Wedding Traditions, Customs & Superstitions

Here is a collection of traditions, customs and superstitions related to weddings. Some of them are well known, others maybe not so much. Hope fully you will enjoy them as much I enjoyed researching them.

"Something old, something new..." everyone knows the saying. There is a less-well known final sentence of 'and a sixpence in her shoe.' These are the meanings behind each part. ‘Something old’ represents continuity and is often an item of jewellery or a handkerchief from a bride’s grandmother. ‘Something new’ means optimism for the future, bringing success and wealth with her new life and this item is most often the wedding dress itself. ‘Something borrowed’ links the bride to the present and brings good luck. It also symbolises borrowed happiness for the new couple as well. ‘Something blue’ represented purity, love and fidelity (dating back to Saxon times when blue represented purity) and many brides chose to wear a blue garter. ‘A sixpence in her shoe’ is a wish for good fortune and is most often given to the bride by her father. This does remain a largely British custom though.

The colour of the wedding dress is important. The classic white dress only came into fashion in Western countries after Queen Victoria wore a white gown to marry Prince Albert. However it was the primary wedding gown colour in Japan for a long time before that.  Prior to that brides wore the best dress they owned – although there were definite colours to avoid. Green in particular, as it was thought to be the fairies country, and the wearer might fall under their spell on her way to the wedding. So-called ‘loose’ women were also known as ‘green gowns’ because their dresses would have grass-stains due to rolling in meadows.  Yellow, orange and purple were also considered colours to avoid.

Red gowns have long been considered bad luck in Anglo countries, but in China, India, Vietnam and Pakistan, red is considered a lucky colour and many brides wear red gowns in these countries. Korean brides often wear hues of red and yellow to get married in.

Wedding rings are believed to date back to ancient Egyptian times, when grasses and reeds were woven into circles which symbolised eternity and completeness. These rings were worn on the fourth finger of the left hand because of a misguided belief that a vein from that finger led straight the heart. The Roman’s called this vein “vena amoris” or vein of love.

Diamonds set in gold or silver became popular as betrothal rings among wealthy Venetians toward the end of the fifteenth century.

Aquamarine represents marital harmony and is said to ensure a long, happy marriage.

A pearl engagement ring is said to be bad luck because its shape echoes that of a tear.

English folklore suggests that seeing a spider on her dress on her wedding day will bring good luck to the bride. Yikes! Seeing a blind man, a black cat, a pregnant woman, a member of the clergy, a chimney sweep, lambs or a doctor were also all symbols of good luck.

A bride who sees a nun or a monk on her way to the wedding is said to be cursed with a barren life and will be dependant on charity. Pigs, lizards and funerals were also signs of bad luck. The bride also shouldn’t catch a glimpse herself in a mirror once her journey to the church began, although if she saw herself in the mirror prior to the journey starting that was considered lucky.

Flowers have been symbols of fertility and to ward off evil spirits. Originally bridal bouquets consisted mainly of herbs and spices. Brides used to wear a wreath of Orange Blossoms as a crown on their veils in a Saracen custom, to symbolize chastity and purity. The evergreen leaves or the orange blossom were also thought to represent everlasting love.

Flowers possess their own meaning and display a special message. Ivy is representative of eternal fidelity and wedded bliss. Peonies are avoided in some cultures as they are thought to represent shame. Azaleas are said to symbolize temperance, roses represent love (especially red or pink), and snowdrops are a symbol of hope. Lilies symbolize majesty, but many avoid calla lilies because they are thought to be unlucky due to their association with death, although they are becoming more and more popular these days.

Anemones are a favourite wedding flower not only because they are beautiful, but because they are said to ward off diseases and ill-fortunes. If the bride and groom associate themselves with these flowers days before the wedding the are assured of good health. Likewise, using anemones in wedding décor guarantees a cheerful and harmonious celebration.

 

A combination of solely red & white flowers is also thought to be very unlucky as they are said to represent blood and bandages.

One superstition says that the bride who dreams of fairies the night before her marriage will be blessed with three children.

For good luck, Egyptian women pinch the bride on her wedding day. Ouch!


When the bride leaves the church, she should place her right foot forward first if she wishes to have a happy and healthy future.


It is lucky for the bridesmaids to throw away a pin on the wedding day, and unlucky to be stuck with one. In North-Western France it was believed that a girl who obtains the pins used to fasten the bride’s dress would have an early marriage, while other superstitions in Europe and America say that the bride should absolutely keep the pins that fastened her dress.

While we often throw rice as the bride and groom come out of the church, it was customary in some countries to throw money over the heads of the couple, as it was thought to ensure fortune. In other places the bride is sprinkled with wheat instead of rice. Both wheat and rice are considered symbols of fertility.

 

It is said that the custom of throwing rice originated in Japan. An evil spirit took the form of a bird and constantly sought to do harm at weddings. He could not enter the church, and had to wait for the bride and groom outside. The rice was thrown as the couple came out; the bird flew to gobble up the rice, and was distracted from attacking the newlyweds.

 

While we decorate the car of the bridegroom, an old Slavic custom was to pour a can of beer over the groom’s horse.

The luckiest horseshoe to give to a Bride comes from the near (left) hind foot of a grey mare. A related tradition says that it is very good luck to see a grey horse en route to the Church, even more good luck if the Bride travelled in a carriage drawn by a grey horse.

Greek brides tuck sugar cubes in to their gloves for luck.

A man on his way to propose should turn back if he sees a snake and propose at another time. Otherwise, extremely bad luck will follow.


In the Middle Ages it was considered a bad omen for the married couple to meet a cat, dog, lizard, snake or rabbit on their wedding day.

It is bad luck for the bride to enter the church before the ceremony through one door, then leave through another door.


A bride who bakes her own wedding cake invites ill fortune.

A clot of soot coming down the chimney during a wedding feast was also considered unlucky.


In Scotland it is bad luck for a dog to run between the couple on their way to be married.

The Ancient Romans used to study pigs entrails to figure out what time was most lucky to marry.


If the younger of two sisters marries first, the older sister must dance barefoot at the wedding or risk never landing a husband.


In Denmark, brides and grooms traditionally cross-dressed to confuse evil spirits.

If you are a Fijian man, you need to present your potential father-in-law with a whale’s tooth before asking for his daughter’s hand in marriage.

In a tradition known as blackening, Scottish brides and grooms are plied with alcohol and then their family and friends cover them in food trash (including rotten eggs and fish), as well as treacle, ash, feathers and flour before the wedding. The Scots believe that if a couple can withstand this, then their marriage can withstand anything.

At Norwegian weddings the bride will traditionally wear a silver-and-gold crown that has small charms hanging all around it. When she moves, the tinkling sound deflects evil spirits.


In Ireland when the bride and groom are dancing the bride must keep both feet on the floor at all times. Irish folklore states that if they don't, evil fairies will come and sweep her away.

A Welsh tradition was that when a Welshman was ready to commit to his lady-love, he carved spoons form wood and gave them to her. Decorations included keys which symbolised the key to his heart, and beads which symbolised the number of children he hoped for. The spoons themselves represented the fact that he would never allow his wife to go hungry.

Arabic, African, and Indian women tattoo themselves with henna before their wedding days. The tattoos symbolize the bride's elegance and beauty.