Cultural Wedding Customs: African-American Wedding Traditions?

by The Knot

I'm an African-American bride-to-be who would like to include something of my culture in my wedding -- not so subtle that only I notice, but not blaring, either. I like the traditional with a hint of self-expression. Any suggestions?


It's wonderful that you want to include reminders of your heritage in your wedding. There are many different traditions and touches you can incorporate. You might consider a libation ceremony: In this African-American ritual, liquids are poured onto the ground as a symbolic offering to your ancestors, while a traditional toast in memory and celebration of your relatives -- living and dead -- is recited by the officiant or a family member. (You can do this during the ceremony or the reception.) You might also want to incorporate African fabrics, such as Kente cloth, into your ensemble, perhaps choosing colors that will complement the shades in your fiance's kilt. A more subtle, traditional detail might be to sew a few cowry shells -- African symbols of health and fertility -- into the dress, your hem, or your garter, or to attach a few to your bouquet. Your groom might carry a few in his jacket pocket. For more ideas on including African-American traditions, check out books like "Jumping the Broom: The African-American Wedding Planner" by Harriette Cole (Henry Holt, 1995) and "The Nubian Wedding Book: Words and Rituals to Celebrate and Plan an African-American Wedding" by Ingrid Sturgis (Three Rivers Press, 1998).

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