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African-American Weddings Are A Celebration of Life
by: Michael Kabel

Though on the surface a wedding in the African-American community might look much like a wedding anywhere else in America, the subtle distinctions give the event its own unique flavor.

The basic ceremony is a traditional Christian event.

The African-American wedding takes many of its design cues and the shape of its ceremony and reception from traditional Christian weddings. This includes the length and format of the ceremony and the formal attire of the wedding party. Most ceremonies are held in a church, and the pastor gives a sermon about the importance of marriage to the welfare of the community and to the individual.

In fact many modern weddings are deeply religious events, with intense prayer sessions and music focused on celebrating the special holy aspect of the new marriage. Music and singing plays a huge part, with gospel choirs or other inspirational singers often performing.

The wedding party's style is front and center.

The wedding party members, especially the groomsmen, are usually very close friends and relatives of the bride and groom. The groomsmen sometimes color-coordinate or collaborate on the trimming of their tuxedoes, adding color or patterns to the ties and cummerbunds and wearing flowers in their lapels. Bridesmaids all wear the same color gown and sometimes have their own floral arrangement to hold. Ring bearers and flower girls are often dressed in the same attire as the wedding party.

In some cases, the bridal party will wear gowns and clothing cut to resemble traditional African robes and dresses. These designs are sometimes made using the traditional African kente cloth, colored green, black, and gold. Kente was the cloth of royalty among the Ashanti people of Africa; its modern use signifies a deeply important event.

The reception is a sophisticated affair full of good times.

If the African American wedding ceremony is focused on the spiritual side of the new union, the reception is definitely the time to let loose and have a good time. Receptions sometimes last three or four hours, and include a huge wedding feast and plenty of music and dancing. The design scheme is traditionally very classic, incorporating lots of whites and linens into the table and window decorations inside the reception venue.

The music played at the wedding reception includes a range of songs from many different eras, including popular favorites and classic songs for the older guests to enjoy. There are also frequent "organized" songs that everyone can dance to together.

Many brides and wedding planners choose to give a unique wedding favor that's also useful in everyday life. To keep with the traditional wedding aesthetic, favors are often silver chrome or metallic.

Jumping over the broom.

Modern African-American couples still practice the good-luck ritual of jumping over a broom, usually during the reception. Its tradition dates back to Antebellum America, when slaves were often prohibited from marrying. Jumping over the broom together was a way to commemorate their union.

Other legends believe the act of jumping over a broom was meant to "sweep" evil spirits from outside the new "house." Whoever jumps highest (presumably the man) will be the decision maker in the house.