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Wedding Traditions: Something Old, Something New…

something old, something new

Woe betide the bride who does not religiously follow the usual wedding traditions. It may break the poor groom’s back… but he still has to to the carry the bride over the threshold, for fear of bad luck. Most couples follow the wedding traditions but don’t know the significance or origins of them. Read on to discover the true meaning of ‘something old, something new’ and other things brides still believe in.

Something Old, Something New

The full wording of this popular bridal rhyme is, ‘something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue and a silver sixpence in your shoe.’ This saying dates all the way back to Victorian times.

‘Something old’ refers to the bride wearing an item that represents a link with the bride’s family and her single life. The bride may chose to wear a piece of family jewellery, or perhaps her mother’s or grandmother’s wedding dress, style permitting. The ‘something new’ part to the rhyme represents good fortune and success in the bride’s new married life. The bride’s wedding dress is usually the ‘something new’, but it can be any other new item of the bride’s wedding attire.

Brides wear something borrowed, which has already been worn by a happy bride on her wedding day. This is meant to bring good luck and longevity to the marriage. Brides traditionally will borrow an item of bridal clothing, a handkerchief, or a piece of jewellery. Hair decorations are also very popular.

Wearing something blue dates back to biblical times, when the color blue represented the virtues of purity and fidelity. Over the years this has evolved from wearing blue clothing to wearing a blue band around the bottom of the bride’s dress. Nowadays, brides wear blue-trimmed garters, or sometimes blue toenail polish.

The part of the rhyme that many may not be familiar with is the ‘sixpence in your shoe’. Placing a silver sixpence in the bride’s left shoe is a symbol of wealth. This does not symbolize material wealth only, but also a wealth of happiness and joy throughout her married life.

The Veil Tale

The stories about the veil-wearing seem to always relate to some harm coming to the bride. Go figure! One origin story talks about grooms throwing blankets over the bride’s head to capture and kidnap her (with intention to marry, presumably). Another origin story talks about arranged marriages, and how grooms weren’t supposed to see their brides until the wedding day (and presumably, he couldn’t run away once the vows were said).

Nowadays, you see echoes of this at ceremonies where the bride keeps the veil over her face until the minister pronounces the couple ‘husband and wife’.

Carrying the Bride over the Threshold

There are two ideas on where this tradition emerged from. Traditionally, the groom carries his bride over the threshold when entering their home as a married couple for the first time. The first idea says it’s to protect the bride from evil spirits lurking under the threshold. The second explanation relates to ancient Roman beliefs. If the bride stumbled when entering the newlywed’s home for the first time, it brought bad luck and harm to their marriage. So carrying the bride across the threshold would prevent this from happening. We haven’t established the outcome to the marriage if the groom stumbled while carrying the bride!

Proposals During Leap Year

The right of every woman to propose on 29th February each leap year goes back many hundreds of years. Back then, the English law didn’t recognise leap year day (the day was ‘leapt over’ and ignored, hence the term ‘leap year’). As the day had no legal status, traditions also had no bearing on that day. Women who didn’t want to be ‘left on the shelf’ took advantage of this and proposed to the man they wished to marry.

Throwing the Confetti

The origin of throwing confetti over newlyweds originates from the ancient Pagan rite of showering the happy couple with grain to wish them a ‘fruitful’ union. Pagans believed that the fertility of the seeds would be transferred to the couple as they fell. The throwing of rice symbolizes the same thing. Despite the longevity of this tradition, it is on the verge of extinction. Most register offices and churches no longer permit it (all that cleaning up…). Bird-seed is a common substitute. We’ve also seen some creative alternatives, like soap bubbles and pom-poms.

Lets hope an Irish tradition of using WOL to plan your wedding will become as common as ‘something old, something new’. Cheeky plug, eh?

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Former editor, current contributor, (she just can't let go!) Karen enjoys writing fashion but is known to dabble in decor from time to time. Her favourite section on the site is the Real Wedding section, followed closely by the Health & Fitness forums.

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