wedding traditions and superstitions

bridal gift
wedding traditions and superstitions

The customs and traditions surrounding the wedding ceremony have evolved over the centuries.
As with all traditions which have been passed from generation to generation by word of mouth or custom there are many local and national variations, the version(s) detailed below are some of the commomly held beleifs regarding wedding traditions and superstitions.


The association of the horseshoe with the wedding ceremony is not too clear, there are ancient pre-christian supernatural powers attributed to the horseshoe, for the Greeks it symbolised the crescent moon which was regarded as a symbol of fertility. The modern association is more likely to be linked to the legend associated with the 10th century St. Dunstan who trapped the Devil and as a result extracted a promise never to enter the house of a Christian, which he would recognise by a horseshoe hung above the door.
Hence the symbolism of the "Lucky Horseshoe"; the Bride carries today is lost in the mists of time but is still a potent reminder of our culture and historic roots. Because the horseshoe is " U " shaped, to retain the the good luck forever it is essential that the horseshoe is hung by the ribbons which are attached to the shoulders. The horseshoe should not be turned upside down or else all the good luck of the marriage may fall out.
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, whilst the luckiest horseshoes came from the hind feet of a Grey Mare.


A Lucky Sweep

There are many myths and traditions associated with chimney sweeps many of reasons for which are lost in the mists of time. One reason from folklore is that when on one occassion King George II's carriage horses bolted the only person to attempt to stop them was a small sooty figure of a man, a chimney sweep. It is considered extremely good luck, if on the journey to the Church you see a chimney sweep and even greater good luck if you saw the sweeps brush emerging out of the top of the chimney. So to this day to see a chimney sweep and receive the Kiss of Luck after the wedding ceremony is supposed to bring good fortune to the newly married couple.
Some Bride's and Groom's to ensure their good fortune will employ a real live sweep to be present on their Wedding Day

Chim chim erny chim chim cheeri
A sweep is as lucky as lucky can be
Good luck will rub off if I shake hands with you.


Ring Cushions

Wedding rings, continuous with no beginning and no end, symbolised eternal love to the Romans and Egyptians who used precious stones as well as silver and gold and were carried on a cushion.  Hence the ring cushion (ring bearer pillow)carries the precious rings at the ceremony.   The Page boy or Chief Bridesmaid would carry the ring cushion up the aisle to the Best Man who will place the rings on the cushion ready for the minister to bless. < /br> Buying the engagement ring and the wedding rings at the same time is thought to bring bad luck and wearing the wedding ring before the ceremony can bring equally dire consequences. < /br> The diamond engagement ring is a medieval Italian tradition, based on their belief that the diamond was created from the flames of love.



Shoes were once considered to be symbols of authority and possession. The Brides Father would hand over one of the Bride's shoes to the groom effecting the transfer of his authority to her husband. He then tapped her on the head to show his new role as her master. It is obvious why this doesn't continue, but it helps to explain why we tie shoes to the back of the get-away car. Why we also tie tin cans on is, we hope, not a reflection on the future diet of the Bride and Groom.


Silver Sixpence

The sixpence, an English coin first minted in the reign of Edward VI (1551), has been associated with weddings since the reign of Elizabeth I. in those times the Lord of the Manor where the bride lived would often present a sixpence as a wedding gift.
As time passed the tradition changed and it became the custom for the bride's parent to give the coin as a dowry gift. It was not however until Victorian times that the present day custom evolved to that of giving a silver sixpence as a lucky charm to bring wealth and happiness to the married couple.
The custom says that to ensure the couples wealth and happiness the bride should put the coin in her left shoe. In some areas the custom is for the father of the bride to put the sixpence in the shoe, this is probably an amalgamation of the older dowry tradition and the more modern interpretation.
The sixpence coin that we use in our wedding favours are from the reigns of George V1 or Elizabeth 11 which have only a nominal silver content. Never the less the favour embodies the spirit of the tradition and continues this age old custom



It is considered good luck for the fully attired Bride to glance in her mirror just once before leaving for her wedding, but it is bad luck to look in the mirror after she has left the bedroom to commence her journey to the ceremony.

It is bad luck for the Groom to see the bride in her wedding gown before they are married.

It is traditional and thought of as good luck for the bride to throw her wedding bouquet backwards over her shoulder towards the guests when she leaves for the honeymoon.  The one who catches it is supposed to be the next one married.

The first of the couple to make a purchase after the marriage is said to be the domineering partner.



The Thistle is the national flower of Scotland. Ancient legend takes us back to the days of the Picts, in the reign of Malcolm I, when a horde of Danes attempted to invade Scotland. Noiselessly, under cover of darkness, they approached the slumbering camp, when suddenly one of the soldiers trod with his naked foot upon a thistle. as did many of their number . Their anguished cries roused the slumbering warriors who rallied to arms and drove away the foe.
Since that day the guardian Thistle was chosen as the national flower and is regarded as a symbol of independence and of retaliation.


Wedding Anniversaries

The selecting of one's partner for life and confirming that decision in the marriage ceremony makes marriage one of the most important event of life. It is appropiate that the wedding day is remembered and celebrated on the anniversary of the date.
Over the years it has become traditional to give a gift on the wedding anniversary based on a theme.
We have listed below the traditional symbolic themes :-

1st. Year ....... Paper 2nd. Year ....... Cotton 3rd. Year ....... Leather 4th. Year ....... Books
5th. Year ....... Wood 6th. Year ....... Iron 7th. Year ....... Copper 8th. Year ....... Electrical
9th. Year ....... Pottery 10th. Year ....... Tin 11th. Year ....... Steel 12th. Year ....... Silk
13th. Year ....... Lace 14th. Year ....... Ivory 15th. Year ....... Crystal 20th. Year ....... China
25th. Year ....... Silver 30th. Year ....... Pearl 35th. Year ....... Coral 40th. Year ....... Ruby
45th. Year ....... Saphire 50th. Year ....... Gold 55th. Year ....... Emerald 60th. Year ....... Diamond


Wedding Bells

It is traditional to have the church bells rung as the bride and groom emerge from the church after the ceremony. The sound of the bells is supposed to drive away evil spirits and thereby ensuring the couples good fortune.


Wedding Bouquet

In the 14th century, is was customary for the bride to toss her garter to the male guest, but frequently the men got too drunk, and would become impatient and try to remove the garter ahead of time. In the interests of decorum the custom changed to tossing the bridal bouquet.
Lately there has been a revival of the garter toss, particularly in North America.


The Wedding Cake

The Wedding Cake is a very ancient tradition which today forms a focal point at the reception. It is a custom steeped in history and occurs in many cultures in one form or another.The Romans had a cake made out of flour, salt and water which was eaten whilst the ceremony was in progress.
Tiered and iced confection was introduced to Britain from France after the Restoration in 1660. The shape of the modern three tiered cake is associated with the spire of St. Bride's Church in the City of London.
In bygone times it was the custom, probably as a relic of former fertility rites, to throw many small cakes over the bride, this later evolved to crumbling cake over the bride's head.
Cutting the cake is now part of the ritual celebrations at the reception. It is traditional for the Bride and the Groom to make the first cut in the cake together, symbolising their shared future.
The Groom places his right hand over the right hand of his bride, her left hand is then placed on top and she places the knife point at the centre of the bottom tier of the cake and slowly cuts the cake, helped by the groom. Tradition dictates that the couple should then cut a slice and share it between them.
The Bridesmaids keep their slices and place them under their pillows that night in the belief that they will dream of their own future husbands.
Another tradtion that has evolved is that of preserving the top tier to celebrate the christening of their first child.


Wedding Day of the Week

The day of the week on which the marriage takes place has superstition surrounding it but, despite this, most people marry on a Saturday and this is certainly more convenient for working guests.  However, it is quite acceptable to have a weekday wedding if it suits those concerned. It is, however, unlucky to be married on a Friday - especially the 13th.

Traditional Rhyme

Monday: Brides will be Healthy.
Tuesday: Brides will be Wealthy.
Wednesday: Brides do best of all.
Thursday: Brides will suffer losses.
Friday: Brides will suffer crosses.
Saturday: Brides will have no luck at all.


Wedding Dress

In the ancient world of the Greeks and the Romans, brides were normally dressed in white for the wedding ceremony. The white robes were used to symbolise youth, joy and purity.  Despite this, white wedding dresses have not always been the fashion in this country and only came to the fore in Victorian times as a show of wealth. The symbolism of a white wedding dresses as denoting virginity is of fairly recent origins, but is probably an adaption of the ancient association with purity.

There is a traditional rhyme which cautions the bride about her selection of colours.

Traditional Rhyme

Married in white, you have chosen alright.
Married in green, ashamed to be seen.
Married in red, You will wish yourself dead.
Married in blue, you will always be true
Married in yellow, ashamed of your fellow.
Married in black, you will wish yourself back.
Married in pink, of you he'll think.

Today pastel shades, stronger colours and even tartans are worn, as always fashion calls the tune.


Wedding Favours

Many brides throughout the world have now adopted the European tradition of distributing favours to their guests.
The modern wedding favour can be almost any sort of small gift or keepsake although, originally they were normally pastries or sweets in little pouches or boxes.
The custom of giving bomboniere is one that has become quite international where Five Sugared Almonds , representing Health, Wealth, Happiness, Fertility and Long Life are often wrapped in ornamental materials and presented to all the female guests at the Wedding, those guests who could not attend would also be sent a favour from the Bride.  It is also nice to personalise the favours by placing the guests name and the date of the wedding on a small decorated card to be placed inside the favour box container.  This favour will be kept by the guest as a lasting memory of the Wedding Day.


Wedding Flowers

The flowers at your wedding will reflect your personalilty and character, so choose the flowers for the table, button holes and bridal bouquets that symbolise your feelings about your relationship.


Wedding Garters

Garters were originally used to hold up stockings and are still regarded by many brides as an essential wedding accessory. Wearing something Blue often takes the form of a wedding garter incorporating a blue bow or a small Blue Bow stitched into the lining of the Wedding Gown.  The significance of the colour blue is that is represents Constancy and Loyalty and from biblical times a symbol of Purity
These associations have been absorbed into folk wisdom and passed on in the form of rhyme.

The Tradditional Rhyme

Traditional Rhyme

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 couples friends who will hopefully remain close during the marriage. Traditionally this was old garter which 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.


Wedding Origins

Wedding the word comes from the Old English "weddian" to promise, to marry or a derivation of "wedd" meaning a pledge.
Early marriages were by capture, the groom would kidnap the woman, and take her away from her tribe with the aid of his best man, a warrior friend, who would help him fight off other men who wanted his woman, and also help him prevent her family from finding them.
The honeymonth (honeymoon) was the period of time the groom and his bride were in hiding from her family and friends. By the time the family had located them, the bride would be pregnant.
As society evolved, marriage by purchase was preferred. The woman selected as the bride would be bartered for land, social status, or political alliances, but sometimes she was exchanged for money or goods (such as cattle).


The Wedding Purse (Dorothy Bag)

The Dolly Bag originally called the Dorothy bag was carried by the bridesmaid to carry the confetti in. Throwing confetti is probably a relic of former fertility rites. Variations occur throughout the world; flowers, petals, grain, cakes, sugar almonds and rice are all used. The modern use of the dolly bag (known as a wedding purse in the USA) is as a convenience wedding accessory for carrying some of the bride's or bridesmaids personal effects.


Wedding Veil

The veil can be traced back to Roman times when it was a complete head to toe cover.
In a custom dating back to arranged marriages, the groom's family very rarely let him see the bride prior to the ceremony.
The groom if displeased with the brides looks may have refused to marry her.
Only after completion of the wedding ceremony was the groom permitted to lift the veil and see his bride for the first time.


When to Marry

Traditional Rhyme
Marry when the year is new, always loving, always true,
When February Birds do mate, you may wed or dread your fate
If you wed when March winds blow, joy and sorrow both you'll know
Marry in April when you can, joy for maiden and for man,
Marry in the month of May, you will surely rue the day,
Marry when June roses blow, over land and sea you'll go,
They who in July do wed, must labour always for their bread,
Whoever wed in August be, many a change are 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 Joy will, remember,
When December snows fall fast, marry and true love will last.


Wooden Spoons

The tradition of giving a wooden spoon dates back many many years, the wooden spoon was considered to be the most useful utensil to be used by the woman of the house in her kitchen and would be used to help and assist the new Bride in her kitchen to enable her to cook and produce the best meals for her new husband, and later her family. An interesting Scottish variation on this custom was the giving of a spirtle (for stirring the porridge) in lieu of a spoon.