Wilfred Otieno

 A certain couple lived together as husband and wife for one decade and during that period they gave birth to four children. Definitely, the spacing before the birth of their next child in each case was an average of two years.  Before they settled down as spouses, their union had to get a nod from parents on both sides of the divide. In other words, they underwent the traditional African marriage in the presence of their parents and relatives. This was not a marriage ceremony in the name of an African traditional wedding that should have been conducted in the presence of a traditional African religious priest too.

Certain state governments do recognize traditional marriage but they do not issue certificate of marriage on the same unless a couple doubles it with either a civil or a religious marriage. Whereas a civil marriage is conducted officially in a government office in the presence of an appointed state attorney, the religious one may be conducted in a Christian church before a pastor, in a Jewish temple or in a synagogue in the presence of a Judaism priest, in an Islamic mosque in the presence of an imam, in an Indian temple before a Hindu or a Sikh priest or, in another legally recognized religious institution.

What the above issue on governments’ recognition of traditional marriages vis-à-vis the issuance of certificates of marriage to civil or religious marriage partners as indicated above means is that should a dispute arise between the spouses, a civil court or the clergy that handle them may seek help in, say, the form of guidelines from the traditional elders if necessary.

On the other hand, non issuance of marriage certificates to traditional marriage partners in countries that recognize them yet the same are issued to civil or religious ones is apparently discriminative. This is because a question that might be posed on the same is likely to be:-Why recognize traditional marriages yet issue no certificates?

At face value, this is a difficult question to answer but a reflective insight into the matter reveals that in the contemporary world, traditional social values are fading away at high speed. The reasons for this include foreign social influences- foreign religious influences-adapted foreign systems of governance thus in a nutshell modern lifestyle. This is not because traditional practices are backward or primitive but due to negligence-oversight-inadequate understanding-being brainwashed-looking down upon them.

To contain the above problem, it is worth to understand that traditions of every community in the world have their pros and cons. So, it is advisable to accept the good factors of foreign culture, reject the bad ones, do the same for the indigenous culture then map out the way forward. In this way, hardly any traditional social value or virtue will fade away.

This means that governments the world over that do not issue certificates of marriage to couples who wed traditionally yet recognize the same ought to be sensitive on this issue and in the process rescind this factor so as to issue them. The reason for this is simply that it defeats logics as to why a certain type of marriage is recognized yet certificates for the same are not issued unlike in other types of marriages. This is due to the lack of certain modalities like the difficulty to identify traditional priests in contemporary time as a contributing factor. However, laws on the same ought to be enacted so that the recognition of the role of parents and or guardians of the marrying couple in the presence of relatives, traditional elders and appointed government officers in place of traditional priests is made official.

The concern on the issuance of certificates of marriage to couples who wed traditionally is because certain official issues cannot be conducted by married couples if they do not have such certificates in their possession. This was the situation in which the above referred couple found themselves as is elaborated below.



As was mentioned earlier on, the couple mentioned above did not marry in a traditional wedding in the presence of a traditional priest but they went through a traditional process that leads to the same which includes: the sending of emissaries to the bride’s parents- the payment of dowry to the bride’s parents-the escorting of the bridegroom by a special delegation to the bride’s home so as to seek her hand in marriage-the handing over of the bride by her parents to the bridegroom in the presence of his parents and relatives on both sides of the divide.

Since marriage laws of certain states recognize the traditional type of marriage, it is proper to issue spouses who marry by using the same with certificates of marriage. Since some issues require marriage certificate as had been mentioned above, the two spouses rose to the occasion later on in order to acquire one. This happened when the man’s wife landed a lucrative international job in a foreign country. All along they used to sort out certain official and civil issues by use of their birth certificates, government and or employment identification cards but this time they were supposed to include their marriage certificate.

So, in the case of the acquisition of a marriage certificate, two options faced the couple in question squarely on the face. These were the holding of civil marriage or religious marriage. Though the former one would have been a fast option since the deadline for reporting at the new work station was around the corner, they chose the latter one which would have delayed the wife’s departure as it required a number of arrangements to be put in place first. The reasons for their decision to use the second option included the placing of their marriage and the international job in the hands of God so as to seek his blessings and directions on the same.




Since time factor could not allow the involvement of many people in the wedding to be, the couple sought the help of a willing Pastor in a Christian church other than the one to which they belonged. They did this so as to avoid the requirement for making a multiple of arrangements which would have included the formation of a wedding committee that would have brought in many people with divergent views plus several preparatory meetings which would have resulted in delaying the ceremony.

On the eve of the d-day for the wedding ceremony, the bridegroom sought the help of a long time friend of his to stand in for the best man. This was because the officially invited best man had sent apologies at the eleventh hour for being out of town on an unexpected compulsory official duty. The following day, the wedding took place in an empty cathedral save for the presence of the priest, the bride, the bridegroom and the best man only as there was no best lady. At the end of the ceremony, a certificate of marriage was issued on the spot thus a wedding of convenience. It was comparable to that of Romeo and Juliet that was conducted in an empty cathedral too save for a priest who joined them in a holy matrimony and also doubled as a witness, courtesy of the world famous English playwright of all time, William Shakespeare, who authored it.