The History of Jumping the Broom at Weddings

A traditional woven broom

Are you and your fiancé looking for an interesting tradition to include in your upcoming wedding? Consider incorporating “jumping the broom” into your ceremony! As you prepare for your special day, it’s always important to keep tradition in mind. Jumping the broom has been used by couples for hundreds of years though its origins are somewhat obscure. While there are plenty of stories as to what the ritual signifies, you can easy apply your own thoughts and meaning if you choose to add this tradition to your big day.

Jumping the broom is most frequently done as a newly married couple exits the wedding ceremony. Someone from the bridal party, or a close family member, places the broom in front of the pair and, as they proceed back up the aisle, the two jump over the broom. This is often done to symbolize sweeping away the old in preparation for the new. Amidst the cheers of close family and friends, this addition to your recessional can be quite exceptional. Before you dash to the store to purchase a new broom, however, take some time to read through the history behind this tradition.

A Tradition with Roots in Africa

While reports vary, some sources date jumping the broom to the early 1600s in Ghana, Africa. It’s believed by some that handmade brooms were thought to hold spiritual properties. The use of a handmade broom symbolized sweeping away past wrongs and it also warded off evil spirits. Jumping over the broom at a wedding signified the woman’s desire to keep the home clean, the man’s commitment to the household, and their joined wish for happiness as a couple moving forward.

A couple jumps a broom at their wedding ceremony

American History

During the Atlantic slave trade, many people were taken from Africa and brought to the United States. With them came the tradition of jumping the broom. Since many slaves weren’t allowed to marry in traditional ways, they looked for other means to perform a marriage. Before emancipation, slave marriages were often conducted via broom jumping ceremonies. While “unofficial,” they still held great meaning for the couples and love ones who participated in the ritual.

Once slavery was abolished, it wasn’t uncommon for land owners to throw elaborate weddings for their former slaves. Jumping the broom remained an important part of these ceremonies and, in many cases, the land owner would actually obtain a special broom for the occasion. Because these non-traditional marriages still weren’t completely legitimate by law, the tradition faded over time. When ring marriages were established as normal and legal, jumping the broom became a small portion of the marriage ceremony, if it was included at all.

Welsh, Celts, Druids, and Gypsies

It is widely argued that the concept of jumping the broom actually began in Wales. The belief that the ritual was intended to ward off evil spirits, however, is the same. Brooms were often considered an item used by witches. In Wales, the jumping of the broom ceremony symbolized a married couple’s defiance of witches and evil spirits. If either the bride or groom refused to jump the broom, they were often designated a witch. Interestingly, this may actually be where the concept of crossing the threshold originated, as couples crossed that broom before entering their home for the first time.

Druidic and Gypsy cultures also had their own form of broomstick weddings. Again, ceremony was utilized for marriages that took place outside of the church. A broom was placed on a slant in the doorway of a new couple’s home; the pair were required to jump over it without touching the ground in order for the marriage to be complete. Conversely, an unhappy couple could jump over it backwards if they wished for the marriage to be annulled. Over time, the ceremony was altered so that the couple could jump over any obstacle, not just a broom, to symbolize their union.

Lots of colorful ribbons on a table

Modern Applications

Adding your own personal twist to the jumping the broom ceremony can be a fun way to add flare to your wedding. While pre-decorated brooms are available for purchase at specialty stores or online, decorating one yourself adds a personal touch. If you choose to decorate your own broom, consider inviting your bridal party to be part of the process as well. Including this as part of your pre-ceremony gives your bridesmaids and groomsmen a chance to bond before the wedding.

Another fun idea is to ask your guests to decorate the broom as they arrive. Consider putting the broom near the entryway, accompanied by a wide assortment of ribbons and self-adhering jewels. Your guests can decorate your broom with the various items, effectively becoming part of the symbol of your new life together. Also consider leaving markers nearby so your friends and family can write messages and sign their names on the broom and ribbons. Later, when you jump over the broom with your spouse, you’ll be doing so with the prayers and well wishes of all your closest friends and family who gathered for your special day!

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