during some of these marriage ceremonies is the prolonged and undignified collection of money for the couple apart from the voluntary gifts given to the couples. Professional masters of ceremonies who possess some oratory flair are hired to sweet talk guests present to offer money to the couples which, to say the least, could pass for an act of begging. Currently, because guests are displaying reluctance in fast forwarding their monies, another crude method of extorting money has been devised which depicts the axiom that if birds have learnt to fly without perching then hunters have learnt to shoot without missing. These masters of ceremonies in agreement with their benefactors deliberately string a number of balloons with different colours together and position them in front of the couples as they stand. Each colour has a price tag attached to it. Afterwards, they declare, “all the balloons must be burst and the corresponding amount paid or else the couple will not retire to their seats.”

Apparently, it is a subtle way of telling the guests that, “we have spent a lot to refresh you all as well as make this gargantuan costly wedding a success, and so you must pay in return by partly shouldering the cost of the ceremony.” We do not need such public exhibition of extravagance to celebrate such a crucial event in one’s life. On such occasions, modesty should be the gem that sharpens the resplendence of the crown as well the eclipse that screens the blemishes of the porter. The aftermaths of many marriages have been terrible tales of tears and utter regrets due to the naked truth that these marriages were neck deep in debt. By experience and observation, I think that many intended marriages are going to suffer undue delays or possible no show principally because most men, especially young men will not be able to foot the huge cost of an event that lasts only for a maximum of three to four hours but has unimaginable blend of positive and negative surprises. That notwithstanding, a ubiquitous festering phenomenon that is taking root in the light of this social crisis is the incidence of cohabitation. For the purpose of our discussion, cohabitation as per the Encarta English Dictionary means to live together, especially without being formally married. Undoubtedly, those who cannot bear the brunt of society’s whims may resort to this lighter but reprehensible option. Candidly, cohabitation is without doubt wrong in every respect. In the first place, it can never be a perfect substitute for marriage. Pre-marital sex with its possible attendant negative effects such as unwanted pregnancies, abortion, single parenting among others is highly inevitable. Cohabitation in whatever form or shape is a blatant disregard for the family of the lady. But then can we also entirely blame the gentleman who has been scared away by the seemingly endless and suffocating list of items he is to purchase for the lady as defined by custom?

Admittedly, there are some men who may have the wherewithal to marry their ladies but will rather love to play the fool before they settle down with the same ladies or new ones. Despite this, parents should not behave like the proverbial farmer who imprudently sells his farm produce dearly and later turns around to offload his produce cheaply upon realising that consumers have boycotted his produce which face an imminent rot. We are in an era of globalisation where men have and are still devising interesting ways of attaining emotional and sexual satisfaction apart from the conventional mediums. With gay relationship on the ascendancy, one can only issue a word of advice to parents of females to be reasonable in their demands. Already the population of women in Ghana far outstrips that of men and for us to be losing some of our men to gay relationships, one can only presuppose that many are the women called to the fountain of marriage but only few will quench their thirst. Therefore, if a lady is fortunate enough to meet a man of her dreams and together they agree to marry each other, certain needless restrictions and artificial barriers in the form gargantuan monetary demands and ostentatious marriage ceremonies should be discouraged. There have been instances where some people have started the journey of life (marriage) with huge debts around their necks like an albatross just because they took loans from banks or performed their weddings under the auspices of credits. I strongly believe that God never intended marriage to be so difficult for both partners but a divine avenue to ensure the continuity of humanity. So if young men are overwhelmed by this burden, are we not rather shooting ourselves in the foot?

Instead of making young men suffer in silence all in the name of marriage, why don’t we make things so simple, attractive and not laborious for them? It is not easy to come by money these days, more so when unemployment is so prominent and economic hardship stares at us at every turn. If caution is treated with contempt, marriage may in no distant future appear to be a splash of money for the purchase of a lady.

At this juncture, I can conveniently conclude by perhaps harping the tune of all bachelors which goes like this, “spare us the wanton tons of frivolity during marriage ceremonies as well as the crippling bride price and we shall surely dare to honour your daughters on the altar of marriage.”

AUTHOR’S NAME: OKOFO DARTEY SAMUEL

EMAIL: sodesq2000@yahoo.com

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