Can Christian Couple Have Sex After Traditional Marriage Ceremony?
Let me answer your question within the broader framework of contracting marriage using the Ghanaian Context as a Case Study
1. Whatever the Church shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven and whatever it lose in earth shall be lose in heaven (Matt 18:18). Thus God agrees to every Church Policy and Church Leadership shall be accountable to Him one day
2. Everybody must be subject to the Supreme constitution of the nation or society to which he/she forms part (Rom 13:1) unless the constitutional provision is ungodly in which case the person must listen to God rather than to human being (Acts 4:19; 5:29; Rom 3:4)
3. This means that the Christian must obey cultural norms and national laws on the process of contracting marriage which do not promote ungodliness but rather bring glory to God
4. Thus all three dimensions of Cultural, Legal and Godly provision in marriage must be adhered to for a marriage to reflect the glory of the Lord. Abraham got a wife for his son Isaac in line with all guidelines on his time (See Genesis 24)
5. As a Christian marrying within the Ghanaian Society, you need to know the stake of the family (culture), the State and the Church in process of contracting the marriage
6. The process of marriage begins with the TWO PEOPLE (Adult Male & Adult Female) involved. The two of them must agree to marry. Since they are part of a local church, they must inform their leadership to take them through counselling; they can also read books around marriage and talk to other seasoned counselors since in the multitude of counselors there is safety
7. The next step is to consult both families on the godly customary stipulations, to discuss them and fulfil them either behind close doors or as a celebration. This stage is what many call "ENGAGEMENT". Customs vary between extended families but one thing that is mostly common is that this "Customary Marriage" (Engagement) involved gathering of the two extended families and the payment of bride price
8. After fulfilling this CULTURAL Dimension of the Marriage, the couple must undertake the National Requirements for the marriage to benefit from privileges provided under the laws for marriage. However whether registers or not, the marriage is recognized by the State. Customary Marriage is therefore a union between the husband's family and the wife's family.
9. Anytime after the contracting of the marriage between the two families, the couple can REGISTER their union as Customary Marriage by writing to the Registrar of the District within which the marriage was contracted. The registration application must be accompanied by Statutory Declaration. Upon registration, the Registrar shall notify the public of the registration of the Marriage by displaying a notice on a public notice board at the Office of the Registrar within 28 days of the application for registration
10. At this stage, both the families of the couple and the State agree that the two are married. However, Customary Marriages are potentially polygynous: a man may have as many customary wives as he can, and there is no limit to the number of such marriages that can be legally registered under the Customary Marriage and Divorce Registration Law, 1985 (PNDCL 112).
11. God recognizes Customary Marriages as VALID since it satisfies the godly provisions of cultural and the State's legal framework on marriage. The couple can later decide to CONVERT it from "Customary Marriage" to "Ordinance Marriage" though there is no advantage for the Christian to go for Customary Marriage over Ordinance Marriage since general perception that Ordinance Marriage is EXPENSIVE is a MYTH (Hint: I will explain later)
12. Now HERE is the deal for Christians! Customary Marriage leaves room for polygamy and has no room for joint celebration with the local church. There is also no room for dedication of the marriage. Hence instead of going by the "Customary Marriage" Pathway, Christians go by the "ORDINANCE MARRIAGE Pathway. That means after the Cultural Ceremony between the families, the couple do not go to register the marriage as "Customary Marriage" as explained above but rather go by the "Ordinance Marriage" Pathway which I am gonna explain below
PART II: DYNAMICS OF ORDINANCE MARRIAGE PATHWAY
13. Ordinance marriage or a marriage under the Marriage Ordinance is regulated by the Marriages Ordinance, 1884-1985, and it is strictly monogamous. The requirements for ordinance marriage in Ghana are quite simple. It is an inexpensive or a very affordable way to marry. First, this form of marriage is made between a man and a woman only. The partners must be 18 years or older and none of the two entering into a marriage by ordinance shall be in any form of marriage with any other person(s). But, there is an exception where the two partners are already married to each other in a customary marriage (as discussed in Part 1 above)
14. Ordinance Marriage has has two main stages, and they are: (a) Filing a Notice of Marriage and Issue of Registrar’s Certificate; and (b) The Marriage Ceremony.
15. One of the parties in the intended marriage must give notice of marriage to the Registrar Marriage of the district where the marriage will take place. Each partner shall provide certain personal information to the registrar of marriages. They are: Name; Age; Profession/Occupation; House number (Residential Address); Father’s Name; Father’s Profession/Occupation; Condition (Status of Registrants: Single, Divorced, or in Customary Marriage); Phone number
16. The Registrar of Marriage shall then ensure the publication of banns for 21 days (3 Sundays) to be affixed to the notice board at the Registry and also on the notice board of the Church and also announced in Church to give people the opportunity to bring forward any reasons why they think the marriage should be invalidated
17. The Registrar will then issue a Registrar’s Certificate to marry to the partners AFTER the 21 days (3 Sundays) of filing the the Notice or Banns of Marriage and nobody raises any valid objection against the proposed marriage.
18. After they have received the Registrar’s Certificate to marry, the couple must go through the marriage ceremony WITHIN THREE MONTHS, otherwise the certificate becomes void and a new one must be obtained
19. The CELEBRATION OF MARRIAGE which is usually called WEDDING can be a quick ceremony at the Marriage Registry, where a Registered Officer officiates and leads the partners to make solemn declarations and exchange rings and to sign the Marriage Register. After all that, a Certificate of Marriage is presented to the couple and they are pronounced Husband and Wife.
20. Alternatively, the partners may present the Registrar’s Certificate to a Registered Marriage Officer (such as a COP PASTOR) to officiate the Marriage Ceremony at a REGISTERED PLACE OF MARRIAGE (such as a Church building (ask if the Church building for your wedding is registered). The Ceremony must be done any time between 8:00am to 6:00pm to remain valid. In the Church of Pentecost, every minister called to the Pastorate (that is having the clerical) is automatically registered by the State as a Marriage Officer (thus, a Probationary Overseer or Overseer of COP is not a Registered Marriage Officer). The Pastors have been given the Certificate of Marriage by the State to issue and account for them
21. Finally, the couple must consummate the marriage. That is, they must make the marriage complete by having sexual intercourse. Sexual intercourse inaugurates the process of the two becoming one
22. Take note of this: the Celebration of your Marriage (aka Solemnization of Holy Matrimony) can be a gargantuan one or a simple one depending on your budget. Cut your coat according to your size. Don't be pressured to do anything you will regret later. In fact you can arrange with your pastor to conduct your marriage within 15 minutes as Part II of a usual Sunday Service. The ball is in your court. At our wedding, we didn't have any expensive reception. Our friends and family just queued to pick up heavy snacks and while they ate, we interacted in a cocktail fashion. As simple as that!
23. Let me end by saying that if you are cohabiting and having sex with anyone but that union is neither "Customary Marriage" or "Ordinance Marriage", you are living in FORNICATION. The Church you belong to is a spiritual family so discuss with your pastor the approach you want to take towards marriage- either to go for only "Customary Marriage" or "Ordinance Marriage" or first for "Customary Marriage" and later convert to an "Ordinance Marriage". Please discuss but never engage in fornication. It's a sin against the Lord and it grieves the Holy Spirit living in us as Christians and thus deprive us of our BIRTHRIGHT
24. Those in Customary Marriage who want to make it Ordinance Marriage so as to remove the tendency for polygamy associated with Customary Marriage go through the same process as explained in Ordinance Marriage. However since they already know the nakedness of each other, there is no wearing of veil during the Ceremony which we call "BLESSING" in COP. In COP, the veil symbolises TEAR RUBBER. Again since its an existing marriage the husband does not come to sit down for the father of the wife to catwalk her to him as if it's a new marriage. Both of them walk into the Church together for the Pastor to bless their marriage and then they sign the certificates.
Note- Unless otherwise stated, photos used does not belong to Modern Ghana