History of Wedding Traditions – Jumping the Broom
- August 12, 2022
- / Dubsdread Catering
- / weddings,planning-catering,featured
The Dubsdread Catering Event Team shares the history behind the wedding tradition of “jumping the broom” during the wedding ceremony.
Wedding traditions that are popular today almost always originate from some long ago custom or heritage that are passed through families. This includes “jumping the broom”, where the couple quite literally jumps over a broom at their wedding ceremony. While there is a variety of opinions on the validity of the origin, as well as positive and negative thoughts on including it in this day and age, some couples view it as a way to honor their ancestral roots and are incorporating it more often than ever.
The history of the ceremonial act of “jumping the broom” can be traced back hundreds of years and per Dianne M. Stewart’s excellent article on Oprah Daily, the tradition is present in many different cultures, not just Black Americans. (https://www.oprahdaily.com/life/relationships-love/a35992704/jumping-the-broom-wedding-tradition-history-origins/).
Like most traditions, it is hard to trace the exact origins. Some believe the tradition started in West Africa where brooms were waived over the couple’s heads to ward off evil spirits. The brooms were then placed on the ground and the couple jumped over it.
Other origin claims are that it’s associated with a Western European tradition of “Besom Weddings” where couples from tribes, like the Roma, and other cultures not recognized by the Church, would jump over a broom as a significant part of the ceremony. It is also believed that if the broom fell during the ceremony or the couple didn’t make it over the broom, then the marriage wasn’t meant to be, and was therefore null and void.
A widely accepted origin of the tradition in America is that it comes from times of slavery when brooms were widely available to the enslaved. They would jump over the broom to marry each other because they were not allowed to legally wed. As slavery was coming to an end, some Black Americans still chose to get married this way if an officiant was not available at the time and would then legalize the marriage later on.
In 1977 the television series “Roots” based on Alex Haley’s novel, highlighted the ceremony during the third episode watched by more than 31 million households. Many modern historians point to this as the turning point for the renewed the interest in the custom within Black American families who felt it was a significant way to honor history (via Oprah Daily). It also became part of the larger “heritage weddings” movement that sought to incorporate more acknowledgement and honoring of past generations.
Today, the practice is believed to bless the marriage, sweeping away the past so the couple can start their journey together, and is used to honor cultural ties.
PRO TIP FOR INCORPORATING IT INTO YOUR BIG DAY:
“Jumping the broom” is an easy tradition to incorporate. After vows are exchanged, traditionally the officiant will provide a prayer or brief explanation of the meaning. The broom is then placed on the ground and the newly married couple hold hands and literally jump over a broom to seal the union.
As with all wedding traditions, not just any old household broom will do! A traditional take on the broom is a three-foot long wooden handle with natural bristles. Couples then decorate the broom and personalize it to match their aesthetic and honor their families. After the wedding, many couples choose to keep the broom and display it in their home as a symbol of unity.
When the time comes for the next family member to get married, the couple gives the broom to the newlyweds, and the tradition continues. Brooms have stayed in families for generations as an heirloom and can also be used for the other wedding tradition of "something old" or your "something borrowed”.
AS ALWAYS, YOUR DAY, YOUR CHOICE:
Some couples choose to incorporate the tradition into their ceremony to honor their ancestors, while others decide to skip it. Just like any other wedding tradition, it is completely up to the couple what they choose to participate in on their wedding day. We’ve seen it included in recent weddings as more of a fun addition, as opposed to a significant moment, to engage families in friends in the ceremony, making for great photos, too.
And of course, with any tradition that you choose to add to your wedding event, determine what works best for you and your partner, and how to tailor it to make it special for just the two of you ... nothing else is needed!
When it’s time to plan your wedding and reception, our experienced team at Dubsdread Catering works with you every step of the process and will share our tips for making every part of your event special to you and your partner.