Marriage among the Akan
A man who wishes to marry, first discusses the intentions with the girl concerned. He has to make sure the girl will agree to marry him before he informs his parents. Finding out through secret meetings if they will marry each other is known as “kasasie.” The man then tells his mother or an elderly person about his intentions. His mother or the elderly person will in turn inform his father. If the mother feels that the marriage will not be possible for some reason, she will discourage him. When the father agrees, an investigation will immediately start into the girl’s conduct and family background.
When the boy’s parents are satisfied the father, through a delegation, informs the girl’s parents about his son’s intention. This information is known as ‘abowmu bodze’ or ‘opon-akyi bo’ (knocking ceremony). The announcement is made with a pot of palm wine or a bottle of schnapps. Some amount of money is added to the drink. The amount paid differs from community to community. The man may add some extra money to whatever custom demands. This is usually to impress his in-laws that he can really look after their daughter. In some communities, this money is regarded as a “token gift” for the girl’s mother.
The girl’s parents ask them to go back and come later for an answer. This enables them to find out if their daughter agrees to the marriage. They also investigate the boy’s conduct and family background. When they are satisfied, word is sent to the man’s family to come forward. It is the custom for a father to pay for the marriage expenses of a son. But these days, most young men give the money to their fathers for the marriage rites.
The father sends a message to the girl’s parents to inform them of the date for the rites. Both parents inform their maternal relatives to send their representative to the ceremony. On the appointed date, the man’s father sends a delegation to perform the rites. The important part of the ceremony is the offering of drinks known as “tiri nsa” (head drinks). In the past, it used to be palm wine, but now it is schnapps. The “tiri nsa” traditionally seals the marriage. Some money is added to the drink. The amount of money given differs from community to community. There is also a customary fee charged to be given to the girl’s mother. Her brothers too are given some money known as “akontagye sekan.” Before the payment of the customary drinks and the fee, the girl is formally called before the gathering to give her final consent to the marriage.
After accepting everything, the girl’s family head pours libation asking for protection and blessings for the new couple. He also prays that the marriage should be blessed with children. The rest of the drink is shared among all the people present to signify that they are all witnesses to the marriage. Pieces of advice are then given to the couple. The man can then fix a day to take his wife home.
There is another important rite which can be performed on the same day or at any time in their married life. It is an amount of money which is known as ‘ti-aseda’ or ‘ti-ade’ paid to the girl’s family. This is what might be termed ‘bride wealth.’ Nowadays, ‘ti-aseda’ is usually to show the man’s appreciation to the girl’s family for giving their daughter away. In the past, the girl’s family used this amount to pay any debt in the family. They believed that using that money to pay such a family debt would give her the peace of mind to enjoy her married life. Where there was no such debt, it was used to buy some property, e.g., a land or a farm for her and her future children. If there was a divorce, the husband could claim the ‘ti-aseda’ or ‘ti-ade’ from the wife’s family.
A day is fixed for taking the bride away to her husband. The bridegroom sends a pot of palm wine or a bottle of schnapps to the bride’s father for permission to take away his wife. The head of family pours libation with it and blesses the couple again.
On reaching her husband’s home, the husband provides her with food items to prepare a special meal for relatives, friends, and himself. This special meal is known as ‘osenka’ or ‘aduane kese’ (wedding feast). It is a marriage feast which is followed by jubilation. Traditionally, the “osenka” was prepared in the bride’s home and sent to the bridegroom’s house where it was shared among relations and friends.
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