15 Wedding Traditions and Superstitions, Explained

brides first touch before ceremony
Photo: Lauren Galloway Photography

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 into the mix, it should come as no surprise that wedding-related traditions and superstitions have emerged over the years—but 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 nuptials, some are at least worth considering.

From the sweet to the bizarre and the spooky, we've demystified the most popular wedding superstitions—and shared their origins.

01 of 15

Something Old, New, Borrowed, and Blue

bride putting on lace up blue heels
Brittany Partain

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.

02 of 15

Bury the Bourbon

Katie Stoops Photography

While some traditions take place on the wedding day, others are done in advance of the nuptials, such as burying a bottle of bourbon. Southern folklore says that to prevent rain on your big day, you should bury the beverage upside down at the wedding site one month before and dig it up after the ceremony to enjoy.

03 of 15

Wearing a Veil

bride looking out the window wearing delicate lace accented veil
Allen Tsai

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 wished to bring upon her.

04 of 15

Rain on Your Wedding Day

guests and wedding party walking inside during rain
Masson Liang

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.

05 of 15

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.

06 of 15

Carrying the Bride Over the Threshold

wedding exits sparklers
Awesomesauce Photography

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.

07 of 15

A Spider on Your Wedding Dress

jessica brian wedding dress detail
Abby Jiu Photography

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.

08 of 15

Using Your Married Name Before the Wedding

denim jacket with iron on name
Alex Lasota

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.

09 of 15

The Sugar Cube

Rebecca Wood

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.

10 of 15

Ringing Bells

ramsey charles ireland wedding bells on mantel
Abby Jiu Photography

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.

11 of 15

Breaking Glass

Jillian Mitchell Photography

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.

12 of 15

Crying on Your Wedding Day

groom crying after seeing bride during first look
Rebecca Ou Photography

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!

13 of 15

Seeing Each Other Before the Wedding

bride and groom smile before first look
Anya Kernes Photography

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 save that first glimpse for the aisle.

14 of 15

Tossing the Garter

emme daji wedding bride adjusting gold garter
Laura Gordon Photography

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.

15 of 15

Cake Topper

close up of wedding cake details
Nikki Santerre

When Queen Victoria opted to crown her wedding cake with mini sculptures of herself and Prince Albert in 1840, the wedding 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—many personalized sculptures highlight a pair's identities, pets, or hobbies.

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