Everything you need to know about marriage in Ghana

23 Apr 2023·20 min to read
Articles
Everything you need to know about marriage in Ghana 01

Ghana, officially known as the Republic of Ghana, is a west African country famous for its diverse wildlife, lush forests, sandy beaches, and stunning landscapes. Every year, thousands of people get married in Ghana. It is estimated that 45 percent of all men and 57 percent of all women living in Ghana were either married or living in union. Both foreigners and Ghanaian nationals have the freedom to perform various types of marriages as they deem fit. However, there are only three types of marriages that are recognized and protected by law in Ghana. These are civil, customary, and religious marriages. There are also other forms of marriage, such as symbolic, secular, and common-law marriages; however, they are not entirely legally binding in the country. 

Common-law marriage, also known as cohabitation or informal marriage, is recognized in certain circumstances. If a couple has lived together and presented themselves to the public as husband and wife for a significant period of time, they may be considered legally married, even if they have not gone through a formal marriage ceremony. However, the legal recognition and requirements for common-law marriage in Ghana can vary depending on the specific circumstances and jurisdiction. Arranged marriages are not as common in Ghana as they may be in some other cultures or countries. However, arranged marriages do exist in certain Ghanaian communities, particularly in rural areas and among some ethnic groups with traditional customs and practices.

In an arranged marriage in Ghana, the families of the bride and groom play a significant role in choosing the partners for the marriage. They may initiate the marriage process, negotiate the dowry or bride price, and make decisions on behalf of the couple. The prospective bride and groom may have limited or no say in the selection of their partners. Find out more about the marriage customs and traditions in Ghana as you continue reading.

Civil Marriages 

Civil marriage, also known as ordinary marriage, is a type of marriage in Ghana that is recognized and regulated by the Marriage Act, 1884 (Act 127) of Ghana. It is a legally recognized form of marriage that is performed and registered by a marriage officer or registrar, and it is conducted in accordance with the laws of Ghana, irrespective of the couple's cultural, ethnic, or religious background. 

This type of marriage involves various criteria that must be met by the couple, as well as a registration process that must be followed. Spouses who wish to enter a civil marriage must go to the registry in the municipality or district where they reside to begin the marriage application and registration process. To be eligible for a civil marriage in Ghana, both Ghanaians and foreigners must meet the following criteria:

Criteria for Civil Marriages

 
Age: The minimum age for marriage in Ghana is 18 years. If either party is under 18 years of age, parental consent is required.
Consent: Both spouses must freely and willingly consent to the marriage without any form of coercion or undue influence.
Capacity: Both partners must be mentally and physically capable of understanding the nature and consequences of marriage and be able to give valid consent.
Prohibited Relationships: The parties must not be closely related by blood, as specified in the Marriage Act.

Documents Required 

  • A valid means of identification such as a national identity card or passport
  • Copies of government-issued birth certificates
  • Divorce decree or death certificate. Either of these documents must be provided by spouses who were previously married but are now widowed or separated.
  • Consent Letters. If either party is under 18 years of age, written consent letters from the parents or guardians must be provided to establish parental consent for the marriage.
  • Both partners must provide two witnesses who are at least 18 years of age and have valid identification documents.
  • Receipt of the payment of all relevant fees

All documents obtained from foreign countries must be apostille-certified and translated by an accredited translator into English, the official language in Ghana.

Religious and customary marriages

In Ghana, religious marriages are performed according to the customs and rites of a particular religion, such as Christianity, Islam, or traditional African religions. These marriages are usually conducted by religious leaders or officials who are authorized by their respective religious bodies. Religious marriages are legally recognized in Ghana, but they must also be registered with the Registrar of Marriages or any other designated authority to be fully recognized under the law. 

The majority of the people living in the country are Christians, and most marriages are performed in accordance with church marriage requirements. Customary marriages are recognized under customary law in Ghana, and they have legal validity and consequences, especially with regards to inheritance and property rights. This type of marriage is still quite common in Ghana, with a lot of people in rural settlements getting married in a process organized based on the rites and customs of the region.

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Marriage traditions in Ghana

Traditional Engagement or "Knocking"

This is a customary practice where the groom and his family formally visit the bride's family to seek their consent for the marriage. The groom's family brings gifts, such as drinks, food, and sometimes money, which are presented to the bride's family as a token of appreciation. If the bride's family accepts the gifts, it signifies their consent for the marriage to take place.

Bride price or dowry

This is a customary practice where the groom or his family pays a sum of money or other valuable items to the bride's family as compensation for taking their daughter in marriage. The amount or items to be paid may vary depending on the ethnic group and families involved, and it is often negotiated and agreed upon by the families.

Traditional Attire

Traditional attire plays a significant role in Ghanaian marriage traditions. The bride, groom, and their families usually dress in traditional clothing that is symbolic of their cultural heritage. The bride's outfit may include a colorful and elaborate traditional gown or cloth, often accompanied by matching accessories and beads, while the groom may wear a traditional outfit, such as a smock, kente cloth, or other cultural attire.

Same-sex Marriages 

There is no recognition of any form of same-sex unions or relationships in Ghana. The status of homosexuality has been illegal for the male gender since 1892; however, it has not been criminalized for females. Members of the LGBTQ community face various legal and societal challenges that are not experienced by non-LGBT Ghanaians. The practice of homosexuality and same-sex marriage in Ghana may result in 3 years imprisonment or more severe penalties.

Polygamous Marriages 

Under the Marriage Act of 2004 (Act 732) in Ghana, it is illegal for a person to contract or enter into a marriage with more than one spouse at the same time. The law recognizes only monogamous marriages, where a person can be married to only one spouse at a time. While polygamy may be culturally accepted and practiced in some communities in Ghana, it is not legally recognized or protected under civil law. Therefore, any attempt to contract or enter into a polygamous marriage in Ghana would be considered illegal and may not have legal recognition or protection.

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Marriage Laws and Rights, Costs and Duties

Laws

The Marriage Act of 1884, the Customary Marriage and Divorce Registration Law of 1985, and the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act of 1971 are considered to be the primary laws governing marriage in Ghana. These laws outline the legal requirements for getting married in Ghana and the legal consequences of a marriage. Under Ghanaian law, three types of marriage are officially recognized by the law: civil marriages, religious marriages (Christian and Muslim), and customary marriages. Civil marriages are conducted under the Marriage Act; Christian marriages in Ghana are also governed by the Marriages Act of 1884, but Muslim marriages are regulated by the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act of 1971, while customary marriages are conducted according to the customs and traditions of the ethnic group in which the marriage takes place. 

To get married in Ghana, both parties must have fulfilled the age requirement, which states that intending couples must be at least 18 years of age. Both parties must be able to freely choose their spouse without any form of coercion, and the consent of both parents is required for a valid marriage. Under Islamic law, the bride's consent to marriage is given by her wali. The law also states that the groom and bride must not be closely related by blood or adoption. Such an act is considered incestuous, which is a punishable offense under the law. Couples who wish to conduct civil marriages are required by law to give notice to the Registrar of Marriages at least 21 days before the intended marriage date. 

The couple must be able to provide certain documents, such as birth certificates and passports. The marriage ceremony must be conducted by a registered marriage officer, and two witnesses must be present. In the event that one or both couples have been married in the past, but the marriage ended as a result of the death of one of the previous spouses or due to divorce, the concerned spouse is required to provide evidence of the dissolution of any previous marriage in the form of a death or divorce certificate. According to the Customary Marriage and Divorce Registration Law of 1985, customary marriages are recognized under Ghanaian law, but they must be registered with the Registrar of Marriages within three months of the ceremony.

Intending couples must provide certain documents, including a customary marriage certificate signed by the groom and bride, their families, and the traditional authority. The marriage must also be witnessed by at least two people who are at least 18 years of age or older. In Ghana, polygamous marriages are legal under customary law, but they are not recognized under civil law. Any person who enters into a polygamous marriage under customary law may be liable for bigamy under civil law.

Rights

In Ghana, married couples have legal rights and responsibilities under the country's laws. These rights are based on fundamental human rights and are available to all married couples in Ghana. Under the law, both spouses have equal rights and responsibilities in the marriage and are entitled to equal treatment in all aspects of their relationship, both in marriage and in society, which includes the right to be free from discrimination based on gender. Upon marriage, both spouses are entitled to an equal share of the matrimonial property. 

They both have the right to own and manage property, including land, houses, and other assets. This also includes property acquired during the marriage. Upon the death of a spouse, the surviving spouse has a right to inherit a portion of the deceased spouse's property under customary and statutory law. Divorce is allowed under both civil and customary law in Ghana. Both parties may do so on grounds such as cruelty, desertion, adultery, etc. The process and requirements for divorce may vary depending on the type of marriage, but both parties have the right to seek a divorce if the marriage has broken down and to have the division of matrimonial property and custody of children determined by the court. 

The couple has the right to adopt provided they meet all the requirements to adopt a child in Ghana. Married couples have the right to work and receive equal payment for work done without facing any restrictions based on their marital status. Married women have the right to receive special care during a reasonable period before and after childbirth, and during those periods, working mothers shall be accorded paid leave.

Costs

There are various costs associated with getting married in Ghana. From the cost of registering the notice of marriage to having the actual ceremony on the chosen date, marriage in Ghana is considered a grand affair, so many couples have large weddings that cost a lot of Ghanaian cedis. Obtaining a marriage license in Ghana ranges from around GHS 50 to GHS 200. However, this cost is based on the location of the ceremony. Ghanaians are big on culture, therefore there has to be a traditional engagement ceremony, which costs anywhere from GHS 2,000 to GHS 10,000 or more. The cost of the couple's wedding attire is determined by their choice and what they hope to achieve. 

Bridal gowns can range from GHS 500 to GHS 5,000 or more, while suits for grooms cost around GHS 300 to GHS 1,500. Wedding rings in Ghana can vary depending on the type and material of the ring. A simple gold wedding band can cost around GHS 500, while a more elaborate diamond ring can cost several thousand cedis. Renting a wedding venue is based on a number of factors, such as the number of invited guests, the size of the ceremony, etc. A basic venue rental for a wedding can cost around GHS 1,500 to GHS 5,000 or more. Food and drinks are an important part of any ceremony. Therefore, if the couple decides to have a wedding reception, they should expect to spend around GHS 50 to GHS 100 per person, while a more elaborate menu can cost GHS 200 or more per person.

Duties

The duties and responsibilities of married couples in Ghana are based on mutual respect, trust, and support for each other, as well as a sense of responsibility towards their families and communities. Like with any country in the world, married couples have a duty to show mutual respect towards each other. They are obligated to treat each other with kindness, have mutual understanding, and always put one another into consideration, as well as avoid actions or words that could cause harm or hurt to the other person. 

Providing financial support for the family is one of the important duties of couples in marriage. They have a duty to provide financial support for each other and their children. This includes contributing to household expenses, providing for basic needs such as food, clothing, and shelter, and planning for the future. Spouses have a duty to provide emotional support for each other. They should be there for each other during times of stress, offering comfort and encouragement and working together to overcome challenges. 

Working together to maintain a clean and safe home is the responsibility of both the husband and wife. Couples have a duty to share responsibilities for household chores such as childcare, taking care of the home and guests, and other tasks, as well as supporting each other in their respective careers.

Conclusion 

The process of getting married in Ghana is simple and straightforward. Once the couple submits the required documents during the marriage registration, it will take up to 7 days or weeks in some cases for the marriage registration to be processed.

Under the civil codes of the country, a man is not allowed to marry multiple wives, likewise a woman. However, polygamous marriages may be allowed if the spouses are Muslims and are performing a religious marriage. We hope this article has helped you understand everything you need to know about marriage in Ghana.

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