So much love: 28 couples get Valentine’s Day wedding in Ghana (See Photos)

Ghana Val wedding

by Akan Ido

Valentine’s Day all over the world is set aside to celebrate love and spend time with family and loved ones. This year’s celebration was, however, taken a notch further with the wedding of twenty eight couples at the Happy FM Valentine’s Mass Wedding in Accra, Ghana.

The venue of the ceremony was filled with gospel songs and ecstatic cheers of people who have come to witness the joining of the happy couples.

Sun Newspapers witnessed the annual Valentine’s wedding ceremony which took place at the Accra International Conference Centre (AICC) Osu and here’s their report below:

The mass wedding was a noblesse oblige. Designed to aid couples faced by financial challenges in consummating their marriage, it is a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) of Happy 98.9 FM, Ghana’s premier sports radio. Over the years, the Valentine Mass wedding has been used to facilitate the weddings of individuals with demonstrated desire to live together as legitimately married couple. Close to 500 couples have been wedded since its inauguration. In 2011, up to 50 couples had their wedding dream-wish fulfilled. This year, 28 couples walked down the aisle.

Basically, it was a free-of-charge marriage. Couples were relieved of the cost of their suits and bridals gowns, which were provided by A.E. House of Suits and Aisha Bridal. Other wedding accessories, such as costumes and cakes, were taken care of by sponsors. The costs of their logistics and lodging in an upscale hotel, were shouldered by the organisers and their slew of sponsors.

In its effort to offer couples this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to have an elegant wedding, Happy FM, however, ensured that the process is not parodied. En route to the Valentine matrimonial consummation, couples were handed a proviso: perform the traditional marriage rite in order to be eligible for the free-of-charge wedding. Of the 30 couples that started out on this love odyssey, two were unable to make it to the finished line of February 14 due to their inability to fulfill the traditional marital rites, a sacrosanct factor in the marriage calculus of the Ghanaian society.

The journey to the altar did not start in February. Couples were first taken through extended and extensive counseling by three of the best marriage counsellors in Ghana. The resultant three-day ante-nuptials, starting with the couples going to sign the dotted lines at the Registrar-General office in Accra on February 12 by 8 am, and followed up the next day by a technical rehearsal that was capped in the evening with a movie treat at the Silverbird Cinemas, climaxed on February 14 with the spectacular mass wedding ceremony. Described by the ministering pastor, Reverend Arthur Mensah, as a Christian marriage and conducted in English and Twi – one of the most widely spoken languages in Ghana, the ceremony ran the gamut of a comprehensive church wedding. The well-choreographed procession – grooms filling into the hall, led by the Mayor of Accra, followed one hour later by 28 elegantly dressed brides in their snow-white gowns, each led by the father of the bride – and the subsequent process – couples’ solemn declaration of “I do take you…For better for worse”; the sequenced removing of the veils; simultaneous exchange of rings, and the you-may-now-kiss-the-bride rite (cheered on by ecstatic crowd and edged on by the minister’s “take your time” line) – was picturesque, if not quaintly nostalgic. If you have gate-crashed the event – without an invitation or a prior notice – the spectacular sight unfurling before you could easily be mistakenly for the set of a Tyler Perry shoot for an upcoming movie to be titled Mass Wedding in Accra.

Beside the usual features accorded to the solemnization of a holy matrimony, the Valentine Mass Wedding has other value-added attractions. For instance, the Best Couple of 2014, Philip Yamuah, a banker, and his nurse wife, Sandra,– was rewarded with a honeymoon mattress by Latex Foam, one of the wedding sponsors for coming first in the cooking contest. The couple also received some token and discount vouchers.

The wedding was also gilded in a way that was hard to quantify materially by the couples – the pleasure of having great performances by two of Ghana’s foremost gospel artistes, Gifty Osei and Nicholas Omane Acheampong, the prestige of having international coverage given to the wedlock by foreign media, namely The Sun newspaper of Nigeria and CNN, the honour of having the cream of the society (the clergy, the political elite and the traditional class) in attendance – a millionaire’s wedding wouldn’t have been more glamorous.

After the officiating ministers had blessed the couples, they were presented their marriage certificates in front of the audience by Mr. Edward Boateng, CEO, Global Media Alliance, the parent company of Happy FM. A grand reception at W.E.B. Dubois Centre was the icing on the cake. They ended the day in their hotel rooms for a blissful night.

When the newly weds gathered to cut their wedding cakes and when they assembled for their group photograph on the steps of venue – drenched by warm sunshine, their faces bleached by the flashes of cameras – their age came sharply into focus.

The entire ceremony suddenly acquired some gravity. Although, some of the couples were youthful in their outlook- grooms of boyish charms and brides of nubile beauty – a cross-section of the cast of the Valentine Mass wedding, however, was evidently middle-aged. The oldest groom, Emmanuel Zanyoh, was 75 years old. Not less than three other grooms were way past 40s. Some of the couples were already fathers and mothers, but until this day, they had not been able to fulfill the obligation of a wedding that is legit.

Elisha Ernest Tetteyfio is in his late 40s, while his bride, Christiana Nyarko, is almost 40. He readily confessed, “This is my first wedding ever.” His response spun the question: Why did he have to wait this long to wed? Not shy to divulge the reason, he said: “Because my wife decided that she would not have anything short of an elegant wedding like we have today. She said she wouldn’t mind how long she had to wait for the opportunity to come.”

His achievement of the day, holds a ray of hope for others. “As we have brought our marriage before the Lord today,” he said, “we know it is an open opportunity for others to see this example and also bring their marriages before the Lord.”

Since inception, the Valentine Mass Wedding has become a flagship event that unionize families of different socio-cultural backgrounds, a close-knitting of the Ghana social fabric, that otherwise would have been difficult to achieve if left to individual couples and their respective families. This year’s 28 couples came from 20 different locations across Ghana; just as well, their demography was varied – with age range between 20s and 70s, professional occupation that ranges from banker to engineer, from automechanic to pastor. Among the brides were housewives just as there was a nurse.

Hailed for its lofty appeal, the idea of a mass wedding was not product of any brainwave. It was an idea stumbled upon serendipitously. Once upon a time, a pastor was hosting a popular programme on the FM station. It came to light that some of the listeners who phoned in had not formalized their marriages, not because they did not want to, but mainly because some of them were not active church member (who wanted to get married the Christian way) and a great number of them could not afford the cost of a befitting wedding. The desire to help was what gave birth to what is today known in Ghana as the Valentine Mass Wedding.

Till date, Happy FM has been optimally magnanimous in the organization of this annual all-expense paid wedding. All that was required of intending couple was to walk into the front desk of the Accra-based station and pick a registration form in the month of December and then commence the journey to the February 14 dateline.

This gesture was summed up succinctly by one of the marriage counselors, Mrs. Gyamerah-Ako who affirmed that the radio station has created “a platform for many to realise their marital dreams and receive a wonderful start to their marital journey.”

The organisers’ joy stemmed from the fact that since it started this milestone event nine years ago, it has not recorded any broken marriage along the way. So far, so good, none of the past couples live with a why-did-I-get-married-too regret. Instead, past participants live a success story life. Not only are they proudly flaunting their membership of the “Valentine Mass Wedding club,” they went the extra mile by forming an association, to further boost this annual wedding culture and also bolster the event, materially by way of contributions to defray the cost of the weddings and psychological by providing a sense of belonging for would-be mass wedding participants.

One of the past participants who was at the event to witness the solemnization of his best friend’s matrimony, spoke on condition of anonymity. He gushed about an exclusive bragging right. “For us, February 14 is a double celebration; the lovers’ day and our yearly wedding anniversary. Who wouldn’t want to wed on Feb 14 if someone is ready to pick your bill? Indeed, only those who wedded on Valentine’s Day are the true lovers.”

The significance of this epoch has no estimation. Its far-reaching societal impact was captured by the Osu Mantse’s brief but weighty speech: “Where there is marriage, there is honour.”

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