It’s been a couple of months since the Church of Pentecost took the bold step of forbidding amorous pre-wedding shoots as they say the nature of some of these shoots may compromise the couple even before they get the ‘licence’ to engage in ‘legal’ sex.
I have never understood the need to ‘waste’ money in order to make a celebration in Ghana complete. And I will never understand why Ghanaians feel the need to ‘do it big’ always, even when they don’t have the means. You see, Ghanaians celebrate everything and anything at all, and this is besides the usual births and weddings. From yearly anniversaries following the demise of loved ones to house warming parties and even the commissioning of new buildings, Ghanaians celebrate everything! Many even go the extra mile of celebrating both before and after the main event.
Many weddings in Ghana are these days first celebrated with a bachelor’s party and a bachelorette’s bash. This is when the male friends of the groom gather with him and do the dirtiest of things in a bid to celebrate his last few hours as a single man, a bachelor. The ladies on the other hand, usually have a sleepover party to commemorate her send-off into married life. Such a gathering is traditionally characterised by silly sexual jokes, sharing lessons for a successful marriage and crazy fun. Each party, however, adds their own twist to these parties; from weird cake designs to funny costumes and even strippers.
Another pre-wedding celebration is the pre-wedding photo shoot. This requires that the bride-to-be and groom-to-be dress up and pose for several photos in different locations, and wearing different outfits. Some go the extra mile of couching a hashtag to share the pictures with on social media, dressing according to a particular theme and even posing with their entire bridal team. To say the least, this venture is highly expensive and time-consuming. I guess this is why some might find it an utter waste of time. On the other hand, a pre-wedding photo shoot can bring loads of cheer and is even believed to ‘tighten the bond’.
In the words of Soumen Nath, an Indian wedding photographer, “a pre-wedding shoot captures those special feelings and emotions, which will soon be replaced by deeper intimacy and greater acquaintance. Today, Pre Wedding Couple shoot has become almost a mandatory ritual for many couples. Couples scout for locations and themes for their shoot and want to make it one of the most special events of their wedding. Some couples want to recreate the scene of their courtship days.”
Nath continues that they “take their photographer to their favourite places, places where they have been on dates with each other or proposed to each other. Some couples simply leave it on the photographer to unleash his creativity and capture their love in a candid way. Pre-wedding shoots most often require the couple to pose and each shot has to be pre-conceived, planned, and staged.”
It is people like Soumen Nath that encourage pre-wedding photo shoots, besides the pressure from peers, of course.
You see, pre-wedding photo shoots, I think, only make sense if the pictures are meant to be used to announce the union on social media or to be printed on hardcopy invitations or for other random purposes such as for thank you cards, a picture slideshow during the ceremony, as part of decor on the D-day and so on.
However, in recent times, the phenomenon has been characterised by what many describe as “sexually suggestive” poses and pictures. One of such holders of this view on photo shoots being “amorous,” is the Church of Pentecost.
In a rather unusual announcement, the Church placed a ban on pre-wedding photos that had an amorous connotation. The Church of Pentecost believes that all unmarried youth must uphold chastity in high esteem until married. Their strong frown is premised on the fact that such sexually-suggestive photos lead the would-be couple to sin and to yield to temptation, before the marriage is blessed.
The Church, through its General Secretary, Apostle Nana Yaw Kumi, further forbade the serving of alcoholic beverages and the playing of secular songs with ungodly lyrics during wedding receptions. It remains to be seen whether the ban on the amorous depictions of some of these photo shoots will put a damper on such things.
It has been a few months since this announcement came but as I thought about this directive by the Church of Pentecost, it appeared to me as the church’s own attempt to sanitise its house and bring back the days of pre-nuptial chastity and holiness. But whether this move will yield the desired result and will not lead to a silent revolt among the youth of the church is a matter of implementation and time.
The fact that the announcement in subsequent discussions has shown to include a ban on secular music and alcoholic beverages at church-supervised wedding receptions, reveals a certain determination to ensure that couples get it right from the beginning – right, at the point of beginning a family.
And if the family as the basic unit of society, in the church’s view, gets it right with the right values, society and the nation will be better and Christians will be living out their mandate of being the light of the world [to show the way].
Other bold steps by the Church
But is this the first time a section of the Christian faith has issued such a bold or ground-breaking directive? Not exactly. Though not in the same style, churches have gradually drifted from the traditional practice of putting drops of alcohol and water on the tongue of a baby during outdooring ceremonies to, as is explained, help the child differentiate between water and alcohol and by extension, truth and lies.
The ‘subtle’ insistence of the church for members to desist from this alcohol practice has been well received by many and it is really hard these days to see a baby being given alcohol during the christening ceremony. Though the church has been successful in banning the alcohol-water-lies-truth idea, what has been the effect on the generation in their late teens to mid-thirties? Do they tell less lies? Are they less consumers of alcohol? Have they been morally smarter than the generation before them? Perhaps, your answer depends on the world view you subscribe to.
Back to the amorous photo shoot ban, has the Church of Pentecost got measures to deal with persons who flout the directive but are later found out after the marriage blessing? Or a better question will be what the church will do if it later finds out that a couple took these amorous shots but hid them? Does the church take back its blessing or the couple faces some sanctions for misleading the elders of the church?
Photo shoots and the wedding economy
Furthermore, with an increasing demand for this wedding ‘must-have,’ Ghana has seen a rising army of wedding photographers, and more and more of them keep springing up. This has led to the unlocking of photography as a key part of the wedding economy.
Several young men and women, many of whom are not necessarily fanatic about the art of photography, but who have managed to acquire the skill somehow, have ventured into this economy as a main occupation or a side business.
It will be interesting to see how this directive affects the interest young people have in pre-wedding photo shoots in general and how the wedding photography industry is impacted. It appears too early to make any such determination.
Though the church’s directive has not been said to target a reduction in wedding costs on younger people, it has a by-product effect of helping would-be couples cut down cost. The photography part of the marriage budget is pretty scary, so this will hopefully delight many.
Though the ban on such photos appears attractive to many churches, we have not heard much from the other sections of the Christian faith. Perhaps, they are adopting a wait-and-see posture to advise their support or otherwise.
The pre-wedding photo shoot ritual, although [they argue is] an exciting, breath-taking and bond-strengthening venture, can be extremely costly and time-consuming. Nonetheless, it is gaining much popularity amongst our youth today as the days of instantly printed pictures seem to be dying.
Prospective couples, with the advent of social media platforms, particularly Instagram, now prefer the reverse in spreading the word of their union; to share wedding photos online and only frame a few.
If you are a bride-to-be or a groom-to-be, I would admonish you to carefully consider and weigh the merits and demerits of this ritual, before you choose to join the crowd, or beat them! If you insist on it and you are a member of the Church of Pentecost, then ensure yours is “decent,” in the words of the Church. I remain eager to see how the Church of Pentecost is implementing this and how the pressures of globalisation will impact the general church of God in this regard.
Columnist: Akosua Ofewaa Opoku
She is a s a broadcast journalist with Citi FM/Citi TV