Traditional Wedding in Liberia with Winston as Example

Under Liberian law, there are two types of marriages; Traditional/customary and statutory. A man under the traditional laws may contract multiple marriages according to traditions and customs. These marriages are legitimate and solemn under Liberian law.

A traditional marriage ceremony includes the presentment of dowry to the bride’s family. In most Liberian traditional marriages, the dowry includes money and the breaking of kola nut. This has made many traditionalists wrongfully conclude that it is “payment” for the woman, and therefore, consider the woman as their property in marriage. Traditional marriages last until death or divorce. The requirement for divorce follows prescribed traditions.

Winston’s case:

On 30 October 2016, a traditional marriage rite was performed between Winston and Elizabeth.

Formalities during the traditional wedding ceremony:

It all started with the singing of traditional songs and traditional dance performances. The family of the bride and the groom, friends and well-wishers, all in attendance, were singing and dancing, showing great deal of happiness for the union of the couple.

According to the customs and traditions, it is the bride’s uncle’s responsibility to give his niece’s hand in marriage; on the other hand the uncle of the groom is responsible to find a wife for his nephew. On this note, the declaration of intent during Winston’s traditional wedding ceremony was done by his uncle. He began with– “I saw a beautiful lady in your house and have come to ask her hand in marriage to my son.” Elizabeth’s uncle’s reply–“You said a beautiful lady but I don’t know who!” He continues—“Her name is Elizabeth.”  Bride’s uncle—“Well, that is fine, but I have many Elizabeths and don’t know which one of them you are talking about, but I will bring them out to you one by one. When you see the one you are talking about then, you should let me know.”

This part of the occasion was filled with lots of fun and entertainment as the bride’s family dressed different women with a variety and plenty of clothes so that one could not recognize who was being presented. They then began parading different women, one after the other in front of the guests. During this process, they collected money from the groom’s family and friends. They charged money for the removal of the various clothes items they had put on the person. When all the clothes were finally removed everyone saw and realized that it was not the Elizabeth in question. People burst into laughter. The process went on and on until the real Elizabeth was brought forth, then everyone started to celebrate joyfully and people began to throw money all over the place.

Another formality that followed was the loosening of the kola nut. The bride’s family tied pieces of kola nut in leaves using a very tiny thread wrapped around the leaves many many times. Then they asked the bride to loosen the thread from the kola nut very slowly. During this time money was also being offered. When she finally finished, the kola nut was shared among the families and others indicating peace and life. The purpose for this was to express the level of patience the couple should have with each other.

In the final stage of the process the Dowry which was $ 48.00 USD was paid and formally turned the bride over to Winston as his legally wedded wife.


Eye catch photo: The bride is holding the kola nut.