Updated: Aug 31
So, we all know the rhyme:
And a silver sixpence in your shoe
and that we should include each of these things on our wedding day for good luck, but where did these traditions come from?
The oldest written reference seems to come from an article in an issue of St James’ Magazine, in 1871, called “Marriage Superstitions and the Miseries of a Bride Elect”, where the author complains about the tradition!
Nowadays, most of us include at least the first four items, and you can guarantee that you’ll be asked “what’s your something old…” etc. as soon as you start to plan your big day.
Originally, this was to do with warding off the Evil Eye and protecting the couple’s fertility.
Nowadays, it represents continuity, and the bride’s links with her past and her family. It can be anything that has ties to her past, and is often a piece of jewellery or, sometimes, a scrap of fabric from a piece of clothing with particular sentimental value is sewn into the wedding dress, or used in the veil.
Although I didn’t wear a veil at my own wedding, I used some of the lace from my mother’s veil on my dress. It was just a small piece, cut into the shape of a heart, and which no-one else really noticed, but my mother and I both knew it was there!
This is very straightforward, and represents optimism for the couple’s long and happy future together.
Usually, this is the bride’s dress, but there are so many other things which could also be the “something new” - such as the wedding rings, the shoes, the veil, cufflinks, jewellery - that this one is easily ticked off!
Again, this was originally to do with fertility, and the best “something borrowed” was thought to be the underwear of a friend, or family member, who already had children.
Thankfully, we now just borrow something from a happily-married family member to bring good luck, and the hope that some of their good fortune rubs off on the newlyweds.
Again, this can be pretty much anything and, again, is often a piece of jewellery. Royal brides famously borrow their wedding tiara from the Queen’s collection (which, of course, also counts as “something old”). Meghan Markle, for example, borrowed Queen Mary’s Diamond Bandeau for her wedding to Prince Harry.
The colour blue represents love, purity and fidelity, which is thought to come from its association with the Virgin Mary.
Many brides choose to wear a blue garter, but there are many other ways the colour could be included. Perhaps you could include blue flowers, or wear blue jewellery, shoes, or nail polish - or, perhaps, a blue wedding dress! (See previous blog post - Why Do We Wear A White Wedding Dress?)
Grooms could wear blue suits, cufflinks, ties, socks, shoes or underwear…
To use Meghan Markle again, she had a small piece of blue fabric secretly sewn into her wedding dress as her “something blue”, and the material came from the dress she had worn on her first date with Prince Harry - so romantic!
And a Silver Sixpence in Your Shoe
People often forget about this line, nowadays, but it represents prosperity for the new couple.
As we don’t have sixpences anymore, any small, silver coin would be fine, and perhaps you could use one from the year you met, or the year you were born.
You could tape one to your shoe but, nowadays, they are just as likely to be sewn into the dress, or carried in the groom’s pocket, or even sewn into the lining of his suit.
However modern we become, most couples will choose to follow at least part of this tradition; not because they are superstitious, but just because…