I was asked to be a part of a wedding purely based on my skin colour.
A teacher at the AUCC; the dean of social science, Osei Piesie happened to catch me on the stairwell leading to my office on a Wednesday.
“Cheryl- Did you come to Ghana with a man?” .. now let me stop there and clarify that this is not a proposition. …Mr. Piesie really wanted to get in touch with a white man… any white man.
“My daughter is getting married this weekend- she’s marrying a white man and his family can’t come. None of his friends can come and I want him to see some of his own color there.”
Mr. Piesie asked me to round up a white guy and a couple white friends and show up to the ceremony at the Accra Metropolitan Assembly Saturday morning at 9am. He asked that I dress nice because he would like me to be a witness for the marriage certificate signing. “.. and something African would be nice,” he added.
Unfortunately, the only Caucasian guy I came to Accra with was out of town for the weekend.. so I asked my roommate Sandra to come along. As per the request of the Father of the Bride, we had African print dresses made and showed up to the AMA Saturday morning.
Now let me stop her to emphasize how strange it is to be invited to an intimate ceremony for a couple, and family I’ve never met. The even stranger part to me was how warmly Sandra and I were welcomed.
We walked into the courtyard at the AMA and were hugged, kissed on the cheek and thanked profusely. Then we posed for wedding pictures with the couple and the bride’s parents and friends, and proceeded into the registrar to seal the deal.
Unfortunately for us, the system for legal marriages in Accra is one where the groom scribbles his name onto a list on a piece of foolscap as early in the day as possible and then waits patiently for his name to be called. The ceremonies are reminiscent of what takes place at all night quickie chapels in Vegas. They are about 6 minutes each (yes, we timed them) and include a ring exchange, quick vows, witness signatures and kiss (sometimes).
Throughout our 5 and a half hour wait, we watched the process at least 50 times.
In the end though, the wait was well worth it, and it gave us a chance to get to know the couple for which we were signing.
Imbre is Hungarian, but met Serwaa in England while they were both working there. When Serwaa’s Visa expired she had to return to Ghana. The couple has spent the last 14 months apart. They were reunited 2 days before their wedding. They plan to live together in England as soon as Serwaa can get her visa. Sandra and I were very taken by them. They are cute and playful with each other and obviously very happy to finally get to the point where a life together, in the same country, is in the foreseeable future.
Their ceremony was as speedy as the 50+ before them. Then the witnesses were called up one by one to sign the certificate and make it official. Everyone clapped and that was that. We headed outside for more pictures.
Afterwards we celebrated their union at the family house with Jollof Rice and chicken, Heineken and dancing.
Neither Sandra nor I have ever been witness to anyone’s marriage before but this experience, and I for one can say I never expected to be asked to perform the honor based on the fact that I am white. It may seem a bit strange… but it was obvious our presence meant a lot to the family as well as the bridge and groom.
Besides having my eyes opened to the formalities of Ghanian unions, I learned that if you really want to get to know someone, spend 5 hours in a registry office with them and then write your name on the marriage certificate!
I’ve had the pleasure of spending time with the newlyweds since their union and have found 2 lovely friends out of the experience.