Wedding Traditions and Superstitions
- Setting the Date
- The wedding dress
- Something Old, Something New...
- People involved
- Crossing the Threshold
- Tin Cans Tied to the Car
In the modern world, where scientific knowledge and understanding is at an all time high, it is almost hard to believe that we still honour and have belief in the age old traditions and superstitions passed on to us throughout the generations. Not only do we stick to the ones first passed down to us, but it seams we have collected new ones from all eras and cultures along the way. Whether we are doing it consciously or just following a fashion, almost every detail which is incorporated into our weddings has originated from a superstition of some sort.
Here, we have provided some information on these traditions, where they originated from and what the meaning behind the ideas are. Starting with the proposal there is a superstition behind almost every decision you make on and around your big day. The choice of the date, clothing and flowers are all supposed to be carefully chosen to unsure a happy and rich marriage.
There are many superstitions related to the ceremony itself and the jobs of the people involved as well as the type of food served at the wedding.
Even after the ceremony has taken place, there are still traditions to be lived up to like crossing the threshold and even the gag of having tin cans tied on to the back of the car as the couple leave.
Although it is good fun to comply with many of these traditions, if we believed in and honoured every one, the planning of your big day would be an almost impossible task as there are just so many superstitions for each and every choice or action you make.
In the days when marriage proposal was a formal and important part of the acceptance of the groom into the bride’s family, its no surprise to find that things were very different to today’s more personal and romantic gestures.
In the past, certain members of the prospective groom’s friends and family were the ones who presented the prospective bride and her family with the proposal.
There were a number of good and bag omens that they may have seen along the way which would signify weather the marriage was going to be doomed or full of good fortune.
- Nanny Goats
- Blind men
- Pregnant women
In Brittany in the medieval times, the man would propose by leaving a hawthorn branch on the doorstep of the lady he wished to marry. If she accepted his proposal, she would leave the branch at the door, but if she wanted to refuse, she had to replace it with a cauliflower.
Setting the Date
Today, when people chose a date, they choose one of convenience which is why many people choose to have their wedding on a Saturday, and usually in the summer months as it is much better weather, especially as more and more people are choosing to marry somewhere other than a church, like in gardens or a beach. Choosing the week day and even the month was supposed to have an impact on the success of you wedding according to some rhymes passed down.
- Monday is for wealth
- Tuesday is for health
- Wednesday is the best day of all
- Thursday is for loses
- Friday is for crosses
- Saturday is for no luck at all
- Marry when the year is new, he’ll be loving, kind and true.
- When February birds do mate, you will wed or dread your fate.
- If you wed when March winds blow, joy and sorrow you’ll both know.
- Marry in April when you can, joy for the maiden and her man.
- Marry when June’s roses grow, over land and sea you’ll go.
- Those who are in July do wed, must labour for their daily bread.
- Whoever wed in August be, many a change is sure to see.
- Marry in September’s shine, your living will be rich and fine.
- If in October you do marry, love will come but riches tarry.
- If you wed in bleak November, Only joys will come remember.
- When December snows fall fast, marry and true love will last.
May is an unlucky month to wed in as it was the month that the Romans had the feast of the dead festival. Queen Victoria actually banned her children from marrying in May.
Lent was also thought an inappropriate time for marriage as it was a time of abstinence.
Whereas June was thought to be a lucky month to marry as it was named after Juno, the Roman goddess of love and marriage.
The Wedding Dress
It is thought to be very unlucky for the bride to make her own wedding dress, and she should not wear the whole outfit until the wedding day, some leave a stitch out until it is time to leave for the ceremony.
The reason for wearing a veil on your wedding day originates from the belief that brides are particularly venerable to evil spirits on their big day, the veil is supposed to disguise the bride and therefore outwit malevolent spirits. Bridesmaid’s dresses are also used for the same purpose; they should match the wedding dress so as to confuse evil spirits.
Something Old, Something New...
Something old, something new
Something borrowed, something blue
And a silver sixpence in your shoe
Although this rhyme originates from Victorian times, it is thought that some of the customs involved are much older.
- Something Old
This represents friends and family who will remain close during the marriage. An old garter was traditionally given to the bride by a happily married woman in the hope that her good fortune and happiness will be passed onto the bride to be.
- Something New
This symbolises a happy and prosperous marriage and future life together.
- Something Borrowed
This is often lent to the bride by a family member and would be a much valued item. It must be returned after the wedding to ensure good luck.
- Something Blue
The tradition of wearing something blue on your wedding day originates from ancient Israel when a bride used to wear a blue ribbon in her hair to represent fertility.
- Silver Sixpence
A silver sixpence used to be placed in the brides shoe to ensure wealth in the couples married life. Nowadays the sixpence is often replaced with a penny as they are much easier to come by.
In the days gone by, Choosing the flowers for your wedding had much more meaning than it does today when they are chosen for their appearance as much as anything else.
Some flowers are believed to have symbolic meaning:
- Orange blossom signifies purity and chastity
- Peonies are avoided as they represent shame
- Azaleas represent temperance
- Roses symbolise love
- Snowdrops signify hope.
The flower chosen for the groom to wear in his buttonhole must be one that also occurs in the bridal bouquet. This is from the days when a knight would wear his lady’s colours to signify his love for her
Throwing the bouquet is a well known tradition and it is said that the woman who catches it will be the next to marry. There is in fact a parallel custom for the groom who involved removing and throwing his new wife’s garter. The man that catches the garter is also the next to marry.
When getting ready to leave for her wedding ceremony, she is allowed to look in the mirror only once and she will have good luck, but if she then returns to the mirror once she has began her journey, she will bring bad luck upon herself.
There are several good and bad luck omens relating to the journey to the ceremony:
Good luck omens
- Chimney sweep
- Black cats
Bad luck omens
- The sound of a crowing cockerel
Only after the ceremony should the woman practice signing her new name, if she does so before she is said to bring bad luck by tempting fate.
It was also thought unlucky to marry a man whose surname began with the same letter as your own.
The bridesmaids were used as a decoy for evil spirits, they are dressed the same to confuse spirits and protect the bride.
The best mans duty is to protect the groom from any bad luck. He must arrange for the groom to carry a lucky mascot in his pocket on the wedding day and he must make sure that, once he has begun his journey to the wedding, he does not return for any reason. The best man also has to pay the minister an add amount of money as his fee for conducting the wedding.
In Roman times, a marriage was not legally binding until the couple had shared bread together.
Cutting the wedding cake is a ritual part of the celebrations nowadays and the first cut they make together is to symbolise their shared future.
It is said that unmarried guests who place a piece of the wedding cake under their pillow while sleeping will significantly increase their chances of finding their future partners and will even dream of them.
The top tier of the cake is supposed to be kept by the couple to be used at the Christening of their first child.
Crossing the Threshold
After the wedding ceremony, the bride must enter their new home via the main entrance, and it is traditional for the groom to carry the bride over when they enter for the first time as man and wife.
One explanation Originates from Anglo Saxon times when a man would literally steal his bride and carry her away.
Another explanation is that he does this to protect the bride from evil spirits that may be lurking inside.
Tin Cans Tied to the Car
Tying tin cans to the back of the wedding car as the couple leave is always a good bit of fun but originally boots were used and these represented a tradition where the father of the bride gives one of her slippers to the groom. This was his way of giving his daughter to the groom and also giving him permission to beat her if she displeased him.
Obviously this is very different to the attitude of fathers today.
The slipper would have been hung on the bedpost as a reminder to show he was the dominant one.
This dominance can transfer to the woman by their neighbours: these women would then be called the ‘old boot’, which is where the name originated from.
There is another tradition that the first one to make a purchase after they are married is the dominant one in the partnership. Sometimes the bride will arrange to buy something small from her bridesmaid at the wedding to ensure she gets the ‘slipper’.