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Wedding Planning > African American Weddings
African American Weddings: Libations

Answers to your most important bridal planning questions on African American Weddings
Its our step by step guide to making a wedding speech.  No matter the style, we've got an example or answer for you

The following information is articles, questions, and answers that have been submitted by ForeverWed readers.  Should these not answer your questions. Feel free to ask an expert.


Excerpt from The Nubian Wedding Book: Words and Rituals to Celebrate and Plan an African-American Wedding
Ingrid Sturgis

A libation quite simply is prayer used in traditional African life. Unlike Western prayers, where the eyes are closed, libations are done with eyes open to see what God has brought. Performed at significant events, such as a birth of a child, a harvest or a wedding, libation comes from the same cultural wellspring that gave us communion. As a sacred communal ritual, it helps to bind families and communities with everything that lives and everything that ever lived. It is also an act of remembrance to keep families linked to their familial legacy and to prevent them from becoming isolated and adrift in society. Like the wine in a communion, liquids are often used in libation; some will include water, as a symbol of the continuity of life, and some may use palm wine or oil, a household staple in Nigeria. Others many use coconut milk, a liquid that many consider a symbol of the mysteries in life. Other communities may use beer, gin, schnapps, or other alcoholic beverages as a symbol of the ancestral spirits.

There is a hierarchy to pouring libations that is strictly followed in African societies. The libation closely follows the family lineage and in many cases, it is a recitation of a couple’s links to each family member, living, dead and unborn. Libations can be simple expressions of good wishes, or complicated choreopoems with refrains of call and response. In African society, every adult is expected to be able to call up the appropriate words at appropriate moments. It may be performed by the eldest family member or by a respected family member or friend. Instruments such as bells, drums, or horns may accompany the officiant. Repetition helps to reinforce sentiments and the mood. This wish is typical: "May the spirits on high, as well as the spirits below, fill you with grace."

A libation can be one of the most dramatic parts of a wedding celebration. It may be done at the ceremony and again at the reception. It is meaningful and colorful, and offers a moment to pause and reflect on the importance of family. It is an important act of remembrance that helps young people to reclaim their family heritage. Because it is prayer, it can evoke powerful emotions and feelings of good wishes. It also offers a way to highlight both families’ ties to one another. The libation can be a way of elevating the event and involving guests and family members in a personal way. And for anyone who has lost a parent or other family member, it can be a moment of emotional reconciliation and celebration.

A libation, like a prayer, starts with an invocation to invite everyone to participate. It is followed by an introduction where ancestors, elders and family members may be named. The supplication asks God for good wishes. The conclusion ends the libation by thanking everyone for participating. It also sends the spirits home.

This libation details the importance of immortality. We call upon our own name seven times so one day we may be immortalized in the memory of our children as our ancestors are now. We invite God to look down upon his children as they gather for a day of honor, rejoicing, and remembrance. We ask for your blessing of power and unity. We honor our ancestors and ask that those who have a foot in both worlds carry our blessing to God so that he may hear our entreaties. We lift our voices to all whose bravery, blessings, perseverance, and deeds served to uplift and strengthen these families. We lift our voices to unite these two families. We lift our voices to banish ill will. We lift our voices to bring peace. And when the celebration draws to a close, we wish everyone to leave more blessed than when they came.












































e information contained here are questions that have been previously answered by our consultants, our readers have generously allowed us to post their questions to help future readers.  ForeverWed does not post questions/answers without the permission of the authors first.  All names have been changed to protect our readers. 

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