‘Jumping the broomstick’ is a ritual that is increasingly being used as part of a modern wedding ceremony. Unlike some other rituals which are trending this is one with a long history and cultural heritage.
There are two very different roots to this tradition. In the United States this ritual is very popular in the black community and it has its roots in the oppression and discriminatory treatment of slaves. Because slaves were viewed as property of the plantation owner they did not have legal rights of free people. This meant that a legal marriage was not open to them. As a consequence, couples who wished to commit their future together needed a way to declare that decision. The practice of a couple jumping together over a broomstick came to be recognised as a de facto marriage.
It is uncertain why a broomstick was the chosen symbol but one possibility could have been a knowledge of a Welsh tradition of jumping the broomstick. In Wales the concept of living together was well established and cemented with a ritual of jumping over a broomstick placed at the threshold of the house. By jumping the broomstick, the couple were agreeing to live as man and wife for a year and a day, a trial marriage. Jumping back over the broomstick could also dissolve the agreement. The expression ‘living above the brush’ became a common expression to describe a couple who lived together but were not legally married.
In a modern ceremony jumping the broomstick provides symbolism, theatre and fun. The broomstick symbolises the home and care of it as the couple start investing in their future together. The jump over the broomstick represents the jump they take as they enter a new phase of life, leaving behind the old certainties and trusting in their love that they will build their own future together.
Theatre and drama can be invoked by the celebrant inviting the couple to jump the broomstick while it is held at knee height. A gradual lowering while checking if the couple are ready to jump at a lower height before finally placing it on the floor provides a gently humorous spectacle. A contemporary twist is also to inform the couple that the one who jumps the highest will be dominant partner! Let us also not forget the photographic and video footage can capture the drama for both Instagram and posterity.
Couples who choose this to be included in their ceremony can decorate their broomstick and keep it as a memento. This ritual is best performed at the end of the ceremony as the couple leap into their new lives together and sweep away any fetters on their happiness.