Jumping the broom

by Jennifer Cram (17/08/2019)  |  Categories:  | Wedding Ceremony | Wedding Rituals |
Straw broom with red
                    handleThe other day I was in my local supermarket in the cleaning aisle, looking for an outdoor broom to tackle the leaves that this August windy weather (always windy in August in Brisbane) keeps blowing into the corners of my front steps. And there it was. Vileda has brought out a new straw broom with a short red handle. Turns out the handle is extendable, but that's irrelevant when you want a broom to jump at the end of a wedding ceremony, and then hang on the wall in your house ever after. A short handle, already painted, on a nice flat straw broom makes it perfect for that purpose, and oh so easy to decorate. Another option is a Vietnamese soft fan broom. They're available at virtually every Asian grocery store and, being flat, also display well on a wall.

Jumping the Broom is a joyful transition ritual. The broom is a powerful symbol of a home, and jumping over it symbolic of a shared willingness to move forward into sharing all aspects of life. Hand-in-hand the marrying couple move into married life by jumping over a decorated broom at the beginning of their walk back up the aisle.

In modern times jumping the broom is often viewed as a purely African-American custom which has come down from a time when slaves were forbidden to marry in certain southern states, and therefore using a benign domestic object was a relatively safe way to express lifelong commitment because it was unlikely to arouse suspicion in the minds of slave owners. In the years immediately after the abolition of slavery the practice all but disappeared, but Alex Haley’s novel Roots, and the movie based on the novel, inspired a revival in the latter years of the 20th century.

Jumping the Broom - Same Sex ceremony
                    officiated by Jennifer Cram Brisbane Marriage
                    CelebrantAlso in the 20th century, before marriage equality, it became a popular ritual in same sex commitment ceremonies.

However, jumping the broom at the conclusion of a marriage ceremony has been practiced in  many cultures for a very long time. It is one of the oldest marriage traditions from the British Isles and Welsh, Scottish, Roma (Gypsy), and Wiccan marriage ceremonies included some form of broom-jumping to symbolise transition into married life, for fertility and to signify their joint acceptance of the ordinary tasks of everyday domestic life. And, because it is made of straw, a broom is linked with wheat, a potent wedding fertility symbol.

Whatever your cultural heritage, the tradition of jumping the broom has been passed down orally, so there is no ‘authorised’ way of staging it. You can have your celebrant signal your intention and preface the ritual with some well-chosen words of explanation. You can include a symbolic sweeping of obstacles out of your path. You can build the excitement with music or drumming. Or you can just have someone lay the broom down in front of you, jump it and continue straight into the recessional without explanation or fanfare.

In some variations, the groom sets the broom down facing towards the north, the couple jump the broom, and then the bride turns the broom around to face the south, and they both jump it again.

Most couples decorate the broom in some way, using ribbons and/or flowers. Choosing flowers for their symbolic significance, such as roses for love and ivy for fidelity and friendship, can add to the symbolism.

I also like to involve the guests in adding to the decorations. One lovely way to do this is to provide short lengths of coloured ribbon and, as they arrive at the ceremony,  invite guests to tie a ribbon to the handle . You might like to provide pens (choose speciality fabric pens or the good old permanent laundry pen, because neither will bleed into the fabric) so they can sign their ribbon.

You'll need to appoint someone to manage that, and also to ceremoniously carry the broom down the aisle and place it at your feet when you are ready to jump.

I like to suggest that the couple joins hands, and then together they jump the broom (both feet in the air), take another step then turn to one another and kiss again before proceeding back up the aisle.

I deal with the history of Jumping the Broom in more detail, and provide examples of how the ritual can be introduced and explained in a ceremony in my book Fantastic Wedding Finales.

And BTW, there is a Rockabilly song Let's Jump the Broomstick!

Jenny xxx Let's talk soon about how you can
                    have the best ceremony ever