Extravagant, modern and highly personalized. Contemporary Ghanaian weddings have taken a life of their own. They may not be on the same scale as our West African siblings, Nigeria, but they have found their footing.
Each wedding is unique in all aspects from colours to branded napkins, photography and the perfect hashtags. The latest addition to this repertoire is customised wedding vows.
“Every love story should reflect in the promises you make to each other” – says Keni Kodjo, who has the peculiar task of writing the vows of many couples.
Kodjo, who describes herself as a hopeless romantic, runs a popular blog and after reading some of her love poems, a wedding planner suggested that she tries her hands at writing vows for couples.
“People know me for telling stories…and I like to call myself a hopeless romantic. I like writing stories and I like love so it felt like a good marriage.”
Although she has been in the business for less than a year she has already worked with clients in Ghana, Zimbabwe and the United States.
“Vows are important because it cements the beginning of your married life…The vows along with the exchange of rings is at the centre of the ceremony otherwise it is just like any other church service.”
She concedes it is a fairly ‘novel’ concept in a conservative society like Ghana and sometimes couples are initially surprised that after years of knowing each other, someone they barely know will write their vows.
‘It’s pretty novel, I will admit…but everything that we have become accustomed to today, started as a new idea’; says the 25 year old.
But traditional vows, which the couple recite after the priest, have been in use since pre-independence times. As such, some orthodox churches do not allow customised vows to be said in the church.
The way around that hurdle has usually been to have the customised vows read at the wedding reception instead.
For Keni, the journey has been very fulfilling.
“It is a privilege to hear people’s love stories; to see them capture the whole journey…and it helps me appreciate that love is a beautiful thing because there are amazing stories and I’m honoured to be able to tell them”; Kodjo says.
With references from previous clients, word is spreading organically about this specialised service. A prospective customer would then have to fill out a questionnaire telling Kodjo about their relationship. Customers are expected to answer the questions honestly.
“If I read it and I feel like, I don’t have enough information to go by, I will call you and ask a few more questions. Most often, whatever [the couple send initially] is enough.”
The next move is to decide how the couple want the vows presented. There are a number of options to choose; from scrolls to wood engravings. According to Kodjo, the service would usually cost not less than 150 cedis.
What about concerns of those who say it’s just another way to drain money from a bunch of love-blinded people?
“I think I am offering an alternative for people who may not have a way with word but want to tell their love stories and customise their weddings even more.”
She says, she has also had clients who have written their own vows but wanted her to look over it and fine tune it.
The couple can get to keep the vows as well after the ceremony.
“So that 10 years down the line when you are fighting, you can look at your wedding vows, remember the promises you made to each other and the good old days.”
We caught up with Keni Kodjo while she met her latest clients Yorm and Edward at a restaurant. The pair have been dating for two years and are planning on getting married soon. According to Edward, they thought they “needed the service because we wanted our union to be different.”
“I could have written the vows myself, but she is a better writer than I am, so it makes more sense to have her draft what I have in mind.”
They are among a growing number of young Ghanaian lovers who increasingly want creative ways of expressing their love in front of God and man.
For Keni Kodjo, nothing says ‘mission accomplished’ than “a bride tearing up because of her husband’s vows and hearing a room go ‘awww’. It always does it for me” she says. “Anytime I get a message from the bride or groom and it says I nailed it, then I know [I have done a good job] and this happens [very often].”
The whole point is to tell the couple’s story so that if anybody is in the audience and actually knows them; that person will feel say; ‘yes, this is it’.”
Kodjo is optimistic about the future of customised wedding vows in the country.
“[In the future] I hope people will become accustomed to the customised wedding vows service and will probably find more innovative ways to capture their own love stories…[I hope] that a lot more people become interested in saying their “I do’s” in a more personal way.”
The days of repeating, for better for worse will not disappear anytime soon but for those looking for tailor made vows that reflect their love stories, welcome home.