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African American Wedding Traditions

By Editorial Staff

African American wedding traditionsby Info Guru Aurora LaJambre

The popular bells and whistles many couples incorporate into their ceremony and reception are in the spirit of celebrating a new chapter in life.

For African Americans, many marriage customs center around the impact a union has on everyone – the combining of families.

These African American wedding traditions are rich with cultural meaning.

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10. Jumping the broom

Jumping the broom

This custom is popular for both its simplicity and deep significance. Today, couples jump over a jumping broom at the conclusion of the ceremony to illustrate past troubles being swept away. The broom used is often made by hand and decorated with love. This is a piece you can display in your home after.

9. Cowrie shells

Cowrie shells

Cowrie shells are simple, beautiful shells found all over West Africa. They’re often woven into bridal attire and jewelry to signify prosperity and fertility. If you don’t want to work them into clothing, many couples will arrange them in centerpieces, tie them with wedding favors or use the shape as inspiration for cake decorations.

8. Healing koala nuts

Healing koala nuts

In Africa, the koala nut is widely used for healing. One of the big African American wedding traditions is to pass a koala nut around or share it between the parents, bride and groom. The gesture demonstrates all parties are willing to come together in hard times to help heal wounds.

7. Tying an actual knot

Tying an actual knot

Several cultures have customs that involve tying an actual knot. In Africa, some tribes would tie the couple’s wrists together with twisted grass or fabric as a sign of unity. During the ceremony a friend, family member or the officiant would use a Kente cloth or braided material to bind the couple while they say their vows.

6. Stick crossing

Stick crossing

The crossing of sticks is one of the elegant African American wedding traditions that began in the slavery era when marriage was forbidden. The couple crosses long sticks while wishing for a solid beginning. The use of sticks nods to the power and force of nature. Before the wedding, take a hike with your fiance to a meaningful place and select big, strong branches. Alternatively, you can choose branches from the homes of each family.

5. Representative colors and patterns

Representative colors and patterns

It’s custom in Africa for the bride’s dress to show the colors and symbols of the area her family is from. Here brides and grooms choose attire and colors and patterns that represent their heritage as well. This includes accessories like shawls, elaborate shirts and cummerbunds or bow ties made from Kente cloth.

4. Honorary libation

Honorary libation

Alcohol is a usual suspect at receptions. This small ceremony incorporates it in a ritual that honors the bride and groom’s ancestors. Pour either alcohol or holy water in the cardinal directions while reciting prayers to spirits and deceased family. This invites them to pass on their wisdom and help guide the couple on their journey.

3. The big knock

The big knock

It’s traditional in many cultures for the man to ask the father for his daughter’s hand in marriage. In Ghana, knocking on the father’s door to ask for his blessing is the first step of joining two families, provided the man is accepted. Modern variations include planning a family get-together for the exchange to take place.

2. Taste the elements

Taste the elements

Foodies will get a kick out of planning this one! At the ceremony or reception, the couple eats the flavors said to represent various essential emotions of a strong relationship. These include sour, sweet, bitter and spicy. Tasting these bold flavors shows you can both manage challenges and savor the good times.

1. Adinkra symbols

Adinkra symbols

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People with ancestors from West Africa often weave Adinkra symbols into their modern dresses or menswear. These symbols stand for various concepts like patience, tolerance or harmony between a man and woman. You can adapt them in a way that suits your style – either bold and impossible to miss on clothing and decor or subtle on the invitations and table cards.


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