There are many customs and superstitions associated with weddings. In the past a wedding was seen as a time when people were particularly susceptible to bad luck and evil spirits. Many originated or are modifications of customs which began many centuries ago.
They are maintained in the belief that they will bring good luck and happiness to the couple at a time when their lives are changing, hopefully for the better.
SOMETHING OLD, SOMETHING NEW ...
Something old, something new
Something borrowed, something blue
And a silver sixpence in your shoe
The rhyme originated in Victorian times although some of customs referred in it are much older.
The ‘something old’ represents the couple’s friends who will hopefully remain close during the marriage. Traditionally this was an old garter which was given to the bride by a happily married woman in the hope that her happiness in marriage would be passed on to the new bride.
‘Something new’ symbolises the newlyweds' happy and prosperous future.
The ‘something borrowed’ is often lent by the bride's family and is an item much valued by the family. The bride must return the item to ensure good luck.
The custom of the bride wearing ‘something blue’ originated in ancient Israel where the bride wore a blue ribbon in her hair to represent fidelity.
The placing of a silver sixpence in the bride's shoe was to ensure wealth in the couples married life. Today some brides substitute a penny in their shoe during the ceremony as silver sixpences are less common.
THE WEDDING DRESS
It is thought unlucky for the bride to make her own wedding dress.
It is also unlucky for the groom to see the bride in her wedding dress before until she arrives at the ceremony.
WEDDING DRESS COLOUR
Most brides today marry in white which symbolises maidenhood. This tradition started by the rich in sixteenth century. The tradition was given a boost by Queen Victoria who chose to marry in white instead of silver which was the traditional colour of Royal brides. Before the white dress brides wore their best dress. The colour was a matter of preference.
Traditionally, brides have been thought to be particularly vulnerable to evil spirits and many of the customs and traditions associated with weddings are to provide protection. The veil was originally worn by Roman brides. It was thought that it would disguise the bride and therefore outwit malevolent spirits.
ON THE WAY TO THE WEDDING
When the bride is ready to leave the house for the wedding ceremony a last look in the mirror will bring her good luck. However returning to the mirror once she has began her journey will result in bad luck.
Good luck omens when seen on the way to the ceremony include lambs, toads, spiders, black cats and rainbows.
In some cultures rain on the wedding day is considered a good omen.
THE WEDDING CAKE
Cutting the wedding cake is now part of the ritual celebrations at the reception. The couple make the first cut together to symbolise their shared future.
It is said that unmarried guests who place a piece of wedding cake under their pillow before sleeping will increase there prospects of finding a partner and bridesmaids who do likewise will dream of their future husbands.
Confetti is Italian for sweets which in Italy are thrown over the couple as they emerge from the Church in that same way we use paper confetti. Raisins and nuts may also be used.
Before the use of paper confetti the married couple were showered with flowers, petals, rice or grains. This was to bestow prosperity and fertility on the couple.
After the reception the bride throws her bouquet back over her shoulder where the unmarried female guests group together. Tradition holds that the one who catches the bouquet will be the next one of those present to marry.
A parallel custom is for the groom to remove the garter worn by the bride and throw it back over his shoulder toward the unmarried male guests. Again the one who catches it will be the next to marry.
CROSSING THE THRESHOLD
It is traditional for the groom to carry the bride over the threshold when they enter their new home for the first time. The reason for this is uncertain. One explanation is that the bride will be visited by bad luck if she falls when entering. An alternative is that the bride will be unlucky if she steps into the new home with the left foot first. The bride can avoid both mishaps by being carried.
THE BEST MAN
It is the best man's duty to protect the groom from bad luck. He must ensure that once the groom has began his journey to the church he does not return for any reason.
The term ‘honeymoon’ is though to originate from the times when a man captured his bride. The couple would hide from the bride's parents before marrying. The couple would remain in hiding for a further cycle of the moon after the wedding. During this period they drank honey wine.