Wedding Traditions for a Modern World

Never has any cultural tradition carried with it more superstitions, warnings or amulets promising good fortune than a couple’s pledge to spend eternity together. Of these, one of the most well-known and most commercially adopted is the old English poem, “Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue, A Sixpence in your Shoe.”

This adage originates in the superstitious middle ages when it was believed that evil spirits existed everywhere and were particularly active during rites of passage, such as weddings. It was important to use good luck charms to keep the bride and groom safe and any type of talisman, from a horseshoe to a lucky coin was considered a good omen.

‘That’s something old and something blue,’ Alice mused… ‘And your dress is new…‘ She flicked something at me… the filmy white garter landed in my palms. ‘That’s mine and I want it back,’ Alice told me. ~ Bella, in The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn

With the tradition of “Something old, Something new…” comes the assurance of continuity (something old); optimism for the future (something new); acquired happiness (something borrowed); purity and fidelity (something blue); and good fortune and prosperity (a sixpence in your shoe). It has inspired the creative and commercial premises of many bridal collections and designer trimmings, carrying with it various opportunities for self-expression.

Each day learn something new, and just as important, relearn something old ~ Robert Brault

Pearls bring a vintage feel to a beach destination wedding in Barbados

Something Old is a representation of the bond with the bride’s own family and the past, particularly with the mother or grandmother or even the most distant relations. It is emblematic of continuity. To symbolise this link, brides may choose to carry an heirloom such as a vintage purse, or to wear a piece of antique family jewellery which belonged to a relative. The bride may select something from the mother or grandmother’s wedding gown, such as a piece of a veil, to be used in their wedding bouquet or sewed into the bridal gown. Actress, Jessica Biel, adorned her Giambattista Valli veil with heirloom pearls that came from her grandmother’s wedding day tiara and country singer, Miranda Lambert, donned her mother’s very own wedding dress in her nuptials with Blake Shelton.

In this bright future, you can’t forget your past ~ Bob Marley

Florists can also find creative ways to incorporate vintage pieces of fabric, lace, chiffon or nylon netting by making little flowers and wrapping the floral stems with it.

Incorporate old wedding traditions in new ways for a destination wedding

Something New signifies optimism and eager anticipation for the future. It is a simple exercise to incorporate any number of new items into the nuptials or the wedding attire, but if one seeks to step outside of the box, some personalised options can include a gift of jewellery, presented to the bride by the groom and monogrammed with her new initials.

It looks like the future is really bright ~ Michael P. Anderson

Something Borrowed, similarly to something old, has roots in the philosophy that the past carries with it great promise for the future. It is believed that to wear something that was offered by those who had a happy and loving marriage will bestow luck on the bride and groom. A mother or grandmother of the bride or groom can offer a wedding band or engagement ring for the bride to wear as a pendant or on her own finger. Hair pieces, brooches or veils can also be borrowed from previous family nuptials. The Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, wore a 1936 Cartier “halo” tiara, on loan from the queen herself, to her wedding with Prince William.

It is smarter to borrow from nature than to reinvent the wheels ~ Philip Emiagwali

The groom can also choose to carry an old handkerchief that previously belonged to the parents or grandparents, personalised with their initials.

Old and new traditions combine for a perfect destination wedding in Barbados

Something Blue – the blue tradition is said to be the eldest of them all, dating back to ancient Israel, Rome and England, symbolising a promise of purity and fidelity. Before Queen Victoria set the standard for marrying in white, blue was the common colour to be wed in, representing purity.

Marry in blue, lover be true ~ 19th century English Proverb

From the ultimate in something blue for fashionistas, such as Christian Louboutin’s blue sole wedding shoes, to invisible accessories, such as Oscar de la Renta’s “Something Blue” perfume- this is the tradition that carries the most creative promise. Fans of the HBO series, Sex in the City, no doubt recall Carrie’s blue Manolo Blahnik shoes that she wore in her nuptials to Big in the feature film adaptation.

Blue-soled Louboutins and pretty bonbons are a great way to go blue!

Something blue can be incorporated into various aspects of the wedding. Actress/ model Rebecca Romjin and Kate Middleton both incorporated a blue bow on the inside of their wedding dress, while many brides have opted for a blue garter, possibly even offered by a relative, to double as something borrowed. A blue flower can be included in the bride’s bouquet, or blue could be the dominant colour in the wedding décor. The possibilities are quite extensive.

A silver sixpence in your shoe: during the early 1600’s it was customary for the Lord of the Manor to give his bride a piece of silver as a wedding gift. This was symbolically represented by a sixpence coin. It later became a tradition to include a sixpence in the dowry that was given by the bride’s family to the groom. That tradition of the sixpence as a symbol of good luck continues in England today, but is less commonly used in other parts of the world.

“You remember how it goes? Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, and a silver sixpence for your shoe?”

“I remembered,” I said, thinking of the sewn quarter. If I wasn’t careful to keep my skirt held as I walked, the coin hit the floor with the barest knock ~ “Man and Wife” by Katie Chase

So, draw a picture with your mind’s eye- it is your wedding day and you’ve never been more beautiful- every detail, every accessory carries with it the promise of a life of luck and love, prosperity, fidelity and happiness. You make your entrance where you have long been awaited by your eager guests. In you walk with your white-studded blue-soled shoes with a little silver coin embedded beneath your feet. Around your neck gracefully lies a pendant that once belonged to your grandmother, beside vintage pearl earrings- worn by your mother at her own nuptials, loaned to you for this most special of occasions and beautifully set off by your most recent acquisition- your beautiful wedding gown.

This Victorian-era admonition has inspired the creativity behind your striking ensemble- but it is you- the way you make it your own and the true bond between you and your groom that carries the ultimate weight in the prosperity that you achieve and the good fortune that you attract. Ultimately, your love and commitment are the only amulets you need.

Article originally appeared in brideLIFE Magazine Issue 2

Words by Daphne Ewing-Chow

Wedding decor & design images via Emma Corrie Designs