The earliest mention of this custom appears to come from the Celts in the early eighteenth century.
It seems to have started with those who lived in Wales, at the time. However, whatever its origin this custom has been adopted as a serious symbolic act, throughout, the borders of Scotland and up into the highlands.
It has a very straightforward reasoning behind it, yet, the emphasis it places on the couple are deeply felt. After the priest has announced they are man and wife the couple jump over a broom.
In actual fact, it was a special kind of broom. It was a “besom”. So, it would be more correct to say, “jumping the besom”. A besom is a kind of broom, which has a strong pole with branches and twigs tied together, on the end of it.
This ceremony can be done at a number of locations. Sometimes, at the church itself, or left until the reception.
It takes many forms. The besom or broom can be laid directly on the floor. The man takes the woman’s hand and together they bound as high as they can over it. Recently, the Best Man and Maid of Honour, hold the broom slightly off the floor. Together the bride and groom jump over it.
The theory behind it being, the higher the couple can leap, the stronger their marriage will be.
Sometimes the tradition takes place, on return from their honeymoon. At the entrance of their new house. The broom is laid at an angle across the doorway of their home, and the couple take turns in leaping over the broom.
If the bride prefers not to jump. The bridegroom can lift up his new wife and jump over the broom with her in his arms.
The broom or besom has a special focus in Celtic life. It is not only an object with which the home is kept clean. It sweeps from back to front, therefore, marking the territory of the new couple’s domain. This was a job carried out several times a day, in order, to keep the dirt floors reasonably neat. The broom, therefore, holds the distinction of safeguarding the home from intruders.
A variation of this practice was to leap over a fire, before jumping the broom. The fire held the power for destroying all bad spells, that lurked within the past. The romping over the fire, carried them the couple into a future filled with happiness and goodwill.
Both fire & broom secured their destiny, that their new lives together would start in a positive mode.