On every blessed Friday through Sunday, an average of one roadblock sprouts in a Zongo community in Ghana. This estimation is not backed by Gallup, Pew or any rigorous statistical research. It is a self-evident truth witnessed by those who live in these communities or those who have to pass through it on their way to work, church but have to find diversionary routes on the weekend.
The barriers placed on these roads are not police checkpoints or illegal tollbooths. They are neither the works of vigilantes attempting to keep the peace in their communities. They are the manifestation of excitement and merrymaking over weddings. It is not enough to have the ceremony within the confines of the mosque and bride’s family compound, the world must hear and be a part of it.
Traditionally, Zongo weddings have followed the Islamic script with tweaking here and there to suit the cultural realities faced by the bride and groom. There is an infusion of ethnic norms like the bathing of the bride in henna and “the opening of head” where the bride’s family ceremoniously follow her to the groom’s house to stock up her wardrobe and kitchen cabinets. Thankfully, oddities like the cheering on or eavesdropping of the consummation of the wedding does not happen. Neither do families go through with the white cloth testing virginity routine. Boy how many weddings will crush after the first night if families did do that?
But it does not only take a chastity test to break a Zongo marriage these days. What previously used to modestly organized gatherings have become a contest to determine whose ceremony is more picturesque and worthy of the most “likes” on Instagram and retweets on Twitter. Egged on by lifestyle blogs, magazines and Instagram pages which splash their virtual spaces and front covers with dazzling wedding pictures, going big with the weddings is now the only valid option.
From pre-marital photo shoots where couples who know next to nothing about engineering don construction overalls and hardhats to bridal showers and white weddings, a Zongo marriage is no longer what is used to be in days gone. It probably is not an entirely bad phenomenon. People get overly excited about the prospect of spending the rest of their days waking up next to the same face (if you are polygamous man, four different faces on different days). It is appealing to start that life on a grand note. What is dangerous is the incentive behind all that and the departure from viewing marriage as an act of worship.
The distinction between a marriage and a wedding is lost on most people. While the latter is the celebration heralding the start of the former, its place in the scheme of affairs has trounced that of the former. The over glorification of the wedding ceremony has reduced the emphasis needed to be placed on the actual lifelong event called marriage.
To get people talking and Facebook notifications going off the chart, all the effort goes into pulling off a “wedding of the century” or as one family recently said “making sure Kumasi is shaken”. Monies which could have been invested for the good of the family’s future is spent on white gowns and mountainous cakes when all a Muslim wedding needs is love, consent and a token in the name of a bride price.
The strain on grooms are unbearable. Laboring your way to meet the standard set by the neighbor of your bride to be imbibes in you a sense of total entitlement over her. So when the lights goes off and the music dies down, the alpha male syndrome sets in: since I paid for your hand’s worth, you owe your existence in my house to me.
Happy endings are increasingly becoming a mirage these days. The average marriage barely lasts beyond ten years and the ones which do are usually filled with bickering and resentment between couples. It is fast becoming a scary avenue to venture in. Why lock yourself up in a cage if it is not going to be blissful?
Finding myself and the future wife on Bellanaija would not be a dream come true but it is tempting to wish for it. What is more tempting however is a union birthed by love and service to God, not a desire to break the Zongo Internet!