Nearly 20 couples renewed their wedding vows at Allen African Methodist Episcopal Church in celebration of National Black Marriage Day

Nearly 20 couples walked down the aisle, exchanged vows and jumped the broom at Allen African Methodist Episcopal Church on Sunday in Tacoma’s Hilltop, but it wasn’t for the first time.

The couples, whose marriages ranged from 8 months to 60 years, came to renew their vows at Tacoma’s oldest black church. The ceremony, presided over by the Rev. Anthony Steele, celebrated the importance of healthy marriages to families and communities.

The free vow renewal came in recognition of National Black Marriage Day, and the church said earlier this week it would also marry couples for free Sunday.

“The congregation is important to the wedding. It’s important because the people who have come to this altar, they’re not just depending on each other — they’re depending on you to support their marriage,” Steele told parishioners. “When families are going through hard times, sometimes marriages can be patched and fixed, but they get so much noise from the outside. … We need stronger marriages in our country.

“Stronger marriages bring about strong households.”

As the church band played the Carpenters’ “We’ve Only Just Begun,” the married couples linked arms and beamed as they strolled down the aisle one at a time, some in color-coordinated suits and dresses. There were some tears and sniffles in the pews as family members and friends squeezed in, cellphone cameras held aloft.

Steele joked with the couples, pointing out some by name and explaining why they’re a good match. One parishioner, in particular, loves to shop, he joked.

“But that’s all right, the Lord blessed her with the right guy.”

When it was time for those familiar wedding vows, each clasped their partner’s hands, spoke them and kissed. Steele and his wife, Theresa, were among the couples reaffirming their commitment to each other after 18 years of marriage.

As they lined up to leave the church, each couple — even those now using walkers and canes — jumped the broom, a…

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