African American Wedding Traditions

Jumping the Broom

During this Black History Month, there are so many accomplishments and achievements and just overall strides that I could mention, but of course this is a wedding blog, so I want to talk about African American wedding traditions.

Of course, there is the universally known and loved “Jumping the Broom” tradition, but there are so many numerous other less known options as well that are just as awesome and that are deep rooted in African and African American culture and history.

Here are 8 African American Wedding Traditions that we love:

1. Jumping the Broom

It is the most well-known of traditions that stems back from Ghana where brooms were used to sweep away evil spirits. The use of it in weddings is deep rooted in American slave culture, where slaves were forbidden to marry and so they had secret ceremonies and jumped the broom as a symbol of their commitment to one another.

2. Knocking on the Door

A tradition that derives from Ghana where a man would knock on the door of his bride to be’s parents’ home and ask for permission to marry their daughter and present a dowry. A modern couple might pay homage to this tradition by having the groom to knock on the door and the bride’s family welcome him in some fashion. Or, perhaps the groom might knock, and the bride may welcome him for a first look.

3. Tasting the Four Elements

Or the “Yoruba Ritual,” is a physical representation of the phrase “for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health.” It is done by having the bride and groom each to take turns tasting (or feeding to one another) the four elements which are cayenne for spiciness, lemon for sourness, vinegar for bitterness, and honey for sweetness.

4. Crossing Sticks

This is another tradition rooted in American slave culture where slaves would cross two wooden sticks that are a symbol of unity and power. The couple would say their vows after having crossed sticks.

5. Tying the Knot

While the phrase is very well known worldwide, many do not know that it stems back from Africa where couples would have their wrists bound together with kente cloth, or cowrie shells, or decorated rope as they say their vows to one another.

6. Spraying Money

A money spray is of Nigerian decent where family and friends will toss money at the newlyweds as they dance in celebration. It is meant to help fund the start of the couple’s new life together.

7. Libation Ceremony

This is somewhat of a “remembrance ceremony” if you will. The newlyweds will pour spirits or holy water onto the ground as a way to connect with or memorialize their deceased loved ones. In West African tribes couples would do this to obtain wisdom from those who lived before them.

8. Kola Nuts

In ancient West Africa the Kola nut was acclaimed for its medicinal properties. In a wedding ceremony a couple might share it to represent their willingness to help heal one another. In Muslim African culture it is shared during the wedding celebration to encourage fertility. African American couples might pay homage to this tradition by either sharing an actual Kola nut or by sharing a Coca Cola which used Kola nuts in its original recipe.