There are a variety of different African American wedding traditions to incorporate into the days leading up to your wedding, the ceremony and the reception. So, our team has found some of the most popular customs for you to use on your special day! Before choosing to add any of these traditions to your ceremony, consider placing a brief explanation of them in your wedding program. Your guests will enjoy the ceremony much more if they understand what is happening and the history behind it!
Knocking on the Door. This tradition is based on the groom’s need for permission from his future wife’s family. The groom gathers his family and a few gifts and goes to the bride-to-be’s home. He then knocks on her door; if the knock is accepted and the family opens the door, they can celebrate and begin planning the wedding. This tradition is just one of many that show the strong influence family has in the couple’s life together. Often couples skip knocking on the door and opt for a nice lunch or dinner where the two families can bond.
Crossing Sticks. This wedding custom is thought to have originated during the slavery era in the United States. Couples demonstrate their commitment to each other with tall crossed wooden sticks. It is said to represent the power and life force within trees and a wish for a strong beginning to their new lives together. To make this tradition more personal, consider using sticks from trees from the yards of both families.
Tying the Knot. Did you know this popular phrase has its origins in African wedding ceremonies?! During the ceremony, the bride and groom’s wrists are tied together with cloth or braided grass to represent two people tying their lives together. Often the officiant or a close friend will tie the wrists with kente cloth or a string of cowrie shells.
Libation Ceremony. During this part of the ceremony, holy water and alcohol are poured onto the ground in each cardinal direction as prayers are said to ancestral spirits and names of those who recently passed are called out. This tradition is a beautiful way to include loved ones who are no longer with us.
Tasting the Four Elements. These four flavors are meant to represent the emotions that can be felt during a relationship – sour from a lemon, bitter from vinegar, hot from cayenne pepper and sweet from honey. This demonstrates that you can get through the hard times in life and enjoy the sweetness marriage can bring.
Jump the Broom. This tradition is not associated with the phrase “leap of faith,” which became a common phrase at least one hundred years later. The jump at the end of the ceremony is supposed to bind the couple who are entering a new life together and sweep the old one away. Some also say whoever jumps the highest will run the household (so start practicing your jumping)!
There are many ways you can incorporate African and African American heritage into your wedding and make it a personal event, but these are some of the more popular customs. This day should be a reflection of the love shared between you and your fiancee - from the vows and the food to the wedding cake topper, there are so many ways to personalize your wedding day to fit the customs important to you!
How did you (or will you) incorporate your heritage into your wedding ceremony? We'd love to know!