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African American Wedding Traditions

Many African Americans choose to include their heritage in their special day. There are countless ways to honor your ancestors during your wedding ceremony and reception. You may also choose to add ethnic touches to the bridal shower and wedding party gifts. Wedding customs and rituals vary from region to region in Africa. Yet there are some customs that have a common thread in African values, views, and experiences which provide uniformity. In general, African marriages celebrate the uniting of two families. Introducing aspects of your culture during the wedding ceremony and/or reception is a way of celebrating your heritage and ancestry.

Tying the Knot

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

Libation Ceremony

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

Jumping the broom

This is a well-known tradition 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. See our selection of Wedding Brooms.

Kola Nuts

The Kola nut is most often used for medicinal purposes in Africa. It is also essential in most African weddings. 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.

Wedding 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. See our Adinkra collection.

Adinkra Symbols
AKOMA GYE NYAME ME WARE WO OSRAM NE NSOROMMA

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. Shop our Adinkra Collection.

Cowrie Shells

Cowrie shells, indigenous to West Africa represent fertility and prosperity. Cowrie shells are a significant favorite used in bridal attire. Use of the shell design in favors, food serving, cakes and decoration or table centerpieces express the tradition.

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