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Church Wedding - Christian Or Western Culture?   
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Media personalities Nana Ansah Kwaw and Gifty Anti recently did what might go doing in the annals of the history of Ghana as the biggest traditional royal wedding ever.

It was purely traditional and not a church wedding. That throws me back to a piece I wrote years ago, on whether traditional weddings, like what they did, are of God or are pagan and ungodly. Read on.

In my African Traditional Religion class some time in the 1990’s, I learnt that marriage rites was both culturally-based and religiously-based, and that peoples around the world; African, Asian, Australian and European and American, have their own marriage rites based on their own unique God-given cultures.

Indeed, on all five continents there are different countries, which are also made of different ethnic groups; some of which also have clans and the clans have different families, all of which have different marriage rites, even though in some cases there may be similarities.

Whereas in most parts or Africa, the groom's family pays bride prices to the bride's family, in India, for instance, the bride’s parents rather pay groom price, if you like, to the groom’s parents to ask for the latter’s son’s hand in marriage to their daughter. This may be different from marriage rights elsewhere. You would surely have some difference in marriage rites between France and Germany for instance and yet they are both in Europe. We have Jewish marriage rites, Russian, Iraqi, Hispanic and more.

And yes, we do have our own unique marriage rites in Africa also. They differ from country to country, tribe to tribe, clan to clan and family to family. But I believe God in heaven, the author of the institution of marriage, in his Divine wisdom, created all the diversities in cultures and for that matter rites of marriage for all different people’s across the world.

Essentially, on all of these continents, the bottom line in striking the deal of marriage is the approval of the state, which demands that the marriage between two people is made legally binding by signing a marriage register. Then we have the families' approval, which involves the two families ensuring that the right bridal or groom price is paid and other customary rites are fulfilled, depending on which culture.
Then we have the religious aspect where the blessings of God is sought upon the marriage as it is believed that the progress of every marriage, in terms of child bearing and other things, are from the Supreme Being, God Almighty.

All these three are complete in themselves, but also inter-linked. They can be done at a go, where the marriage register is signed (state recognition) after the customary rites (families’ recognition) had been performed and then an ordained minister of a church with the right to officiate marriage could pray for the couple after they have affirmed their commitment to each other. Not necessarily in a church. Lately in the western world more weddings are being conducted outside the walls of the church than in churches.

I don't intend to bore you with church history, but what we call church wedding or Holy Matrimony today started as a pagan practice outside the church. It called just Matrimony without the "Holy" until the 9th Century when the church adopted it and the clergy got involved. When matrimony first entered the church, it was half way into the church and not in front of the altar because it was still not considered a holy ceremony. Today we call it Holy Matrimony and it is done right at the altar and we even say "taking the lady to the altar". So sometimes I wonder how church wedding became such a holy thing pastors vex their congregants with it.

In Ghana for instance, what we call engagement (customary marriage) is done with pump and pageantry and then we follow that with an even more flashy, flamboyant and usually expensive church ceremony called the wedding.

It is essential to point out here that customary marriage, which has been reduced to what Ghanaians call "the engagement", is actually a complete marriage ceremony between two consenting adults, recognised by God as holy and acceptable. Nigerians are a bit more definite. They call it traditional wedding and they call the church wedding "white wedding".

In fact in most western cultures, for instance, engagement is when the man meets the woman one-on-one and proposes marriage to her. Some offer the lady an engagement ring at that point, some offer necklace or some form of a condiment as a symbol of their promise to marry (wed) the lady. Engagement is not an expensive ceremony.

Before anybody thinks of me as a destructive critique of church praxis, let me state categorically that I had a wonderful church wedding 14 years ago. In fact my wife (then my fiancée) insisted we had simple customary marriage, signing ceremony and then invite a minister either to the signing or the customary marriage ceremony to bless the marriage. But I insisted on a big church wedding because I thought then that my fiancée deserved that honour so we did it.

But come to think of it, before western culture invaded Africa, we had our marriage rites intact and it was not faulted as incomplete until the white man came and said “if you sign the marriage register, did the customary marriage and you did not do church wedding, you are not husband and wife yet in the sight of God.”

I remember when I got “engaged” to my wife (customary marriage), I had to travel to Australia the next day. Her parents insisted that she left their house and spent the night with me in my house before I left. Their argument was that as far as they were concerned we were married.

She did not move to my house as her parents recommended, because of our Christian values. But if you think about it, her parents were right because, there was a pastor at the customary marriage ceremony who prayed over the ring and put it on my wife’s finger and blessed our marriage, even though it was in my absence. In certain cultures in Ghana, the man attends the customary ceremony and puts the “engagement” ring on the woman’s finger himself after the pastor’s prayer and that should be enough, especially if they had signed the marriage certificate.

When I was a very young Christian the pastor of one of the first churches I attended, punished a couple for sleeping together after their customary marriage, prior to their church wedding. And that is not exclusive to that pastor, because in Christendom today you dare not think of your spouse as your wife or husband if all you have done is the state and customary marriage. You need to do church wedding before the church would recognise and consider your marriage blessed by God.

The question I ask myself is, is there controversy or contradiction in God. Why would he give a people one culture and force another culture on them before he blesses them?

I once heard a pastor say, “you would attract the curse of God if you do not do the church wedding after the customary marriage.” And yet the pastors show up at the customary marriage ceremonies and bless the marriage anyway. And mind you, customary marriage is a very expensive ceremony too. In some cultures in Ghana some families demand scores of cattle as bride price alone before the actual ceremony.

What is the fuss about church weddings that make people borrow money and become debtors after compelling themselves into it after spending so much on the equally expensive customary marriage?

I am not questioning the performance of a ceremony that allows the blessing of God and the recognition of the church for our marriage. But must it be a full-blown, flamboyant and expensive church wedding? Could customary wedding, traditional wedding not serve save purpose?

Marriage ceremonies are performed in Japan, India, Israel, Fiji Island, Samoa and all kinds of places in the world. These are places where we have Christians. Do they also do church weddings in the form they some pastors in this country insist their members must do after the expensive traditional wedding?

I think what I am asking is, does God and for that matter does the bible state or even suggest anywhere, whether by implication, interpretation or direct quotation, that without church wedding our marriages are not of God?

Jesus did attend a wedding where he turned water into wine. We were not told about it being a church wedding, or a priest attending to bless the couple. So one wonders where the form in which we insist on wedding taking today has anything to so with the Christian faith at all.

Why on earth do people compel themselves into this tight corner even when they obviously are not in the position, financially to do church wedding, which is indeed not necessarily biblical and has no premix, whatsoever in Christianity.

I know of a Ghanaian couple in the United States of America, who now live together after their customary marriage, which was attended by a pastor who prayed for them. They got customarily married before they joined their current church and the pastor refused to acknowledge their marriage because they have not done church wedding.

In their bid to do “the right thing by the pastor” they bought wedding rings on credit for US$5000. Now the wedding hasn’t come on yet, because they have no more money to spend. They now want to buy a house but they have messed up their credit so badly no one is willing to give them a loan for their house. The pastor has now regretted compelling them into something they were not ready for and he has apologised to them and indeed to the whole church for the way he treated those two. These two hold very prominent positions in the church and their work is impeccable.

Clearly, no one is under pressure from the bible, to do expensive church weddings, except some pastors, friends and society directly or indirectly compels us to, even after the equally expensive customary wedding. And indeed who says what we call engagement (customary wedding) is not of God? And who says it is not enough?

It is sad how we have reduced our God-given form of marriage rites to mere "engagement" and adopted the western form of marriage rites (church wedding) as the real McCoy.

Just as in the western culture, church wedding is marriage, in our culture, the customary marriage and the signing of the certificate, plus the pastor’s prayer over us is the real thing. All you need is a legally recognized venue and a legally authorized person to declare you man and wife after you have done all the necessary things. That is why the churches have been smart to bring the marriage certificate to the church premises to be signed during the church wedding. What we fail to realize is that the customary wedding could be done in church and all other ceremonies like an ordained pastor's prayer and signing could be included to cut cost. No point in doing two weddings.

I am sure God and Jesus look at us from above and they are sad that though they have provided this world with diverse cultures, some, especially Africans, keep playing down their own and have allowed the west to make it look like God is not in our customary marriages but He only blesses our marriages when we do church wedding.

That is a deception from the pit of hell. I believe we must advise our people to, more and more, drift towards our ways of doing things and stop this mental slavery, making people think God only shows up in your marriage if we do church wedding.

I know lots of people, who signed marriage certificate, witnessed and blessed by a pastor and then did traditional wedding and they are moving on great with their marriages. One of my female friends and her husband from Italy actually did that recently.

So I ask, Nana Ansah Kwaw and Gifty Anti (Awo Dansoa) tied the knot at a grand traditional wedding. It was massive, gorgeous, beautiful, glamorous, heavenly and every thing else one could imagine. Pictures from the wedding went viral. It was not church wedding. Is God in their marriage or not? The church wedding fanatics should tell us.

Source: Samuel Nii Narku Dowuona/[email protected]

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