Jumping the Broom

Read this tip to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Wedding Customs and other Wedding topics.

What African customs can we use in our wedding?

Jumping the Broom

During slavery in the United States, African American couples were not allowed to marry formally. Instead, to make a public declaration of their commitment and love, a man and woman jumped over a broom into marriage, while others beat on drums. (The broom has long held significant meaning for the various Africans, symbolizing the start of homemaking for the newlywed couple.) Today many African-American couples include this symbolic custom in their wedding ceremony, working it in directly before the recession.



1/19/2009 8:06:43 AM
Tamika said:

The information posted is not entirely correct..

The practice originated among English Roma people better known as Gypsies. The practice was passed along, possibly by force, on slaves by their masters. The slave masters and their wives assisted in the ceremony at times.

Also, both blacks and whites in the antebellum south accepted jumping the broom as a quasi-marriage ceremony since the practice or symbols used in it (specifically the broom) had similar meanings in their respective cultures. Jumping over the broom was definitely a feature in both European and African wedding ceremonies, but the slave practice likely originated in Africa and not Europe.

The custom, fully formed though not necessarily uniform, diffused among the different ethnic groups and was used to solidify marriages during slavery among their communities. Jumping the broom therefore does owe part of its origin to slavery, but is also part of African culture that had survived in the United States like the Voodun religion of the Fon and Ewe ethnic groups or the ring-shout ceremony of the BaKongo and Mbundu ethnic groups.

Jumping over the broom symbolized various things depending on the culture. Among southern Africans, who were largely not a part of the Atlantic slave trade, it represented the wife's commitment or willingness to clean the courtyard of the new home she had joined. In England, jumping over the broom (or sometimes walking over a broom), became nominally synonymous (i.e. "Married over the besom") with irregular or non-church unions. But in the American south, the custom determined who ran the household. Whoever jumped highest over the broom was the decision maker of the household (usually the man). The jumping of the broom does not constitute taking a "leap of faith" because the practice of jumping the broom pre-dates the phrase coined by Søren Aabye Kierkegaard by one hundred years, if not more.

The broom stick represents the Almight God, and the brissels represent the family.


URL: (optional)


Not finding the advice and tips you need on this Wedding Tip Site? Request a Tip Now!

Guru Spotlight
Shirley Tan