I cannot let this month end without paying homage to the rich history of African American culture and specifically, all the amazing African American wedding traditions. February, though much too short, is Black History month. It also happens to be the month of love. So, it made sense that I finish this month off with a post that celebrates “Black Love” or more specifically the ways in which that love is celebrated during weddings.
These Black wedding traditions are both fun and have deep historical significance. Some are just for kicks and some trigger moments of honest inner reflection. By integrating these traditions into our ceremonies, we create more memorable wedding experiences which knit together the hearts of those in our community and bring us back to the ties that bind, the feeling of family and of home that are sometimes drowned in a sea of majority culture. Here is a quick list of some of the most popular.
Jumping the Broom
Probably one of the most recognizable traditions in black weddings is the tradition of “jumping the broom.” In pre-slave trade Africa jumping the broom represented the symbolic sweeping away of all past problems. During the era of slavery African Americans were forbidden to marry and often couldn’t live together, so jumping over a broom at the end of a wedding ceremony was one of the only ways for them to publicly declare their union.
Today many African American couples decide to make this tradition a part of their wedding. It is very popular to have a beautiful broom handcrafted to use during the wedding, and then keeping it afterwards to display in their new home together.
Sorority and Fraternity Strolls
Black couples who are members of a Black Greek organization are familiar with the Greek “stroll.” Greek organizations have historically and continue to be a medium to create bonds and social involvement in the black community. Members of these organizations take pride in being a part of such an effort and often decide to include their Sorority Sisters or Fraternity Brothers in their wedding ceremonies. The most popular way to do this is for members of the organizations to participate in their particular “stroll.”
The Stroll has evolved from the African tradition of “Stepping.” Though stepping can be traced back to African tribal dance, the more modern versions began in the early African American slave communities. The slaves used “stepping” along with “call and response” chants and songs as a means of communicating important information. Around the late 1960’s historically black sororities and fraternities embraced stepping and strolling.
Black couples usually include this rich tradition during the wedding reception where sorority sisters or fraternity brothers dance in a synchronized way or “stroll” in a circular pattern around the room.
Though its origins are in the Black community, stepping has spread to Latino, Asian and multicultural fraternities and sororities as well.
The Electric Slide/Cha Cha Slide/ Cupid Shuffle, etc.
Okay, we talked about the historical stroll, now let’s jump into a tradition that is all fun. If you have ever been to a single black barbeque, family reunion or heck even sometimes a funeral, then you have been prompted to get up to dance along to one of these line dances.
Soul line dancing in the black community essentially has a similar history to the Greek strolls, but to be honest, we just kind of love it. Don’t ask me how we learn these so fast, there must be a specific gene that is passed on or likely we grew up watching our elders do it. Either way these dances make their way into most black family events. It’s a great way to get everyone on the dance floor and having a good time. Yes, I know African Americans are not the only ones who do line dances, however I’ve never been to a Black event where one of these songs was not played and people of all ages did not get their fancy feet to the dance floor. If you want some incredibly fun memories be sure to throw those into the DJ’s mix.
A Way to Celebrate our Uniqueness
Ceremonies of all kinds are a way to bring communities back together. They are a way to celebrate our shared history, struggles, and triumphs. Adding traditions into those ceremonies remind us of our past and unite us in all the things we have in common. These traditions give us a break from trying to blend in– and allow us to celebrate what makes our specific communities unique and valuable. Oh, and some of them are just plain fun. When planning your ceremony take a minute to think about what makes your family unique and special and try to include those elements into your wedding. Keep them going for the next generation so that in years to come they can share in that pride and pass it on. Do it for the future. Do it for the culture.
Big thanks to my writer, the amazing Tashara Mitchell of Austin, TX, who has been working hard to help me craft posts that are inclusive and diverse. It’s important to me to make sure that everyone is represented in my work and she’s the badass who is helping. If you need marketing and ghost writing services, I can’t recommend her enough.