A question casually and frequently asked to single adults is, “So when are you getting married?” Perhaps young men do not feel the pressure to get married as much as young women do. A certain lady I once met lamented that the question was thrown her way from the time she barely turned 20. When one bumps into long lost friends it is not long before talk on mutual acquaintances gravitates towards the question as to whether mutual friends are married and how many children they now have.
Marriage on the continent is definitely a family affair and at best even a whole community’s business. Very few people get married only to individuals. As in the adage, ‘It takes a village to raise a child’, the same can be said for marriage in Africa. One may not be too far in concluding that ‘it takes a village to get married’. When a couple gets married there is hardly any room for loneliness for the two as extended family is always near - welcome or not.
The process of getting married goes more or less as follows. When a couple is about /or ready to get engaged, the family representatives from the man’s side have to alert the future bride’s family of the intentions of their son by paying them a visit on a specified date.
This meeting marks the start of the special marriage discourse, at which the future bride and groom may not necessarily be present themselves. In some cultures the groom’s family representatives may even bring small gifts or a token of money to ‘smooth’ the opening of the prospective marriage deliberations. If all goes well, this broader family engagement symbolises an engagement in the traditional sense.
Thereafter a wedding date will be communicated and the families will continue to meet frequently until the couple ties the note. Just like funerals, it is not uncommon for extended family members to make contributions towards the wedding ceremony. At some stage, dowry or bride price is paid by the groom or his family in the form of money and/ or gifts in in various forms like cattle or household items.
From the time the couple makes their intention to get married known, most cultures bombard them with both solicited and unsolicited marital counsel. Depending on where the wedding finally takes place, few people or even hundreds of people are invited to the celebrations.