Jumping the Broom

Jumping the Broom ritual
Incorporating family or cultural rituals into a wedding ceremony connects the past with the future. While there are many different traditions to choose from, one in particular has significant meaning for African American heritage: Jumping the Broom. It is a noun, identifying the practice. In addition, it has also taken on meaning as a phrase signifying marriage. For instance, We’re going to jump the broom! This is similar to, We’re going to tie the knot!


The jumping the broom lore varies. Some suggest it is a ritual from the British Isles, others say it is from Ghana.  Similarly, some stories speak to the waving the broom over the couple’s heads to shoo away the past. Others say that when the couples jumps over the broom they are crossing over into their new life, bringing the two families together. In the United States, jumping the broom was a practiced African American ceremony during slavery to both celebrate the couple’s love and legitimize their union. Marriages between enslaved people were oftentimes not recognized and considered illegal, so this was done at great risk of punishment or death.

The Ritual

Today, many Black couples honor their ancestors by performing the practice at their modern wedding ceremony. To do the ritual, the broom is placed on the ground and the couple jumps over it. Some versions have two brooms, each person jumping over one of them. Oftentimes, jumping the broom happens toward the end of the ceremony, after the traditional vows are complete.


There are many types of brooms that can be used: a store purchased broom, a decorative one, or homemade. You can even have a broom made especially for your ceremony. While any old broom will do, customize whichever one you choose so it is special and unique to you.

  • Match your wedding theme’s colors or flowers.
  • Attach expressive ribbons or lace from a loved one’s wedding dress or veil.
  • Use particular feathers for the brush, or insert some with the bristles. For instance, the peacock feather has significance in many cultures. It symbolizes good luck, protection  and more.
  • Invite guests to contribute a matrimonial message on ribbons or paper that are affixed to the handle.
  • Have a Pride broom made, or craft your own, binding together rainbow-dyed corn straw.

Whatever you decide, the broom will both serve as the instrument for the ceremony, and it will be a treasured memento.

The Art

I spend my days supporting marriage officiants, helping them make couples’ wedding ceremonies meaningful and memorable. When I came across the vibrant painting entitled Jumping the Broom (above), I knew I needed it to adorn my office wall. The lively and apparent joy of the event captured both my desire to celebrate unions, and to recognize the historical importance of this tradition. In an email, the artist, Yolanda Terrell, shared with me how she captured the vivid colors of her great great grandfather’s stories:
My inspiration for this painting comes from my humble background of family history during slavery. My father told me that his great grandfather was married by the traditional slave marriage of jumping the broom . He had no pictures – just his wonderful memory of the story that he passed on to his children.

Know that the professional marriage officiants on findaJP.com have both the experience and expertise to guide you though your ceremony and have it reflect your vision for the very special day!

Related Links

Loretta Jay is the Managing Member of the Justice of the Peace Association (JPus). This is the membership organization for professional marriage officiants. All officiants’ profiles are searchable at findaJP.com, the place where couples can find their perfect officiant. The photo to the left is Loretta in her office, with Yolanda Terrell’s painting in the background. 

One Comment

  1. Jennifer Marshall-Nealy

    In my family, the couple who jumps the broom will have a ribbon with their name and the date of their union; this couple keeps the broom, displaying it over a door or on the wall. The next family member uses the same broom and a ribbon with their names are added. The broom passes from family member to family member when the next couple marries.

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