Wedding Traditions: Jumping the Broom


An Old Tradition Coming Back for a New Generation

Couple at their wedding celebration, jumping the broom

A bit of history

Jumping the Broom was used in Wales in the eighteenth century as a means of performing an irregular marriage such as an elopement or a non-church wedding. The broom, as a household tool, signified the formation of a new household with the new couple taking up domestic habitation. The broom would be placed at the doorway of the house and the couple would jump over it into their new home. Some said jokingly that whoever jumped highest became the decision-maker in the relationship.

The marriage was promised to last at least one year and a day. After that, it could easily be dissolved by jumping over the broom and out of the house.

In the United States the tradition of jumping the broom took hold among slaves, who were not legally allowed to marry, so unofficial marriages were performed by jumping the broom. The ceremony was performed in front of the community to witness and legitimize the union and it became the unofficial means of marriage in those times.

In the 1970’s the book and television miniseries Roots by Alex Haley popularized the custom of jumping the broom and today it has been adopted by many African Americans and integrated into their marriage ceremonies. They consider it a treasured tradition, honoring their heritage and paying homage to their ancestors.

Of course, not every couple will want to include this in their ceremony, but it is becoming popular among many families. Currently couples are thinking about their ancestors. Everyone is thinking of where they came from. They are thinking about their great, great grandparents and what they had to go through to be married. They in effect want to honor their relatives. They are grateful they are being married in 2024 when the restrictions of the past are no longer with us.

Picture of broom that can be jumped over at a wedding celebration ceremony

Decorating the broom

Wedding brooms are readily available on many internet sites, and many are available already decorated.

However, many brides chose to add additional decorations or to decorate their brooms entirely themselves.

There are a lot of options for decorations such as strips of silk or lace, flowers, ribbons, beads, feathers, or anything you can imagine. One idea is to include a cherished keepsake to make your broom truly personal. Perhaps have each guest write their names on a piece of decorative paper to attach to the broom to signify their well-wishes for the couple and their marriage.

Your decorated broom could become a precious family heirloom and an important piece of your family history.

How it works

The usual time to jump the broom is at the end of the traditional ceremony. Once you have made your vows and your promises to each other it is time for this part of the celebration.

The wedding official could explain to your guests what will happen and whatever else you would like them to include -perhaps a little about the meaning of the tradition or a few words about your broom and the personal touches you have included in the decorations.

You will need someone to put the broom in place. This honor could go to the best man or perhaps to some special relative among your guests or even to an official associated with the venue if you don’t want to choose among your guests.

A nice idea to involve everyone in your special day is to invite each of them to tie a ribbon around the broom as it is being positioned. This allows each guest to come to the front, to be close to you, and to share their best wishes for the two of you on this memorable occasion. This can be a very moving and very special moment with each of your guests – with your family, friends and loved ones.

And now it’s time to jump!

Close your eyes. Hold hands.

And jump into your new life together!

With your loved ones cheering you on

And wishing you the best in your new marriage.