Where weddings are concerned there are many associated customs and traditions. Some you may have heard of and be incorporating into your plans and some which may be of surprise to you.
Customs and superstitions such as ’something old, something new…..’ or bad luck for the groom to the see the bride in her dress before the ceremony, are well known and are still respected by many couples today. Other lesser known customs have evolved in various regions of the world or have been passed through the generations of the same family.
Customs and superstitions are an accepted part of the marriage process and are followed in the hope of bringing good luck and fortune at an important time in two peoples’ lives.
The following list looks at some of the well known and not so well known traditions associated with weddings, with a brief explanation of the meaning behind them.
The Proposal - Traditionally the proposal was a formal affair and a prospective suitor would send members of his family to ask for the hand of his intended bride. If along the way they saw a blind man, a monk or a pregnant woman these were considered bad omens and the marriage was doomed. If they saw a nanny goat, pigeons or wolves, these were good luck omens and would bring good fortune.
Surnames - It was often thought unlucky to marry a man with a surname beginning with the same letter as the bride’s. The saying was:
“To change the name and not the letter is to change for the worst and not the better”
It was also considered bad luck and tempting fate for the bride to practice her new name before the wedding.
Choosing the Day - Today it is commonplace for the wedding to take place on a Saturday, however in the past it was considered unlucky to do so. Friday was also an unlucky day, particularly if dated the 13th. The month in which you should marry was also a matter of choosing carefully. May was considered an unlucky for many reasons, particularly as May was when Pagans would celebrate the festival of Beltane with outdoor orgies. Lent was also considered inappropriate as this is a time of abstinence. June however, was lucky as the month is named after the Juno, the Roman goddess of love and marriage.
Something old, Something new…
“Something old, something new. Something borrowed, something blue. And a silver sixpence in your shoe”
This infamous rhyme originated in Victorian times although some believe it to be older. Something old represents friends who will hopefully stay close during the marriage and was symbolized by the giving of a garter to the bride by a newly married woman in the hope her happiness would be passed on.
Something new represents the couples future, hopefully happy and prosperous.
Something borrowed is often a much valued item lent by the bride’s family. This item must be returned to ensure good luck. Something blue originated in ancient Israel where the bride would wear a blue ribbon in her hair to represent fidelity.
A silver sixpence in the shoe would ensure wealth. Today brides use a penny.
The Wedding Dress and Veil - It was thought unlucky for the bride to make her own wedding dress and that she shouldn’t wear the entire outfit before the wedding day. The tradition of wearing white, which symbolizes maidenhood, was started in the 16th century.
The veil was thought to provide protection to the bride whom it was thought would be at the mercy of evil and malevolent spirits. In some countries it symbolizes modesty and chastity.
Flowers - Flowers have long been traditional at weddings but the types and colors were carefully chosen. Orange blossom symbolizes purity and chastity, whilst peonies were avoided as they represent shame. An arrangement of red and white flowers was also avoided as they represent blood and bandages. The tradition of the grooms buttonhole, made from the same flowers as the bride’s bouquet, comes from medieval times when a Knight would wear his Lady’s colors as a symbol of his love.
Crossing the Threshold – When the couple returns home for the first time after the wedding, the bride must enter through the main entrance, although it is uncertain why the groom must carry her over the threshold. One superstition says the bride will befall bad luck should she fall when entering or another says she should not enter with the left foot first. Both of these can be avoided if she is carried! Another possible explanation has it’s origins in Anglo-Saxon times when the groom would steal his bride and carry her off!