Tag Archives: wedding traditions

Jumping the Broom

MS is a 60 year old mother of five from the South. She is strongly connected to her African American heritage and has been to many weddings in her family and community where the newlyweds jumped the broom.

Context: Jumping the broom is a tradition that roots from slavery where the newlyweds would jump the broom to commence their marriage since slaves were not allowed to marry. This was collected after dinner sitting at the table.

Transcript:

Collector: From your experience, what does it mean when a couple jumps the broom?

MS: Almost all of the weddings I have been to where the jumping the broom took place have been the same. What happens is, after the bride and groom kiss at the end of the ceremony, they turn towards the witnesses and the broom is placed before them. They first kiss the tips of their fingers and touch the broom. Then they hold hands and jump the broom together.

Collector: Since black people can legally get married now, why do you think African Americans continue to jump the broom?

MS: I think they still do it in honor of their ancestors and where they come from. Many southern folk keep the tradition going since slavery was especially prominent there. It also represents togetherness and is the first presentation of the couple as a unit, so it’s important.

Thoughts/Analysis: Traditions that come from historical adaptations are especially interesting. The tradition of jumping the broom was a result of the determination of African Americans to create and officiate their own families and lives. The way that African Americans today continue the tradition speaks to their continuous connection to their heritage. Heritage is not something one can simply adopt or take place in. The participants in this performance inherited it from elders in their family and will continue to pass it on. This is also a variation of jumping the broom, I have heard of this tradition before but never heard about the newlyweds kissing their hands and touching the broom.

Wedding Garter Toss Practical Joke

KS is a 56 year old father of five who grew up in and resides in Southern Maryland. He has been married for twenty years and has been to many weddings throughout his life.

Context: KS experienced this practical joke at a wedding of a good friend of his.

Transcript:

KS: You know the reception tradition of the groom going under the brides dress to take off her garter? Before it was time for my friend to take off his wife’s garter, he hid a pair of XXL bloomers in his pants pocket. When he went to take off the garter, he came out from under her dress with the bloomers instead of the garter. Everyone had a good laugh, the bride included. He went back though and took off the actual garter.

Collector: What do you think made him make that joke?

KS: Hmm. I think he wanted to take the pressure off of taking the garter off in front of his family, especially his parents. It can be hard to do things like that in front of them; I know some people who did not even like the idea of kissing their wife in front of the older folk. It definitely helped bond the families too. A good laugh can always do that.

Analysis: The tradition of the groom taking off the bride’s garter is similar to the bride throwing the bouquet to the bridesmaids. The way the groom throws the garter to the groomsmen is parallel to the bridesmaids catching the bouquet. It is seen mostly in American weddings. Originally, a piece of the bride’s dress was taken and thrown to all the guests for good luck.

For a variation of this practical joke/good luck charm and other similar wedding traditions, see:

Reade, Scarlett. “Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something, Blue.” USC Digital Folklore Archives, May 18, 2021. http://folklore.usc.edu/something-old-something-new-something-borrowed-something-blue-2/.

Armenian Wedding Money Dance

Context: Matrimony is a special liminal, or transitional, period in a person’s life. In some cultures it marks the transition from a woman being owned by her father to owned by her husband. In some it marks the beginning of a monetary relationship between two families, like a mutual advancement in social class. Regardless, for cultures that have a tradition about the liminal event of marriage, most often the tradition is in regards to future prosperity, success, or fertility. Here, informant GG explains the Armenian wedding traditions, shedding light on similarities between them and the western traditions.

Main Text: Transcript:

GG: Armenian weddings are known to be really over the top. Parents, relatives, family- they really spare no expense in going all out with like the food, the entertainment…  One tradition is that the bride and groom, they get together… and then people will gather around and they’ll throw stacks of money into the air. It’s just like a constant stream of people… usually it’s the males of the families, and they’ll come up and they throw like a hundred bucks worth of ones in the air and it’s like flowing down. They create a circle where they throw it from all these different angles, and it’s supposed to signify wealth and abundance at the start of the marriage, and it gets intense sometimes. There’ll be like piles of cash on the floor or like little kids running around trying to grab some. Some people need… big ‘ol brooms by the end to sweep all the money up. 

HR: That’s amazing, that sounds hilarious! [Laughs] So lots of western traditions have wedding gifts. Is that like in lieu of a wedding gift, people just instead walk up and throw wads of cash at the bride and groom?

GG: They still do give gifts, but they’re not as big as in the west.

I continued to speak with GG about this tradition and found that he’d been apart of many money dances at Armenian weddings, not as the thrower or the groom but as a kid, running in and trying to snag money for himself! 

Thoughts: I think that the nature of liminal periods includes some kind of uncertainty about the future. When one makes the transition from one stage in life to another, they often turn to traditions regarding luck or guidance. The transition from single to married carries plenty of uncertainty, so the Armenian Money Dance tradition is a way of wishing the newly-weds monetary luck in the coming years. 

Ukrainian Wedding Tradition

The following is transcribed from an interview between me and interviewee, referred to as MT. 

MT: In my country, when someone wants to get married to a girl, they have to first barter for her with her neighborhood, essentially. Usually the neighborhood people ask for booze and money and then in exchange they’ll let her go and give her to him. 

Me: So do potential grooms actually end up going and meeting the neighborhood people’s demands for their brides?

MT: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, at this point it’s usually pretend, like, not serious but because it’s tradition we have to do it, you know? So usually the guy will just go and the neighborhood will play pretend like you have to give me stuff and at this point it’s just an excuse to get some booze and get excited for the wedding. Although, I have seen a neighborhood take it seriously one time and the guy had to actually go home and get money because the neighborhood wouldn’t let her go! 

Me: And why do they do the bartering before the wedding?

MT: Well, the neighborhood is losing a person so it’s like they should get something in return, you know? And it’s also a way to test and see how much the groom wants her like what she’s worth to him. 

Me: What if someone wants to marry her from the same neighborhood, though?

MT: Oh, no matter what they’ll make the guys barter for her. So even if they’re from the same neighborhood, they’ll then separate it by streets and he’ll barter with the people on her street. If they’re on the same street, he’ll have to barter with the family type of stuff. It’s just tradition. 

Background:

Interviewee, MT, is from LViv, Ukraine. His family is from a village called Rodatichi in Ukraine. He immigrated to America at age 13, but returns home for occasions. He has lived in Sherman Oaks, CA for the rest of his life thus far and has been happily married to my mom for 11 years. He has been to numerous weddings and seen this wedding tradition happen all growing up.

Context: 

This interview was conducted over lunch at our family home, so it was very casual. He has many stories about the customs of his country that he usually shares with me so it was just like any number of our usual conversations. 

Thoughts:

There are many versions of these wedding customs, but what I found interesting is that this specific tradition of bartering for the wife is unique to his region in Ukraine. Even in the Eastern part of the country, there are wildly different traditions but they all seem to center around the idea of testing the man of his dedication to the wife. I think this is interesting because in
America, we don’t have many of these traditions where a man has to truly win and earn his bride. It is also very interesting how much variation there is within this custom as far as what the neighborhood people ask for, whether or not the groom actually has to give it to them, and whether he is bartering with the whole neighborhood or just her family. 

The Wedding Singers

Main Body:

Informant: So singing at weddings was big. And I’ll describe this from my memory because I haven’t seen it anywhere else. But I remember, you’d be on the groom’s side. So everyone is sitting on the floor. Typically this would be in the courtyard of … some kind of thing like if there are a few houses it would be in the courtyard in the middle. But then, houses were usually one story high. And on the roof of the house, there would be all these girls sitting all around, on the edge of the roof. They’d be sitting in a row and they’d be singing. So whenever a particular part of the wedding ritual took place, they’d be singing a song that was relevant or appropriate. What they’d also do is, typically, they’d be picking on the groom’s family. 

Interviewer: So these are all women from the bride’s family?

Informant: Yup. And I don’t think there was any restriction on whether or not they could be married or unmarried or anything. While the ceremony is going on, they don’t wait for pauses or anything, they are just continually singing over the ceremony. And they weren’t faint or anything. I mean, they weren’t overpowering but you could very clearly hear them. 

And this is the funny part, I remember one time I was looking up. And their songs, you know, sometimes they would have pathos in them because it was a sad thing because, typically, the bride would not return home after being married off. So they would, the singers would pick on the groom’s family. Like “Oh look at his mustache” or “Oh he’s bald,” or something like that. So I looked up, I was a little kid, to see what all the singing was about. And I remember my older brother telling me, very sternly, “You’re not supposed to look up.” So you can’t acknowledge them. But at the same time, it was very clear that people would feel deprived if there wasn’t that singing.

Background:

The informant is my father who was born and raised in northern India in the state of Punjab and immigrated to America over 20 years ago. He was raised for a time in a rural village setting which is where much of our family comes from and this tradition is one he noticed being practiced in those rural, village weddings. This did not happen in his own wedding.

Context:

I am back home due to shelter-in-place. One night when my family was sitting in the study I asked my father if he had any folklore samples I could add to the archive. This was one of the ones he shared with me.

Analysis:

I think I understand where this tradition comes from. India is, by and large, an incredibly patriarchal society. Brides are married off, largely expected to stay home. Even now I see it during dinner settings there is an unspoken expectation that the women clean and bring the food to the table while the men sit and wait. So with the wedding being a somewhat sad affair for the bride’s family, losing their sister/daughter/niece to another family, this tradition is sort of a way of rebelling against that. Disrupting the ceremony, making fun of the groom’s family, ultimately all in vain as the bride will be married and leave. But it’s the bride’s family’s way of expressing their love for the bride and acting out to show, in a roundabout way, that they will miss her.