16 Wedding Traditions and Superstitions
As you plan your wedding, there are so many things you'll be told you "have" to do, but the truth is, your big day is just that: yours. While we're firm believers that you definitely don't have to wear white, have bridesmaids, or cut a towering cake during the reception, we do think it's worth at least considering some of the long-standing wedding traditions to determine if they're right for you. And along with traditions come superstitions, which you're bound to hear about throughout the planning process.
Marriage ceremonies are steeped in history, and with so many cultures, religions, regions, and couples adding their own customs to the mix, it should come as no surprise that wedding-related traditions and superstitions began to emerge over the years—what might surprise you is that many are still followed today. While it's entirely up to you whether or not you embrace them for your own big day, most are at least worth considering. After all, on a day as important (and expensive) as your wedding, don't you want to know you've done everything in your power to ensure it goes off without a hitch? And haven't you ever wonder where "something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue" came from? Wouldn't you like to know why it's considered bad luck to give knives as a wedding gift? From the bizarre to the spooky, we're demystifying the most popular wedding superstitions and practices—and sharing their origins.
Some rituals actually take place after the wedding is over, like the groom carrying the bride over the threshold of their new home. Others are done in advance of the big day, such as burying a bottle of bourbon at your wedding venue, as a way to usher in good weather.
Whatever your stance on superstitions, they're certainly interesting to learn about, so consider this your guide to wedding-related traditions and lore.
Something Old, New, Borrowed, and Blue
We've all heard this rhyme used when someone gets married, but what does it mean? Wearing "something old" represents the bride's past, while the "something new" symbolizes the couple's happy future. The bride is supposed to get her "something borrowed" from someone who is happily married in the hope that some of that person's good fortune rubs off on her. "Something blue" denotes fidelity and love.
Wearing a Veil
This custom traces its roots back to Rome. Fearing evil spirits were jealous of her happiness, the bride would wear a veil down the aisle to disguise herself from them and avoid any ill will they would bring upon her.
Rain on Your Wedding Day
In some cultures, rain on your wedding day symbolizes fertility and cleansing. While it might seem like it would put quite literally put a damper on the festivities, we say take it all in stride: At the end of the day, you're still marrying the love of your life, and that's what really matters.
Knives as Wedding Gifts
According to folklore, a knife signifies a broken relationship and is bad luck to give as a wedding present. If knives are on your registry, just give the gift giver a penny. That way, it's considered a purchase.
Carrying the Bride Over the Threshold
This superstition began in medieval Europe, when many believed that a bride was extra vulnerable to evil spirits through the soles of her feet. To avoid bringing in any evil spirits, the groom carried the bride into their new home.
A Spider on Your Wedding Dress
Finding an eight-legged creature on your gorgeous gown might seem like a big-day nightmare, but English lore claims that it's a good omen.
Using Your Married Name Before the Wedding
Some think it is tempting fate for the bride to write out her married name or monogram before she's actually married, and that the wedding will not take place if she does so. If you're superstitious, save the monogramming for your reception décor and registry items.
The Sugar Cube
According to Greek culture, placing a sugar cube on the bride will sweeten the marriage. For her wedding merging Greek and Canadian traditions, this bride had her florist, Coriander Girl, add them to the stems of her bouquet.
Crossing a Monk or Nun's Path
A bride who sees a nun or a monk on the way to her wedding is said to be cursed with a barren life dependent on charity.
Bells are traditionally chimed at Irish weddings to keep evil spirits away and to ensure a harmonious family life. Some Irish brides even carry small bells in their bouquets as a reminder of their sacred wedding vows, and they are a common gift for newlyweds.
In Italy, many newlyweds smash a vase or glass at their wedding, and they put a lot of muscle into it, too! Why? According to tradition, however many pieces the glassware breaks into will symbolize how many years the couple will be happily married.
Crying on Your Wedding Day
It is supposed to be good luck for the bride to cry on her wedding day because it symbolizes that she has shed all her tears and will not have any to shed during her marriage. So, go ahead and get teary-eyed. Just be sure to wear some waterproof mascara!
Bury the Bourbon
Southern folklore says that to prevent rain on your big day, you should bury a bottle of bourbon upside down at the wedding site one month before and dig it up after the ceremony to enjoy.
Seeing Each Other Before the Wedding
This superstition dates back to the time of arranged marriages, when people believed that if the couple saw each other before the ceremony, it would give them a chance to change their minds about the wedding. Today, however, many couples choose to meet up and even have portrait sessions before saying their I dos. Some, however, choose to have a "first touch," during which they can hold hands and chat but still wait to see each other.
Tossing the Garter
Back in the Dark Ages, the garter was considered a hot item. It's said that family and friends would wait outside the nuptial bedchamber until they were shown evidence—sheets, stockings, a garter—that the marriage had been consummated (seriously!). In time, the garter came to symbolize good luck, and rowdy guests began making a game of trying to strip the bride of that little fabric band. To distract the mob, brides began tossing it into the crowd. Today, the practice usually involves the groom throwing the garter to a group of single men; whoever catches it is believed to be the next to marry.
When Queen Victoria opted to crown her wedding cake with mini sculptures of herself and Prince Albert in 1840, the bride-and-groom cake topper was born. By the 1920s, the trend had crossed the pond to the United States, gaining popularity in the 1950s when couple figurines came to symbolize marital stability. Today, toppers aren't always cookie-cutter brides and grooms, but personalized sculptures highlighting a pair's identities, pets, or hobbies.
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