August 12 each year is International Day of the Youth to acknowledge young people the world over. The African Youth Charter, adopted by Ghana in its National youth policy defines youth as those between the ages of 15 and 35. And in Ghana, there are some 11,782,614 (38.2%) of these nation-building young folks.
This year's commemoration is on the theme, “Intergenerational Solidarity: Creating a World for All Age.” A cursory meaning of the word ‘Intergenerational’ is relating to, involving or affecting several generations, while the word ‘solidarity’ means unity or agreement of feeling or action, especially among individuals with a common interest and mutual support.
One of the common ways in which this theme finds expression is the institution of marriage. It is the first agent of socialisation that encompasses several generations and brings solidarity; unity and agreement among individuals, families and tribes.
However, if the sanity of this enviable institution is not guarded, it may lose its intended purpose. This is because the current younger generation has enshrouded this institution with extravagance, while the adult generations seem to look on.
Marriages are now more about showing off, putting modest couples under tremendous social pressure to spend more.
The results of spending more than they can actually afford have been the increasing rate of indebtedness with the resultant repercussions and disinterest in the institution due to financial constraints.
Some emerging issues contribute to the huge expenses of marriage ceremonies by the youth and suggested measures when put in place would mitigate the extravagance with which young people carry out marriages.
The emerging issues are the “alien” practices that have silently crept into our society, causing financial burdens to would-be couples.
Bridal shower, a pre-wedding celebration held in honour of the bride-to-be by her friends is a fun-filled experience characterised by gifts, food, drinks, games and pampering of the bride-to-be, usually held before the wedding day in a hotel, garden, restaurant or any nice place. The event comes with special bridal shower dresses and other decorations.
Bachelor's party/night/bash is closely linked to the bridal shower and is an opportunity for a groom-to-be to spend quality time with his closest friends and to say goodbye to his single life as he joins “the table of men”. The event is usually filled with drinks and food.
Rehearsal dinner is the newest addition to the “throwing away of money”. Dinner with the bridesmaids and groomsmen in a hotel or restaurant to celebrate the completion of rehearsals with the minister and counsellors.
Pre-wedding photoshoot is often referred to as an engagement shoot. It usually takes place between three to six months before the wedding day.
Pre-wedding photos are used on wedding invitation cards, circulated on social media or used for slideshows at weddings and receptions. The would-be-couple usually spends on different clothes for this shoot.
Exclusive photoshoot are pictures taken after the wedding ceremony in a special location other than the pictures officially stated in the wedding programme outline.
It usually happens before the couple goes for the wedding reception if any. These special locations are mostly paid for and sometimes the couple travels long distances to get there for the shoot.
Traditional marriage (engagement) has been a new twist to traditional marriages lately, where the would-be-couple pay for cultural dancers and live bands, coupled with long trains of bridesmaids and groomsmen.
A special stage is also set for another photo shoot after the event. Sometimes, the would-be couple goes to the extent of inviting almost all the people coming for the church wedding to the traditional marriage which is ideally meant for only members of the two families.
Couples also share presents with all attendees of their traditional marriages.
Multiple dresses besides the pre-wedding photo-shoot dresses, the traditional marriage dresses, the bridal shower dresses and dinner rehearsal dresses, some would-be couples wear more than one dress on the wedding day.
A different dress is usually worn for the reception besides the actual wedding gowns and suits. Some claim that they change their clothes to feel more relaxed to dance after putting on a somewhat restricted wedding gown.
Garden/location weddings is the practice where the to-be couple rent beaches, gardens or other special event centres to host their weddings rather than having them in their chapels. For locations that are unregistered for marriages, couples pay for special certificates of the permit so that they can hold their weddings there.
Decoration has also been one of the major costs incurred during weddings these days. Huge sums of monies are paid to decorate the venues and chapels for all events relating to the marriage ceremony.
Thank you, gifts/billboards are the latest of all these, where couples after their wedding ceremony design special cards, flyers and billboards with thank you messages with their pictures.
Bloggers then are paid huge sums of money to put their pictures on Facebook and other social media handlers.
Solemnising one’s union does not have to come at the peril of one's finances. Years of saving should not be blown in a day just to satisfy friends.
There is more after the ceremony and attempts to outdo and outshine other ceremonies are recipes for financial disaster.
Young couples could harness the cost-cutting advantage of mass weddings, where multiple couples get married in a single ceremony. Again, couples could adopt a “COVID- era-inspired” kind of wedding where fewer people are in attendance to cut down costs of refreshments.
Moreover, families of would-be couples should be understanding and supportive of such moves.
Ministers of the gospel, counsellors and traditional leaders are equally called upon to do the best within their power to curtail such grandioseness by educating the youth on this matter of concern.
The writer is the Director, Youth Development Ministry, The Methodist Church, Ghana