Weddings are a beautiful celebration of love, life, and new beginnings. They are also a perfect occasion to celebrate the beautiful elements of your culture and incorporate cherished traditions.
As a black-owned event planning company, we love helping African-American couples find meaningful ways to celebrate their heritage as part of their wedding. Usually, this includes vibrant colors, traditional African-American music, and some ceremonial dancing. The elements can be as subtle or grandiose as you desire. Here are five African-American traditions you could plan for your wedding celebrations.
1. Jumping the Broom
Jumping the broom is one of the most common traditions at African-American weddings. The jumping the broom tradition is just as it sounds: the couple jumps over a broom to symbolize jumping into their new life together.
The origin of the tradition is unclear and hard to pin down. Some believe the practice came from the West African Country of Ghana, where local brooms were thought to be spiritual and aided in the symbolic sweeping away of evil spirits and wrongful pasts. Ghanaians believed that waving a broom over a couple’s head during their wedding ceremony would eradicate evil spirits.
Others (including many historians) believe that the jumping-the-broom tradition originated in Britain as a way for enslaved couples to bless their marriage and declare the union, which was unrecognized by the government.
Today, many black couples still carry on the tradition as a symbol of solidarity with their ancestors and pride in their culture. Brooms may become cherished family heirlooms that couples continue to pass down through generations.
2. The Libation Ceremony
The Libation Ceremony is another cherished African-American wedding tradition. It takes place right after the ceremony, and its purpose is to celebrate family that has passed on. It’s about honoring heritage and ancestors. This tradition is rooted in ancient times and traces back to Israel, Asia, Greece, Egypt, Rome, and South Africa.
The tradition is significant in African communities, including Yoruba and Igbo cultures. African cultures believe that honoring your ancestors is an essential sign of respect. The Libation ceremony is a way to include those who have passed and helped carve a path for their posterity. The ceremony invites those who have passed on and the Gods to be a part of the wedding.
In the Libation ceremony, someone pours holy water or alcohol into a vessel in four directions- north, south, east, and west. The elders at the wedding will be in attendance along with special family and friends. The elders will typically pray during the Libation ceremony and offer blessings to the couple. In modern America, many know this ceremony as “pouring one out for the homies.”
3. Crossing Sticks
This is a lesser-known African-American tradition that happens after the wedding ceremony. The couple crosses two long wooden sticks. This wedding ritual symbolizes the couple’s commitment to each other.
This tradition stems from the African belief that trees possess a life force and power; crossing the sticks represents that. Crossing the sticks during the wedding ceremony marks the beginning of a strong and grounded journey together.
You can incorporate this tradition into your wedding ceremony in a few different ways:
- Choose sticks from a house tree
- Choose sticks from a particular park or spot that the two of you visit often
- Use sparklers instead of sticks, and then use them again as part of your wedding exit
4. Tying the Knot
Tying the knot is a famous and beloved wedding tradition within African-American culture. We use the expression “tying the knot” as a colloquial and poetic metaphor for getting married, but some African-American couples literally tie a knot. They use a corded cloth, a string of cowrie shells, braided grass, or even beautifully decorated rope for the ceremony.
The couple ties the ends of the rope, fabric, or strings to their wrists. At the end of the wedding ceremony, the officiant ties the knot during the vows. This is a beautiful way to represent their love, commitment, and unity to each other.
The symbol is beautiful to witness. Knots may look different depending on culture, family tradition, and preference. More religious couples may use a three-tie knot to represent their tie to God. Other knots may specifically represent fertility and prosperity. Couples can preserve their knot as a keepsake for years to come.
5. Tasting Ceremony
The tasting ceremony usually comes at the end of the wedding ceremony and is a unique tradition with roots in West Africa, most known among the Yoruba people. This tradition is less common but still a meaningful and symbolic part of many African-American wedding celebrations.
This symbolic ceremony presents the couple with the four flavors of married life in physical edible form: sour, bitter, spicy, and sweet. The couple has a say in the corresponding foods. They may be chocolates, fruits, spices, or anything that represents these flavors. This symbolizes that the couple vows to stick together through the ups and downs and thrive together through every taste of life.
There are many ways to incorporate your beautiful culture into your luxury wedding. It’s up to you how many traditions you have at your wedding and how to curate them to your preferences. Symbolic traditions are great ways to connect you and your partner to your heritage as you embark on the marriage journey.