Everything You Need to Know About the Jumping the Broom Tradition

An in-depth look at the history of this tradition, plus tips for incorporating it into your big day.
Hannah Nowack The Knot Senior Weddings Editor
by
Hannah Nowack
Hannah Nowack The Knot Senior Weddings Editor
Hannah Nowack
Senior Editor, Weddings
  • Hannah writes and edits articles for The Knot Worldwide, with a focus on real wedding coverage.
  • Hannah has a passion for DE&I and plays an integral role in ensuring The Knot content highlights all voices and all love stories.
  • Prior to The Knot Worldwide, Hannah was the Social Media Editor at Martha Stewart Weddings.
Updated Feb 04, 2022

When you're planning out your wedding ceremony program and deciding on everything from what to say for wedding vows to what meaningful rituals and traditions you might include, it's important to talk with your partner, wedding planner and officiant while considering your priorities and vision for the nuptials. For many Black and African-American couples, jumping the broom is one such tradition that is often worth considering as part of the wedding ceremony. After all, the tradition is so popular that director Salim Akil even made a movie titled Jumping the Broom in 2011 staring Paula Patton, Angela Bassett, Laz Alonso and Loretta Devine.

According to wedding expert Petronella Lugemwa of Petronella Photography, the jumping the broom ceremony is something that is "done at the very end of the wedding ceremony after couple has been pronounced married." However, including the ritual isn't for everyone. To help you decide whether or not the ritual is right for you, we're taking a deep-dive into the history and meaning of jumping the broom, plus tips to keep in mind should you choose to jump the broom. Even if you're not planning the include the jumping the broom, but know that it will be practiced at a wedding you're attending in the near future, this information is extremely valuable in making sure you understand the significance of the tradition and how to honor its inclusion respectfully.

What is Jumping the Broom?

As the name suggests, during this wedding tradition, the couple jumps over a broom that is placed on the floor at the front of the wedding ceremony. According to Desireé Dent of Dejanae Events, "jumping the Broom is an African tradition created during the days of slavery. It not only symbolizes the sweeping away of evil, past loves and the old you, but it also represents jumping into a new life together and setting up your household."

Jumping the Broom History and Meaning

The history of jumping the broom is both fraught and disputed. Some say it dates back to Wales in the 1700s, when the Roma community practiced broomstick weddings since they weren't allowed to wed in Welsh churches. Another theory is that the practice originated in West Africa as a means of cleansing the marriage ceremony from evil spirits while also representing the couple's commitment to each other. While it's unclear which region first began the practice, America's sordid history with the transatlantic slave trade led to the practice making its way to the American South. At this time, many enslaved people practiced broom-jumping to symbolize their union since they weren't afforded civil rights and legally recognized weddings.

Today, the practice continues at many African American weddings by Black couples as a way of paying tribute to the struggles of their forebearers while also celebrating Black Love and reclaiming ownership of the ritual that was first brought into existence by those seeking oppression.

As with many other wedding ceremony rituals, choosing to include the tradition should only be done with a deep understanding of the meaning and significance it holds. Not only is it important for the couple getting married to understand the meaning before they make a decision about jumping the broom, but it's also paramount that guests know the ins and outs of the practice so they're able to pay the ritual it's proper respect when it's practiced at the wedding. "To help guests understand your cultural traditions, I highly suggest offering a program to your wedding guests that explains the rituals that will take place during the ceremony," says Dent. "I also suggest asking the marriage celebrant to explain the traditions while performing the wedding ceremony."

Sourcing a Keepsake Broom

Because of the meaning associated with the ceremony, couples should think about sourcing a broom that can become a keepsake to share with family members for years to come. "Many times broom might be an heirloom passed down through the family, although you there are companies that specialize in the creation of these ornate brooms," explains Dent. "The jumping broom is not your ordinary "kitchen" variety used to sweep floors. The jumping broom is elaborately decorated with flowers, ribbon, and sometimes Cowry shells. The shells symbolize health and fertility. After the wedding ceremony has taken place, the broom is then displayed in the married couples home to remind them of their new life together."

Jumping the Broom Ceremony Details

After deciding whether or not to include jumping the broom as part of your wedding ceremony program, it's important to figure out the minutiae and all the details for actually participating in the ritual on the wedding day.

Ceremony Order for Jumping the Broom

The jumping the broom will take place at the very end of the wedding ceremony. According to Dent, "The broom is placed in front of the couple, typically by a weddng party member, after they have been pronounced as married. Many times you will hear guests counting...1, 2, 3...and then the couple will proceed to jump and exit the ceremony."

Jumping the Broom Ceremony Wording

To start the jumping the broom ceremony, it is helpful for your officiant to provide a brief explanation to the audience about what is going to take place.

"[partner] and [partner] have decided to conclude their ceremony with the jumping of the broom. As the couple jumps, they cross the threshold into matrimony, making the start of their new life together. Their action symbolzies the sweeping away of the old, welcoming in the new."

From there, they will invite you to partake and may use some of the following wording examples as prompts.

"Every count…'1, 2, 3, jump' together with me: '1 ,2, 3, jump!'"

"Everyone, please count '1 2, 3, jump' together with with me now, and shout for joy as the couple performs their first act as newlyweds."

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