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African American Wedding Traditions Print E-mail

From Indiana Bride Magazine - Terri

Worldly Weddings- African American- Wedding Traditions-Adinkra Symbols-AkomaI am always intrigued to learn about wedding traditions and customs, especially when a cultural or ethnic flair adds so much to the symbolism of the day. African American wedding traditions are plentiful and may vary from region to region in Africa. We all may heard of “Jumping the Broom”, or seen the movie for that matter, but there are so many more African American wedding traditions. They all have seem to have such a beautiful thread of unity, for both the couple and the two families that they represent; in addition to representing honor, fertility and emotional support. Several of the wedding traditions are easy and inexpensive in bring into your wedding ceremony as DIY projects, but we found a great website to provide both information on the wedding traditions and also allows you to purchase African American wedding traditions: WorldlyWeddings.com.

Jumping the broom

This is one of the well-known wedding traditions whose origin is up for debate. “During the slavery era, since African slaves were forbidden to marry in America, they would make a public declaration of their love and commitment by jumping over a broom to the beat of drums. Today, this ritual’s significance is agreed upon to be a symbol for the start of the couple making a home together. It has become very popular for African-American couples to “Jump the broom” 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”.

Tying the Knot

In some African tribes, the bride and groom have their wrists tied together with braided grass or cloth to represent their marriage. Today’s modern couples may choose to have a close friend or the officiant tie their wrists together with a strand of cowrie shells or a piece of kente cloth while stating the wedding vows to demonstrate one of the wedding traditions.

Worldly Weddings- African American- Wedding Traditions-Libation Ceremony

Libation Ceremony

To honor their ancestors, some Africans pour alcohol or Holy water onto the ground while prayers are recited to the ancestral spirits. Some African American wedding couples choose to incorporate the libation ceremony as an opportunity to remember and honor those that have recently passed away and add a unique personalization to the wedding traditions display.

Kola Nuts

The Kola nut is used frequently for medicinal purposes in Africa. It is also essential in most African wedding traditions. “The Kola nut symbolizes the couple’s willingness to always help heal each other. In Nigeria, the ceremony is not complete until a kola nut is shared between the couple and their parents. Many African-American couples incorporate the sharing of a kola nut into their ceremonies, and then keep the nut in their home afterwards as a reminder to always work at healing any problems they encounter”.

Tasting the Four Elements

“In this Yoruba ritual, the bride and groom taste four flavors that represent different emotions within a relationship. The four flavors typically used are sour (lemon), bitter (vinegar), hot (cayenne), and sweet (honey). By tasting each of the flavors, the couple symbolically demonstrates that they will be able to get through the hard times in life, and, in the end, enjoy the sweetness of marriage”. One of the most “tasteful”:) wedding traditions.

Worldly Weddings- African American- Wedding Traditions-Wedding AttireWedding Attire

“Depending on where they are from, the African bride’s attire will represent the area with exciting colors and meaningful designs. Some African-American couples choose to convey their heritage through clothing. The possibilities are endless. It can be as simple as bridesmaids wrapped in African shawls and groomsmen with Kente cloth cummerbunds and bowties, or as elaborate as the groom and groomsmen in traditional Nigerian garb called agbada. In Ghana, Kente is used as wedding attire for the bridal party. Nigerian brides and bridesmaids typically don a bubah, an elegant four-piece ensemble that includes a long outer wrap and matching headpiece. Today’s brides may also choose to wear an African-inspired gown with African Adinkra symbols included in the fabric. The brides may wear their hair in braids with ornaments on their wrists and necks bejeweled”. This is one of the wedding traditions that offers a beautiful opportunity for color incorporation that can be used throughout the wedding theme.

Adinkra Symbols

“Wearing an African-inspired gown with Adinkra symbols woven into the fabric is a special way to incorporate African tradition in your wedding. Adinkra symbols are common in Western African societies; specifically Ghana, a country situated on the Atlantic between Togo and the Ivory Coast. Adinkra symbols were adapted by the Asante people of Ghana. The symbols represent different concepts or ideas. Adinkra symbols can be found everywhere in Ghana including fabrics, walls, pottery and logos. Some common Adinkra symbols used in weddings include, Akoma, Me Ware Wo, Gye Nyame, and Osram Ne Nsoromma. Akoma is a heart symbol that signifies patience and tolerance. Gye Nyame signifies the supremacy of god. Me Ware Wo symbolizes commitment and perseverance. Osram Ne Nsoromma is a stands for the harmony that exists in the bond between a man and a woman”.  I love that these symbols of wedding traditions can be boldly displayed or subtly incorporated.

Cowrie Shells

“Cowrie shells, indigenous to West Africa represent fertility and prosperity. Cowrie shells are a significant favorite used in bridal attire”.  The best part is that one can easily use the shell design in a variety of ways (food serving, cakes, favors, and table decorations) for expressive wedding traditions.


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