Black weddings typically include rituals borrowed from their ancestral past or cultural heritage, such as a libation ceremony, jumping the broom, and a money dance, among other such practices. Here’s everything you need to know about Black wedding traditions and the many smaller rituals and other symbolic actions that mark the ceremony or day’s events.
In this ritual, alcohol or holy water is poured in each of the cardinal directions—north, south, east, and west—in the presence of elders attending the wedding and in honor of those who have passed on, inviting their blessings and guidance toward the newly married couple. In the Libation ritual, appropriate prayers are recited, and the liquids are typically presented in elaborate vessels aligned with the occasion. Close family members or friends may be invited to present the vessel at a certain time.
The bride and groom taste four flavors that are intended to signify the ups and downs of their marital life. A pinch of cayenne, a slice of lemon, a sip of vinegar, and a spoonful of honey are presented, so that the spiciness, sourness, bitterness, and sweetness, respectively, denote the trials and tribulations the union may experience, plus the couple’s promise to experience it all together. A symbolic demonstration to stay committed in the face of any challenges.
In this wedding tradition, the couple jumps over a broom together toward the end of their wedding ceremony, symbolizing their love for each other and their commitment to their marriage. The brooms are sometimes customized or handmade and are saved as a memento of the day in the couple’s home. The tradition dates back in time to when marriage was forbidden by law in the Black community.
Another ritual where the couple demonstrates their commitment to each other in marriage is crossing wooden sticks to signify their strength in unity. The sticks are sometimes decorated with flowers and other accessories, painted in the couple’s wedding colors, or even picked from their respective family’s home or other venue that holds special meaning. The intention: to start the building of their own home on a strong note.
Bringing the couple together in another expression of solidarity is the tying of their wrists with decorated rope, traditionally patterned cloth, braided grass, or a string of cowrie shells, which is considered by some to be a symbol of prosperity or fertility. During the ritual, the pair then says their vows in front of the wedding officiant who ties the knot and confirms the association in the presence of wedding guests.
Where kola nuts once held importance for their medicinal properties, today they are commonly exchanged during a wedding ceremony as a sign of the couple and their families being unified through marriage. The healing properties of the kola nut denotes the two parties taking care of each other through thick and thin and in sickness and in health. These nuts are then placed in the couple’s home as a reminder of their wedding promises.
Traditional music plays a big part in Black weddings, and the money spray tends to be included as part of festivities. On the big day, the newly married couple dances to music of their choice at the wedding reception, while guests toss cash at them. The money is eventually collected by the couple or others assisting with the event. This money is then used to help the pair start their new life together. For guests, it’s a way to share their blessing and wish the newlyweds a life of prosperity.
For many, incorporating the patterns and colors of textiles they consider part of their cultural heritage is integral to their wedding day. If not in traditional attire they wear to their ceremony itself, they also try to incorporate it in the design and décor of their wedding venue or dining and entertaining areas. For some, the type of cloth used might hold special significance related to their ancestry, their family’s culture, or be an heirloom passed on through the generations.
These symbols express words of wisdom and are used to convey special wedding messages and blessings for the new couple. You might see them on the wedding cake, invites or even the décor and favors, aside from also making an appearance in the textiles mentioned above. There may also be references made to the symbols and their meaning by the wedding officiant or other members of the wedding party in their speeches.
Typically done ahead of the wedding, this is the tradition of the groom knocking on the door of the prospective partner’s home to ask their family’s permission for their hand in marriage. While this may or may not be practiced anymore in the strict sense, some couples choose to include this as part of their wedding festivities and weave it into the day’s agenda to fulfill this tradition toward their wedding ceremony.
As with many cultures, Black wedding traditions encompass different aspects of the couple’s heritage that hold special meaning and are all aimed at bringing together the special pair and their respective families under the happy occasion of their marriage.