A hilarious movie about two very different families converging on Martha's Vineyard for a wedding uses the term “Jumping the Broom” as its title.

What does it mean to “jump the broom”?

It’s an ancient custom in which the bride and groom signify their entrance into a new life by jumping over a festively decorated broom made with real straw and tied with a ribbon.

The custom actually is quite old with roots in Celtic culture. There are variations practiced by the Welsh, Celtics and Druids as well as nomadic Romani – or gypsies. The Welsh have a centuries-old custom called priodas coes ysgub, or "broomstick wedding." Local variations include placing the broom at an angle by the rear doorway of the church. The groom jumps first, followed by the bride.

Wedding planners have started inserting the custom into today’s festivities – along with the bride throwing her bouquet, the groom tossing her garter, and the guests showering the departing couple with rice – or for the more ecologically minded, birdseed or even soap bubbles.

However, there are some who cringe at the custom – since it can be a painful reminder of slavery in America. Some say broom jumping comes from an African tribal marriage ritual of placing sticks on the ground representing the couple's new home. On some plantations, blacks were prohibited from learning to read or getting married. So, in hush-hush ceremonies, lovers would commit themselves to one another in front of their friends and family by stepping over a broomstick.

The Broadway play "The Piano Lesson" by August Wilson contained a reference in Act One in which a character, Doaker, describes his family history during slavery says: "See that? That's when him and Mama Berniece got married. They called it jumping the broom. That's how you got married in them days."

The earliest mention of the custom in the Oxford English Dictionary is a quote from the Westminster magazine of 1774: "He had no inclination for a broomstick-marriage." A satirical song published in the Times of London in 1789 alludes to a questionable relationship between the Prince Regent and a commoner: “Their way to consummation was by hopping o’er a broom, sir.”

In the novel Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, chapter 48 refers to a couple having been married "over the broomstick." American singer-songwriter Brenda Lee released the rockabilly song “Let's Jump the Broomstick” on Decca Records in 1959.

In today’s ceremony, the broomstraw is said to represent family, the handle the Almighty and the ribbon the tie that binds the couple together.

Wedding brooms can be purchased from wedding supply stores, created by florists -- or perhaps an antique family broom is more in fitting with the couple’s tastes and family traditions.

“If you decide to use your own broom and decorate it yourself, be sure it coordinates with your wedding colors,” advises one wedding planner. “Fixing up your own broom can also be a great bonding activity for the bridesmaids, perhaps the night or week before the wedding.”

In some weddings, a basket full of colorful ribbon pieces is provided, allowing guests to sign and tie ribbons around the broom before the event. Then at the conclusion of the ceremony, after the kiss and presentation of the couple to their guests, one of the attendants produces the broom or an honored guest, such as a great-grandmother, brings the broom and places it in the path of the wedding couple.

They then jump over the broom to begin the recessional -- and their new life together.

To enjoy T.D. Jakes' comments on the movie "Jump the Broom" CLICK HERE!

Join the Discussion
comments powered by Disqus