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Why do Americans jump the broom at weddings?

When attending a wedding ceremony in America, you may witness a unique cultural gesture of the bride and groom jumping over a broomstick. You might wonder where this tradition comes from and what it signifies. While the origin of jumping the broom is unclear, it’s believed to have been practiced by the African American community during slavery as a way to marry without legal recognition. Over the years, the custom has evolved into a celebration of African American heritage and a representation of love and commitment. In this article, we will explore the history of the broom jumping tradition and its significance in modern-day weddings.

The History of Jumping the Broom

Jumping the broom is a deeply rooted tradition that dates back to the 1600s when slavery was prevalent in America. During that time, slaves were not allowed to marry legally, and their relationships were often not recognized by their oppressors. However, slaves still found ways to celebrate their love and commitment. One of these ways was by jumping over a broomstick together.

The exact origin of jumping the broom is unclear. Still, some historians believe it originated in West African countries where broomsticks were used to spiritually cleanse homes and marriages. Other historians argue that it originated in Wales, as a Celtic tradition in which newlyweds would jump over a broomstick to symbolize sweeping away all evil spirits to create a happy, stable home.

Regardless of its specific origin, jumping the broom became a prominent symbol of African American tradition and was featured in many slave marriages. After slavery ended, the tradition of broom jumping continued, but for different reasons. It became a symbol of African Americans’ heritage and culture, and some couples would jump the broom to create a deeper connection to their ancestors.

What Does Jumping the Broom Signify Today?

In modern-day weddings, jumping the broom has become a popular symbolic gesture for couples to add to their ceremony. While it is still closely associated with African American heritage, the tradition has spread to other cultures and is now practiced by couples worldwide.

So what does jumping the broom signify today? There is no one answer to this question, as the meaning may differ from couple to couple. For some, it symbolizes the sweeping away of the old and the beginning of a new life together. For others, it represents unity, as they jump over a single object to join together as one.

In some cases, jumping the broom may also represent the joining of two families. In African American culture, the broom is often decorated with family heirlooms, such as ribbons, lace or silk flowers, and passed down from generation to generation. When the bride and groom jump the broom, they symbolically bind their families together, honoring their ancestors and traditions.

How to Incorporate Jumping the Broom into Your Wedding Ceremony

If you are considering incorporating the broom jumping tradition into your wedding ceremony, there are many ways to do so. Here are some ideas to help you get started:

  • Choose a broom that is meaningful to you, such as one that has been passed down from a family member or one that is decorated with your wedding colors.
  • Discuss the broom jumping tradition with your officiant so they can incorporate it into the ceremony.
  • When it’s time to jump the broom, you and your partner should hold hands and jump over the broomstick together, representing the start of your new life.


While the exact origin of the broom jumping tradition may be unclear, its significance in African American culture and modern weddings has never been more apparent. Whether you choose to incorporate this symbolic gesture into your ceremony or not, understanding the history and meaning behind it can add an extra layer of depth and cultural appreciation to your big day.


Where did the wedding tradition jumping the broom come from?

Jumping the broom is a wedding tradition that has been passed down through generations, particularly in African American communities. Although there is no clear documentation on its origins, there have been several theories on how the tradition started.

One theory suggests that jumping the broom originated in West Africa and was brought to the Americas through the transatlantic slave trade. In some West African cultures, brooms were used as a way to ward off evil spirits. In a wedding ceremony, family members or members of the community would wave a broom over the couple’s head, and then place it on the ground for the couple to jump over it. This was believed to symbolize the beginning of a new life together and the sweeping away of any negative energy or influences.

Another theory suggests that the tradition may have originated in Wales or Scotland, where jumping the broom was a common practice in pagan weddings. The broom was seen as a symbol of fertility and the union between a couple. After exchanging their vows, the couple would jump over the broom to seal their union.

Jumping the broom gained popularity among African Americans during slavery and the Reconstruction Era. Slaves were not allowed to have formal weddings or legal marriages, so they created their own ceremonies with their own traditions. Jumping the broom became an important part of these ceremonies, as it represented the couple’s commitment to each other and their future together.

Today, jumping the broom has become a popular tradition in African American weddings and has been embraced by other cultures as well. The tradition represents the importance of honoring and celebrating our ancestors, and the resilience and strength of the African American community. As we continue to pass down this tradition to future generations, we honor those who came before us and celebrate the love and commitment of all couples who choose to jump the broom on their wedding day.

What culture jumps over a broom after getting married?

In certain African-American and Black-Canadian communities, couples have a unique wedding tradition of jumping over a broomstick, usually at the end of the ceremony. This custom has been in practice for generations and is seen as a symbol of the newlywed couple’s commitment to each other, unity, and respect for their ancestors.

The origins of the tradition can be traced back to the time of the transatlantic slave trade. During this period, slaves were not legally allowed to marry, and any union that they formed was considered null and void in the eyes of the law. In such a scenario, jumping over the broomstick became a ritual that represented the couple’s commitment to each other. It was a way of publicly declaring their love and devotion to each other, despite the obstacles that their society placed in their path, and a way of seeking approval and recognition from their community.

The broom that is used for this tradition is usually made of materials such as wood, ribbon, or colourful cloth. The broom typically stands upright on the ground or on chairs, and the bride and groom jump over it together. Sometimes, the groom jumps first, then the bride follows. In some variations of this custom, both jump over the broomstick separately, and whoever jumps the highest is believed to have the upper hand in the marriage.

The tradition of jumping over the broomstick is not just limited to weddings. In some communities, it is also performed during naming ceremonies, housewarming ceremonies, and other important events. In today’s context, the broomstick remains a symbol of the couple’s commitment to each other, making the ritual a popular feature in African-American and Black-Canadian wedding ceremonies. While it holds deep cultural significance, it is a relatively simple custom that reminds us of the strength and resilience of Black culture, despite the hardships that it has endured throughout history.

What does the idiom jump the broom mean?

The idiom “jump the broom” may seem confusing to those who have never heard it before. However, it is an old American phrase that has a long history in the South, and is usually used to refer to a wedding ceremony that is not performed by a clergyman. Jumping the broom symbolizes that a couple is officially married, and the act is often considered a fun and playful way to celebrate a union.

Traditionally, African American couples who were not allowed to legally marry in the United States would jump over a broomstick as a symbol of their commitment. This gesture was said to have been inspired by the West African ritual customs of the Yoruba people. Slaves brought this custom to North America, where it was adapted into a wedding ceremony.

Jumping the broom may also have been used by other communities and social groups, with some speculating that it may have originated in traditional European weddings. Regardless of where it came from, the custom has continued to be an important part of wedding culture for many people in America.

Today, jumping the broom is sometimes seen as a way to honor cultural heritage and celebrate unity and love. It continues to be practiced in African American communities, as well as by couples from other backgrounds who appreciate this unique and meaningful wedding tradition.