Jumping the Broom: 8 Historical Facts You Need to Know About This Wedding Tradition
Origins Highly Debated
The origins of broom jumping are highly debated. References to “broomstick marriages” emerged in England in the mid-to-late 18th century, always to describe a wedding ceremony of doubtful validity. The earliest use of the phrase is in the 1764 English edition of a French work: the French text described an elopement by a runaway couple hastily making un mariage sur la croix de l’épée (literally ‘marriage on the cross of the sword’), an expression the English translator freely renders as ‘performed the marriage ceremony by leaping over a broomstick.’
Some scholars speculate that cultural significance of the broom dates back to a region in West Africa that is now called Ghana. The areas occupied by the Asante ethnic group were reportedly well kept, due to the extreme use of local customized brooms. Brooms were also used in marriage ceremonies where they waved over marrying couples, serving as a way to remove evil spirits and/or sweep off past wrongs in order to start anew. Most times, at the end of the marriage ceremony, couples would jump the broom, representing a new beginning.