African American Wedding Receptions

by: Michael Kabel

The African American community still proudly carries its own traditions and heritage into the wedding ceremony and its events. Though many of the celebration's features are typical of the classical American wedding, a distinct flavor runs through the ceremony and reception nevertheless – one that's in keeping with the modern Black experience.

The wedding reception is a distinctly sophisticated event, usually a formal affair that's part glamour and part rollicking party. In planning their reception, couples should allow for their own favorite styles and colors but also think about drawing a sense of legacy into their event. As they start their own family, staying true to their history will help them preserve their own identity while they ensure a longer life for their heritage.

Colors and styles are vivid and sophisticated.

The secret to a distinctly African American wedding celebration is color! Especially among the bridesmaids' dresses and reception decorations, using vivid colors to make a dazzling spectacle ranks among the latest bridal trends.

For more traditional events, brides may wish to plan their reception decorations in shimmering white, with lace and satin accents, to create a crisp, polished look that guests will understand as a sign of respect for tradition.

The reception centerpiece

Every reception needs a centerpiece! The middle of any reception needs a core to hold it down, but what that core could be remains up to the bride and her other wedding planners.

Ice sculptures are just coming up as a stylish centerpiece choice for the reception hall. For guest tables, a centerpiece could be something like a calla lily arrangement or a basket of irises. Wedding planners often sometimes arrange the guests' wedding favors into a centerpiece attraction, too.

Jumping over the broom

No one other act so distinguishes the African American wedding ceremony for any other kind of marriage celebration. Begun in the dark times of slavery, the tradition of jumping over the broom symbolically shows the couple "leaping" into married life but also sweeping unhappiness out of their lives.

The jumping of the broom is most often kept until the wedding reception, so as to preserve the sanctity of the wedding ceremony itself. Some wedding experts suggest tying ribbons around the broom handle that symbolize both the bride and the groom's families.

The actual jumping over the broom can happen anytime during the reception, including just before the married couple cut the first slice of wedding cake.

Wedding favors and their etiquette

Wedding favors are used throughout the United States but in the African American community they take on a special importance. Because guests often come at their own trouble and expense, giving guests a favor is a sign of appreciation but also gratitude.

Favors can represent the new couple's faith or their appreciation of the wedding tradition. Some couples offer their guests bookmarks and bells adorned with the cross, while other favors include miniature brooms and full-sized hand fans. The favors are almost always presented either at each guest's place setting or on a table immediately outside the reception venue.