You may have heard of “jumping the broom” and “typing the knot,” but in the African American community, these are more than just expressions. It is a tradition stemming back to the days of slavery when slaves were forbidden from marrying. They created this ritual to represent the beginning of their new life together. In modern ceremonies, couples jump over a broom, often decorated with adornments of flowers, herbs, ribbon, and tulle, after they’re pronounced married. Tying the knot is a symbol to represent unity. Cloth, twine, or other forms are used to bind them together literally.
Tradition, customs, and honoring your ancestors are very big in this community. There are countless ways to honor your ancestors during your wedding ceremony and reception. You may also choose to add ethnic touches including a Libation ceremony which is held to honor elders. During the ceremony a prayer is said and an elder presents water or liquor as an offering to God and the ancestral spirits for their blessing.
Food and drink is important at all weddings, but for African American ceremonies, these are integral parts of the day. During the ceremony, there is a tradition that involves tasting the four elements: lemon for sour, vinegar for bitter, cayenne pepper for hot, and honey for sweet. The four tastes represent the different times or moods of married life.
And, you can’t forget the beat of the drums! Music is very important to families, and when music is made…comes the dancing! You can walk down the aisle to their rich sounds or have them lead a bridal march after the ceremony. The sound of drums also has historical significance for African-Americans since drums were outlawed during slavery because they were seen as a coded means of communication between the slaves. Check with local music schools, African-American newspapers, and cultural centers to find drummers in your area.