By Steven Inge | Mar 05, 2022

African American Wedding Traditions

Wedding traditions are often unique to different cultures, here we look at African American traditions.

African American Wedding Traditions

Wedding traditions are often unique to different cultures, with each culture having its own set of must-have celebrations that no wedding would feel right without.

While weddings are all about looking forward, they’re also a great time to look back and celebrate history and heritage. Many of our favorite cultural wedding traditions can be traced back hundreds of years, and that’s why they tend to feel so special.

If you or your partner is African American, you may well want to incorporate some of the best-loved African American wedding traditions into your special day. Read on to find out more about the symbolic traditions of this rich and diverse culture.

A Rich and Diverse Culture

As one of the largest ethnic groups in the US, African Americans have a hugely powerful and important cultural heritage. Most African Americans are the descendants of enslaved Africans, and this side to their heritage has a real bearing on some of the traditions that African Americans still hold sacred to this day.

Today, African Americans are a vital part of US society, having contributed huge amounts to both the history and culture of the country. African American culture spans everything from food and music to the different languages used to converse throughout the US.

Soul food is one of the best known cuisines in the US, and African American music continues to be enormously popular in many states. So, it’s not surprising that there are plenty of wedding traditions that are unique to African American culture.

Wedding Traditions

The roots of many African American wedding traditions can be traced back to Africa, with different traditions originating from all corners of the continent.

Some of the most common traditions you’ll find at US ceremonies include the jumping of the broom, tasting the four elements, tying the knot and the libation ceremony, but there are also other traditions that you might consider incorporating if they mean something to you.

Here are some of the most popular options at African American weddings.

Jumping the Broom

The tradition of jumping the broom goes back hundreds of years. For couples getting married in the US, it’s said to relate to slavery, as enslaved couples tended to jump over a broom to celebrate their marriage. It’s still an important part of many weddings today, with couples jumping over a broom to close their wedding ceremony, and often going on to keep the broom as a memento of their day.

Tying the Knot

Many cultures incorporate the practice of tying the knot into their wedding ceremonies. In African American weddings it’s particularly symbolic, with the materials used each said to have different meanings.

Couples can choose Kente cloth in a variety of colors (red meaning blood, blue meaning peace, gold meaning wealth and so on), as well as cowrie shells, braided grass or rope for this tradition. The couple’s hands are then tied together in a symbolic nod to the future.

Libation Ceremonies

African American weddings often include time to think about those who haven’t been able to celebrate with the happy couple, including family members who have recently passed away or those who are unwell.

The libation ceremony is the perfect time to remember special people. The ceremony offers an opportunity to raise a toast, or pray for much-loved family and friends. There is a spiritual element to it too, as the libation ceremony is said to allo

Tasting the Four Elements

Originating from West Africa, the practice of tasting the four elements is brilliantly entertaining for guests. The happy couple are tasked with tasting different flavors, usually spicy cayenne, sour lemons, bitter vinegar and sweet honey.

Each of the four flavors represents a different stage of married life, so this tradition fits perfectly into the wedding ceremony itself. Often you’ll see the elements displayed for guests to look at before the ceremony, too.

Kola Nuts

The kola nut is a staple ingredient in African culture, and it plays an important role in African American wedding traditions too. This nut is actually a seed from the fruit of the kola tree. It’s well used for medicinal purposes throughout Africa, but at weddings it takes on a more symbolic purpose.

Couples exchange kola nuts and eat them together, to represent the idea of healing one another. Sometimes family members join in with this ceremony, showing that they too will help the couple solve any problems that they may have in the future.

Money Dance

The money dance is great fun; it’s always a popular one to include at wedding receptions. This dance originates from Nigerian tribes, so African Americans with Nigerian heritage will almost always include a money dance in their wedding festivities.

The dance takes place after the ceremony, and kicks off the fun at the reception as the couple take to the dance floor. While the couple dances, guests throw money at them, to be used to help them start their new married life. As the dance ends, friends and family gather the money on behalf of the newly married couple.

Finding the Right Photographer

Tradition plays an enormous role in wedding celebrations. Whether you’re planning a huge party that’ll celebrate your heritage, or you’re keeping things small but you’d still like a few subtle hints to your ancestry, you’ll be able to find a beautiful way of honoring both past and present.

No matter how you’re choosing to celebrate, it’s always worth taking the time to find a photographer who understands what you’re looking for from your big day. At Wedmatch, we’re here to help you do just that.