Why I decided to Jump the Broom


A Dating Coach tells why she and her fiancé will jump the broom at their upcoming wedding.

Some people have a strong response to the old slave custom of jumping the broom in their wedding ceremony today. I had a strong response when I thought about it for my own wedding. I began crying, to my surprise. I had seen the tradition performed a few times in movie weddings (i.e., "Jumping the Broom" starring Paula Patton) and I never thought much about it until my own planning. The tears came when I thought about my fiance and I jumping over a broom at the end of our ceremony. I think I was crying because I felt for the slaves (my probable ancestors) that had jumped brooms years ago as a symbol of their love for one another.

I could imagine slaves whispering to each other in the dark, "Will you jump the broom with me?" to their sweetheart, possibly someone on a different plantation.  Possibly someone that had already been promised to another person, or even someone that a few months later would be sold to another plantation in another state.  I knew by my tears that I needed to incorporate the tradition into my own wedding.

I did not anticipate the strong response of my fiance.  

"No!" He said. "We are not doing that."

His mother and I talked about it during our Christmas visit and again, my fiance expressed a strong resistance to adding that into our ceremony.  His mother pointed out that it was a part of our history.  He said there were a lot of things that are a part of our history but they would not be a part of our wedding.

His step father agreed. "I've seen (jumping the broom) at many ceremonies, but I don't think it has to always be done. It's like a fad now to do it. Everyone is doing it."

I have never attended a wedding where it was done.  I've only seen it done on film/tv. My future mother-in-law said that she and my fiance's step father jumped a broom at their own ceremony over ten years ago and said she has seen it done and explained at wedding receptions, in some cases.

The reason why I think some of us do not want to include the broom in our wedding ceremonies is we don't want to be reminded of slavery or what our ancestors went through.  We don't want to think about it or hear about it and certainly do not want to DO anything connected to that time period.

For those that may not be familiar with the tradition, here is the scoop:

Jumping the Broom
"This tradition most likely originated with an African ritual in which a broom is used to demonstrate that all past problems have been swept away. During slave days, African-Americans were forbidden to marry and live together, so jumping over a broom was a formal and public declaration of the couple's commitment. Today, it has become very popular for African-American couples to follow suit at the conclusion of their wedding ceremony. The broom, often handmade and beautifully decorated, can be displayed in the couple's home after the wedding."

From The Knot’s “Ceremony: 7 Afrocentric Traditions”

From wikipedia:
"Jumping the broom is a phrase and custom relating to wedding ceremonies in different cultural traditions, found in "many diverse cultures, those of Africa − Europe including Scotland, Hungary and Gypsy culture", all of which "include brooms at wedding rituals." It has been particularly associated with the Romani gypsy people of the United Kingdom, especially those in Wales.  It has been suggested that there is "evidence showing the wedding custom was practiced by gypsies in England, Scotland" as well as by African Americans and other groups...

Slave-owners were faced with a dilemma regarding committed relationships between slaves. While some family stability might be desirable as helping to keep slaves tractable and pacified, anything approaching a legal marriage was not. Marriage gave a couple rights over each other which conflicted with the slave-owners’ claims. Most marriages between enslaved blacks were not legally recognized during American slavery, as in law marriage was held to be a civil contract, and civil contracts required the consent of free persons. In the absence of any legal recognition, the slave community developed its own methods of distinguishing between committed and casual unions. The ceremonial jumping of the broom served as an open declaration of settling down in a marriage relationship. Jumping the broom was always done before witnesses as a public ceremonial announcement that a couple chose to become as close to married as was then allowed...

Jumping the broom also fell out of practice due to the stigma it carried, and in some cases still carries, among black Americans wishing to forget the horrors of slavery.   The practice did survive in some communities, however, and made a resurgence after the publication of Alex Haley's Roots."


I feel that when we choose to jump the broom now in the 21st Century, we are remembering those that couldn't legally choose to pick whom they wanted to marry.  We are paying tribute to those that did not and could not have these lavish $27,000 weddings (the average cost of a wedding these days) and could not declare openly their love for one another.  We have a choice on whether or not we want to jump the broom and we can now do it openly, proudly and expressively.

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Whether we as a people embrace, reject, or continue in ambivalence toward our history, when it is time to get married, we will be faced with making this decision, as someone will inevitably ask "Will you jump the broom?" once it is announced that we are getting married. 
What will you do?