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Tasting the Four Elements - An African Inspired Wedding Tradition

Published Thursday, Sep. 2nd, 2021

Illustrations by Jessica Levey

Wedding customs reflect the heart, soul, and values of a region, which is part of why we love them so much. (We also just love a good time, while wearing great clothes!) 

The Yoruba ‘Tasting the Four Elements’ unity ritual is no exception, with its celebration of the deep and evolving emotions of a long term, loving marriage. 


During the ceremony, the couple tastes four items that each have a characteristic flavor -- spicy, sour, bitter, and sweet. These flavors symbolize the emotions a couple can expect to feel in their relationship as they navigate married life together. 



Popular flavors and foods for this ceremony include:


  • Cayenne, jalapeno, ginger, or an African chili pepper for spice
  • Grapefruit, lemon, lime, kimchi, or vinegar for sour 
  • Green tea, radicchio, cacao, mustard greens, or chicory for bitter
  • Honey, peaches, pears, or dates for sweet


Illustration of a young couple smiling, holding bowls with chili peppers and lime in them during their African Tasting the Elements Wedding Ceremony


This unique tradition originates within the Yoruba culture of southwestern Nigeria, Benin, and Togo (Yorubaland), in West Africa, and shows an appreciation for family, honesty, spiritual and emotional connection, commitment, nature, and the natural world. 


The Tasting the Elements custom is still widely celebrated at wedding ceremonies within Black, African American, Nigerian, and Afro-Cuban communities, and it continues to grow in popularity with all couples because of its simplicity, creativity, and symbolism. 


It’s a popular choice for non religious and nondenominational couples, and it’s embrace of natural elements and their connection to human experience make it a perfect choice for pantheistic, Pagan, and Santería (which blends the traditional Yoruba religion with Catholicism) inspired marriage ceremonies, too. 

So if your taste in weddings is unique and offbeat with a dash of tradition, include the Tasting the Four Elements unity ritual in your ceremony plan! 





Want to learn more about wedding traditions from around the world? Are you interested in incorporating stories and culture into your ceremony? 


Order Lucky in Love


Illustration from Lucky in Love shows a couple breaking a glass with their feet, next to the image is a photo of the book's cover, red with gold lettering



Covering traditions, rituals, and superstitions from places and cultures all over the world, Lucky in Love is all about bringing the magic to your wedding.


This great gift book is a cross-cultural collection of marriage folklore that will help you create your own lucky traditions with nods to each other’s heritage, customs from places you’ve visited together, and auspicious rituals that just feel special. 





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Jessica Levey
Jessica Levey

Lead Staff Writer & Illustrator

Jessica loves exploring the history and magic of ritual, the connections between people and places, and sharing true stories about love and commitment. She's an advocate for marriage equality, LGBTQ+ rights, and individuality, and is an ordained Minister with AMM. When she’s not writing or illustrating for AMM, she enjoys city hikes, fantasy novels, comics, and traveling.

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