The season of marriages, traditional and church weddings, dawned on us as we went into Christmas and the New Year.
For close to five years now, I have kept a close monitor and can write books on the different forms of marriages that take place in the last month of the year and into the early part of the New Year.
It has become clear to me that December is the most celebrated month for life long unions. Last month, I was actually a witness to two traditional marriages, one mass wedding, and three church weddings all happening back to back.
Growing up, December was primarily a month to prepare and observe real Christmas. We looked forward to nothing but Christmas carols, the 24th Night, fanciful Christmas hats, that Church service where we would wear our best clothes, come back home for our big Christmas day meal with the privileged bottle of assorted soft drinks and Christmas biscuits which must be stringed and hanged around the neck.
These days, Christmas has been lost on me. I do not see the real purpose plus the special menus and drinks have now evolved into our everyday lifestyles. What I see is rather an occasion for the celebration of marriages. For some, December is the month to go and look for that wedding dress and hat and also a wedding gift. I very much stand accused. I have been so busy over the last couple of weeks attending back to back traditional and Church marriage ceremonies I have not even had the time to sit down to finish my Christmas meal at home.
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As a keen admirer as I am of traditional marriages and indeed all other forms of marriages in general, I have wondered why the shedding of tears is gaining grounds at such joyous celebrations. I have witnessed it not just once, not twice but many times, sometimes with the parents also shedding tears.
The first time I witnessed tears from a bride at the altar was some five years ago. The young bride cried into the microphone as she responded to her wedding vows. Being the first time I was witnessing anything of the sort, I was stunned and kept asking the question as to why a bride will cry on her special day. I never got any satisfactory answer. Then it happened a second time about two and a half years ago, again as the bride took her wedding vows.
Just some few Saturdays ago, I witnessed another “bridal tear” at a beautiful traditional marriage ceremony. The bride cried to the point of getting her parents’ eyes also welled up with tears. I wondered whether they were tears of joy as happens to people in a surprised lottery win. It set me seeking for answers.
At a Church wedding ceremony that I attended days later, I put the question to a marriage counsellor and then to another older married couple I met. Their two daughters left home within months of each other when they got married.
Listening to the marriage counsellor, some of the young brides cry out of emotion. She said that for those new brides, the reality of leaving the comfort of their parents’ shelter which to some of them has been the only haven they have known for two or three decades of their lives, unfolds before them. The reality of going into an unknown world and to be told that the unknown journey is forever and indeed until death separates both of them, must be a momentary denial to some new brides.
According to the marriage counsellor, during the period of counselling, they realise that for some of the brides, even though they are adults in their own rights, the day of the traditional or Church marriage is the first time they would be leaving home to go and live with someone else. The solemnity of the whole ceremony, the vows and the repeated questions as to whether they are sure they want to go with the man as it happens in traditional marriages, dawns on them and it moves them to tears.
But while the tears of the bride gets curious, even more intriguing is that of the parents who get moved to tears when their daughters are given in to marriage. Surely, they should be proud and joyful that their daughters have found someone who is taking over their “responsibilities” as someone put it. Do they see the whole marriage ceremony, particularly the traditional one, as giving their daughters away into some kind of bondage?
Speaking to the couple I spotted at the wedding reception just last week, they admitted that though they felt proud for having raised daughters who God blessed with marriages, they stressed that certain portions of the ceremony can be emotional even for the strongest of parents.
The father of the girls said to me that on both occasions when he had to ‘give away’ his daughters, as the priests normally ask as part of the church wedding ceremonies, he was moved to tears because he thought he was losing his daughters for good. He explained further that that feeling is only a quick flash. As he quickly added, “the satisfaction that one has raised daughters good enough for someone to take charge is more than gratifying”.
The mother of the girls felt the same. Though at the time of her daughters’ marriage she felt she was losing two of her best friends and confidants for over two decades, she felt her selfish wants should not supersede her daughters’ happy moments.
Looking back and going through some of the ceremonies surrounding marriages, particularly the traditional ones, do we succeed in putting uncertainty and sometimes fear in the minds of our daughters as they begin the journey of marriage? Take for example the idea of a dowry and sometimes the long shopping list of what the man must bring. Are such demands not simply selling off our daughters?
Why should a groom pay ‘compensation’ to his bride’s mother and father for raising her? Why should the brothers (I have always wondered why the sisters do not benefit from the shopping items), the extended family, and even sometimes the friends and family invited to witness the ceremony get on the shopping list?
Then also is that cogent question put to the bride during traditional marriages. The question is framed along the lines of: “should we accept all these things this man has brought in order to take you away”? The question is asked not once, not twice but three times and with so much emphasis each time it is asked. On the face of it the question may be appropriate but when asked with the kind of stressed emphasis, it must arouse some feelings of emotion in the young bride.
As I look back at some of the tears I have witnessed coming from new brides and their parents on their most important day, I could not help but to conclude that parents sometimes shed tears when their daughters are given away in marriages because they are losing out. Why? When a daughter gets married she loses the family name to take over her husband’s name. The second loss is the fact that traditionally, unless the groom changes the status quo, all the children from the marriage would be named after the groom’s relatives. Are my assessments fair?
Whatever it is, I see marriages, particularly the traditional ones as the most beautiful and joyous ceremonies in any woman’s life. It brings two or more families together united behind one of the sacred unions God instituted at the beginning of creation. Any attempt to shed tears gives the impression of being in two minds, defeating the purpose that ‘all may be one’.
Let us celebrate marriages no matter the emotions and leave the tears out for surprises and sad moments. A happy and prosperous New Year to all readers and a special one goes to those planning to get married in December 2013.
Article by Vicky Wireko