[Mr and Mrs Nii Ashie]
We were blessed to have been invited to some friends’ wedding this past week. Adzo is the Dean of Students at Ashesi, and her fiancé Nii was just her boyfriend (of 2 years) when we first arrived. They told us around Christmastime that they would be married in March. Because they wanted to be married out at a resort at near Lake Volta, and because of Ghana’s 50th anniversary celebrations, the only date available that would work for their schedule was Thursday, March 1. At first I was not sure I could take off work to attend, but as it got closer I realized that I would only miss one class (Discrete Structures) and I could assign them reading and work that was tangential to the material we were covering in class, and with midterms approaching I think they were happy for the “day off”. And I was so excited for their wedding! I decided to have a Ghanaian styled “Kaba and Slit” (fitted two-piece dress) made for the wedding, which added to the anticipation.
[Volta River with dock]
[Steve and Suzanne at wedding]
Adzo and Nii are just the nicest couple. Both are absolutely sweet, wonderful people. We have really enjoyed getting to know them both, and felt quite honored to be invited to their wedding. Some weddings you attend you think, “I hope they make it” and some you just have no doubt. Adzo and Nii definitely fall into the latter category.
We were going with some colleagues from Ashesi (Aelaf, Matt, Amelia) – and since we have the Nissan Patrol back for a few weeks, we offered to drive. Unfortunately, Aelaf remembered at the last minute that he had an Admissions interview that morning, so we left later than we all had hoped and a bit later than we were comfortable with. But, I wasn’t too stressed, after all, this is Ghana, where an event schedule for 1pm is likely to begin around 1:30-2:00, Then again, Adzo is pretty Americanized (she went to University and Graduate School and also worked for awhile in the States) so it wasn’t clear exactly when it would begin. Steve drove expertly but aggressively, in true Ghanaian fashion, and got us there safely and quickly from Accra. Luckily, it did start on “Ghanaian time” since we didn’t pull into the parking lot until a few minutes past one. Whew. Although I’m sure Adzo and Nii were ready at 1:00, you just can’t change a whole culture and 2 families and friends just like that. Both Matt and Steve and I shared stories of completely missing an American wedding by misjudging time and distance and arriving a few minutes late.
Steve here: We, along with most Ghanaians, laugh at ourselves about when things start here, often calling it African time, or Ghana time, but really a concept of time determining when an event starts is meaningless here. It starts when it starts, and I’m not really sure what the tipping point is. All I know is that there seems to be a cultural thing we don’t get about when things start. An invitation may say “1pm prompt” and if you arrive at 1pm, you’ll be the first, and feel a bit awkward. We Westerners are so used to events being ruled by time, and it just doesn’t work that way here. Events are people driven, and I think they understand it better, that time measurement was invented to serve people, and not the other way around.
The wedding was outdoors in a lovely setting, on the Volta River just down from the dam that supplies Ghana’s electricity (or, that doesn’t supply all of Ghana’s electricity needs). The wedding was small and intimate, less than 100 in attendance. The guests were seated under a white tent, and the bridesmaids (her niece and two sisters) and then Adzo and her father processed down the red carpet down the middle of the guests to meet Nii and the groomsmen and the presiding pastor under the tree facing the river. Adzo was stunning, and as Adzo remarked, Nii was “dashing”. Both wore Western-styled wedding dress with accents of kente cloth that was beautiful and yet simple. Very stylish and classy.
[Adzo walking down the aisle]
[Nii waiting for Adzo]
[Adzo and Nii at altar]
The wedding proceeded much like a Western wedding with some songs, some preaching, vows (the bride and groom made their own remarks to each other, in addition to the traditional vows) prayers, and finally the kiss and pronouncement. Afterward were photos which were very efficiently done – the order of the photos (including one of Adzo and Nii with Ashesi Colleagues!) were listed in the programme and were done very quickly and orderly – an announcer told who was up next and each took maybe 30 seconds. Nice – American wedding planners could take some lessons there. So, in just a few minutes Adzo and Nii and the head table joined the tables of guests in the beautiful setting of the Volta River for the reception. They cut the cake and did toasts first, and then friends and family gave their wishes to the couple using the microphone, and then dinner was served, followed by dancing.
[Mr and Mrs Ashie on the way to photos]
I must say that it was HOT. At one point Patrick found a thermometer under the shelter where our table was and saw it was 98 degrees in the shade (Steve and I had been in the sun for about ½ the wedding, as the sun had moved). This was our first trip to the Lake Volta area, but they told us that people always think it will be cooler there, nearer the water (I also thought it would be, or at least not hotter), but it’s protected in a small valley with no wind and the sun shining off the water, so it in fact is hotter than Accra. Thankfully, a short thunderstorm came through and cooled it off considerably. We all saw the storm coming, and so we got to shelter (the head table was originally under a tree, but they got them moved under a shelter before the storm hit) – it rained quite heavily for a short time, but none of us minded – the coolness was welcomed.
[Rain at the wedding]
Afterward it cleared up again quickly and it was time for dinner – a wonderful buffet spread of salad, goat soup, grilled fish, stewed beef, deep fried chicken, several kinds of rice, and gari gari (shaved cassava) – it was all wonderful. After dinner was dancing to a DJ – I was nervous at first to get out there dancing, Steve and I being 2 of 3 white people there and 2 of 6 Americans that I knew of – so, I guess I can say this without stereotyping all white people, but, at least I don’t have the rhythm Ghanaians do! But, I’m getting there and we had a great time dancing. We did throw in one “swing” at one point which was warmly received by our surrounding revelers. Steve remarked that a really nice thing about Adzo and Nii’s wedding was that we didn’t feel singled out as different, which often happens at, say, church services in which we are the only white people. We were welcomed warmly as just another set of Nii and Adzo’s friends, which was very nice.
[Adzo at the reception (with Patrick in the background)]
Alas, after too short a time, it was time to go and let Adzo and Nii enjoy the beginning of their honeymoon in the same lovely setting we’d enjoyed all afternoon. We’d been worrying them for some weeks, after telling them of American wedding traditions of “messing with” the newlyweds – their car, their hotel room if one could gain access to it, etc. As we were leaving we told them it only took a 20,000 cedis dash to gain access to their room. Adzo was pretty sure we were joking (we were) but we enjoyed leaving them with at least that little concern over American traditions.
[Adzo and Nii at reception]
[Suzanne at dusk at Volta River]
[Steve at dusk at Volta River]