Public Marriage Proposals In The African Setting: Is It Too Far-Fetched To Question Its Redundancy?

Public Marriage Proposals In The African Setting: Is It Too Far-Fetched To Question Its Redundancy?

Weddings are booming all over the world and maybe even just a little more in our part of the world. We have gradually gotten accustomed to the bending

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Weddings are booming all over the world and maybe even just a little more in our part of the world. We have gradually gotten accustomed to the bending bridal trains, exotic locations and online features on some of our favorite lifestyle blogs. Fairly new to this “package,” are public marriage proposals.

Now this might not be very new to people of Western cultures but even theirs has seen a new turn, as social media seems to be taking it to a whole new level. We’ve all seen quite a number of those and drooled in the comments session multiple times…but can we have some serious talk?

Before y’all come at me, in this post I am not entirely concerned with the practice itself. I have followed Western dating culture, both in movies and in real life and I know how public marriage proposals fit perfectly in their dating culture…to an extent. The issue is how we, here in the diaspora, have also “forced” the idea into our own dating and relationship culture. It is worrying and needs some scrutiny.

By far, what I’ve gathered from the Western version of dating goes like this: Boy meets girl, one asks the other out on a date to say, dinner, movies or anything fun they both decide on. Now mind you, saying “Yes” here automatically means that both parties like each other enough and would like to actually see where it goes.

During this dating period, anything at all can happen:  sex, co-habitation, and even having babies together. During this period too, it might not necessarily mean they are automatically or necessarily “in love.” Sometimes, it only means “I like you just enough,” or “I’m comfortable with you just enough to hang around you, kiss you, let you touch me and let people see me in your company.” Therefore you may notice that sometimes even the first person to say “I love you” is very crucial…and what makes it crucial is the timing.

One must make sure that the other is indeed at that point in the relationship too, otherwise saying “I love you” way too soon might even cost you the relationship. The other party responding “I Love you too” doesn’t necessarily mean “I want to marry you.” Sometimes it only means “I am ready to be exclusive with you.” Marriage proposals come in when the guy is ready to take things to the next level. He then prepares a special moment to pose his question.

In most of these relationships, that is the first time the thought and idea of marriage is being voiced out and so you realize the man would be tensed, anxious and actually scared because it can definitely “backfire” if the lady is not “there yet” in the relationship.

So when a man goes down on one knee, he actually does so as a sign of his vulnerability at that point in the relationship, because it can be frightening and heart-breaking if the lady is not as convinced as he is, to move forward with him. The underlying point therefore is: the topic of marriage would not have really been touched on prior to that day or even if touched on, rather vaguely done.

This is where we should all be raising concerns in our own context.

I haven’t been in that many relationships but one thing I always know for sure is I only go into relationships with guys I see myself marrying in the near future; a guy I see myself going on bedroom explorations with; someone I can confidently introduce to my parents; and most importantly a guy I wouldn’t mind fathering my children. If I cannot imagine the two of us in any of these situations I don’t even waste time “dating” you.

If I know my Ghana girls well, I know that many of us envision marriage right at the beginning of our relationships – You can’t blame us, that has been our orientation since childhood. And because the guys are smart, they also usually approach us with this marriage rhetoric, even if they really don’t mean it.

So technically, we agree to marriage right at the beginning of our relationships. Even if we don’t necessarily envision marriage at the beginning, during the 2,3,4,1 year relationship, the topic of marriage would have certainly come up several times.

For serious minded couples, preparations towards the union begins right away: Saving together; praying together about marriage; making academic and professional decisions with your partner in mind; involving our parents right from the start; and committing to staying solely exclusive to each other. Therefore, if we are being honest, isn’t it time to question the relevance of public marriage proposals to this union?

Isn’t it just a matter of “Efe, we decided we were going to go forward immediately you were done with school, if you are ready, I’m ready too, let’s do this!” We inform our families that we are now ready. We do the traditional bit and then set the date for the White wedding “showmanship.”

So in this African relationship, is it possible to view the public marriage proposal and the accompanying recent displays as a little redundant? Especially when we have added on other aspects of the marriage process that sort of doubles or even triples our financial, physical and social engagements in the process.

There is even nothing really wrong if people want to go ahead and add special public marriage proposals to their wedding process but why do the ladies involved also act surprised? You have been dating a guy for 3 years, he asks you to marry him and you are completely taken aback and utterly shocked?

What have you two been doing in the past three years? What conversations have you been having, and what sort of plans have you made together that somehow excluded the topic of marriage?

In Western cultures, the ring given at the proposal is the engagement ring and the White wedding follows. In our own context too, the ring given at the public proposal is almost non-existent as there is a real engagement ceremony to be held where an official engagement ring is given, followed by the final wedding ring during the white wedding.

Just to be sure we are on the same page, let me reiterate that I am not entirely calling for an abolishment of the practice; maybe just a little reconsideration of it. Reconsidering public marriage proposals in our own context is important for the following reasons:

  • Sometimes there are serious problems in the relationship that need to be addressed before a lady accepts the invitation to move ahead in the relationship. Asking a woman in public doesn’t offer you guys the privacy/chance to properly thrash those issues. Because the act might appear rather too romantic, the lady might feel a certain pressure to say yes, even if she has certain reservations about moving forward. 
  • Secondly, in these modern times where women have become independent, timing is crucial. Due to a woman’s academic and professional exploits one really needs to check with his woman privately, on her thoughts about moving forward in the relationship. Surprising her, especially in public, might be a little too selfish on your part: you might be ready, but is she? I have spoken to a lot of ladies on this and you would be surprised how many have expressed serious reservations with this trend, just like this lady:

Modern marriages are about partnership, therefore, the “language” of marriage must reflect that. If you are a Ghanaian/African man, what are your motivations for considering a public marriage proposal, and for us women who desire them (because I can also see how public proposals can be sweet gestures), is it merely a problem of blind appropriation of yet another trend?

I know I overthink things but ladies and gents, am I alone on this particular issue?

Efe Plange

Efe Plange

Efe Plange is founder and editor of Sankofa Reviews. She holds a Master's degree in Rhetoric and Technical Communication from Michigan Technological University. She is passionate about the Arts and Cultural industry and her background in the field is fueled by a longstanding dream of seeing theory work together with practice. Connect with Efe on social media.
Efe Plange

COMMENTS

WORDPRESS: 2
  • comment-avatar
    Vonnie 3 months

    You’re definitely not alone on this one! As sweet and ‘romantic’ as these public proposals may seem, in our context, they are quite redundant. And I’d like to know, what ring is given in such instances? A ‘Promise’ ring? Or the engagement ring which will be worn again during the traditional ceremony?
    Bruh if we’ve been dating for 3 years you best believe you’re wifing me up and I’m hubbying you up too! lol

    • comment-avatar

      hahaha! Vonnie, you couldn’t have said it any better! I would reiterate though, I don’t really have a problem with public marriage proposals. I just hope the people who crave it, really understand why its done in the first place.

      Thanks for reading.

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