What marriages are recognised in Ghana?

Dear Mirror Lawyer, What types of marriages are recognised in Ghana? Is church blessing by a pastor a full marriage under the laws of Ghana?

David Amable, Dansoman, Accra

Dear Amable, The laws of Ghana recognise the celebration of three types of marriages. These are marriages celebrated under customary law,  ordinance marriage and Mohammedan ordinance.


Apart from these marriages, the courts in Ghana will recognise marriages celebrated under various enactments in most countries.

Under the prevailing laws of Ghana, certain relationships between a man and a woman who live together for a long time without formalising into any of the three descriptions above will not be recognised as legal marriages. These relationships are referred to as "Common Law" marriages.

The laws of Ghana provides for the registration of where marriages can be celebrated for and on behalf of the state.

Apart from churches, individual pastors or reverend ministers are required to be licensed by the State before they can celebrate marriages recognised by law.

Where a church is not registered to celebrate marriages or a pastor is not licensed and marriage is celebrated on the church premises or by the pastor, that marriage will not be recognised by the State.

At best it will be a church blessing of the parties and no more. Apart from that, where a marriage is celebrated in a licensed church by a licensed pastor but the parties fail or refuse to give notice and sign the marriage register under the provisions of the marriage ordinance, that marriage will at best be a church blessing of a customary marriage.

That marriage will be recognised as a customary law marriage and not an ordinance marriage.

In the case of APPOMASU v. BREMAWUO AND ANOTHER [1980] GLR 278 W. H., previously married under the customary law, decided to go through a marriage ceremony at the Roman Catholic

Church Cathedral, Kumasi, in order to have their marriage by the church, and also to be able to receive holy communion administered by the church.
There was no evidence that the ceremony complied with the mandatory provisions of the Marriage Ordinance, Cap. 127 (1951 Rev.), s. 31.

Besides, the only recorded evidence concerning the marriage was an entry in the official register of the church. On the death intestate of H., W. applied for letters of administration, asserting that the ceremony which took place between her and H. had converted the customary marriage into an ordinance marriage.

This was, however, disputed by the customary successor of H., who in turn alleged that the marriage was merely a nuptial blessing of the customary marriage.  

The Court of Appeal held that from the evidence, W and H intended to celebrate a marriage which conformed with the rites of the Catholic Church and which would also enable them to qualify for admission to the holy communion administered by the church.

That the legal effect of the church ceremony did not constitute a marriage under the Marriage Ordinance but a marriage blessed by the church.

The court further found that on W.'s own showing they did not deliver to the reverend father either a registrar's certificate or two marriage officer's certificates as required by section 31 of the marriage ordinance, Cap. 127; neither were they asked to sign a marriage certificate nor was a certificate given to them as required by section 34 and 35 of Cap. 127.

Therefore the ceremony performed at St. Peter's Cathedral between W. and H. was not a marriage under the ordinance.

It is clear that any celebration of marriage by a pastor in a church, which does not comply with the requirements of the law, will at best remain a church blessing and will disable the parties from taking advantage of the rights and benefits accruing to couples married under the Marriage Ordinance.

By  The Mirror / Ghana

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