Congratulations on your upcoming wedding! As wedding photographers, we get to meet and work with so many amazing wedding couples. This is one thing we love most about our jobs. We each have our own heritages and cultures. So seeing our own traditions carried out at a wedding, or learning about practices different than our own, is particularly exciting. For example, we love to photograph African American weddings because they are deeply rooted in tradition, and full of loving families.
African American Wedding Traditions
Many African wedding couples choose to incorporate customs that have specific meaning or significance. For example, there is a Libation Ceremony where the wedding couple pours alcohol on the ground. They do this to honor departed family members, as well as the elders in the family. It is a sign of respect and a tribute to those who came before.
Some African American couples incorporate the Libation Ceremony into the wedding ceremony itself. Other couples make this a standalone event. Or, they may choose not to partake in this ritual at all.
Jumping the Broom is another tradition that makes for fun and active wedding photography images. As photographers, we get right into the center of the action, so we can photograph each moment as it happens. The act of jumping over a broom is representative of taking the troubles of the past, and sweeping them away. The wedding couple jumps over the broom together, symbolizing their commitment to each other.
Often, the broom is handmade, or lovingly crafted by a family member. This tradition holds strong in modern African American weddings, as well as those from years past. Whenever this is the case, we make sure to photograph the broom when we capture detail photos of the wedding. This way, if the broom is lost or damaged during the wedding, or it ages over time, you will always have special photos from the wedding day itself.
The African American Wedding Ceremony
One particularly interesting practice during some African American wedding ceremonies is "tying the knot." Like the familiar expression, this is when the wedding couple are literally bound at the wrist by an officiant or friend. The significance is, of course, to show the lasting commitment that each person makes to the other. The binding is sometimes performed with a string of shells or a cloth, and kept in place throughout the recitation of the wedding vows.
The ceremony may also include another ritual called Tasting The Four Flavors. During this ritual, the couple tastes four elements in succession. Commonly, this is cayenne pepper (spiciness), lemon (sourness), vinegar (bitterness) and finally, honey for (sweetness). This represents the components of all marriages. It shows that there will be challenging times along with the love and happiness. The couple willingly takes on all four aspects, in equal measure. This demonstrates how ready they are to marry one another.
During The Wedding Reception
Many cultures encourage gift money to the newly married couple at the wedding ceremony. Often, there is a symbolic dance for guests to bestow money upon the couple. At African American weddings, some couples adopt the practice of the Nigerian money dance. During this practice, guests rain down cash in what is known as a "money spray." The wedding couple then dances in appreciation, and to celebrate their new fortune.
Rituals like these, that take place during the wedding reception, are entertaining for family members and guests alike. They fill the room with energy and positivity for the wedding couple. A lively dance also gets guests on their feet, where they will likely stay for a while. This means a full dance floor, with everyone in attendance having fun and enjoying themselves. And of course, an amazing San Diego wedding DJ or live band will keep the party going late into the night.
Why Expert Photographers Matter
We photograph every ethnicity and skin tone. The key to getting nice pictures is understanding lighting. As humans our skin will naturally have a range of contrast. Whether you have fair skin or darker skin, getting detail throughout the image will determine the quality of the photograph. Experience and knowledge is key.
Making Your Own African American Wedding Customs
Not all African American wedding couples choose to celebrate the traditions above. Every couple is unique and brings their own expectations and priorities to the wedding. Also, each side of the family may have customs that are unique.
Prior to the wedding, it is a great idea to talk about the traditions and customs you will be incorporating into the wedding day. Which African American wedding customs will you include? Knowing this, you will be on the same page about what the day itself holds in store, and you will be prepared. For example, if you are including several elaborate rituals, you may want to enlist the help of a wedding planner or coordinator.
Or, if the timeline is complex and full of overlapping activities, this is something you will want to discuss with your Wedding Photography San Diego team. This way, we can be prepared with ideas and recommendations, to bring the greatest success to your wedding photography.
As stated, in this day and age, couples are encouraged to not only celebrate old traditions, but to reinterpret them. Or, to come up with completely new cultural practices that have resonance to them. We are excited to learn about what you are planning for your wedding, and to providing the best advice about booking our studio!