There are many customs and traditions that are associated with weddings, although today they seem to be declining in popularity, often regarded as being too cheesy. But where did they come from in the first place and what is their significance? Traditionally brides have been thought to be very vulnerable to evil spirits so many of the traditions and customs are there to protect the bride from them. Traditions have also formed part of the etiquette of wedding days today so if you are planning your wedding it is important for you to know about the traditions so you can make sure you incorporate them into your wedding day.
It is thought to be unlucky for a woman to marry a man whose surname begins with the same letter as hers starts with. The following rhyme has traditionally reinforced this
To change the name and not the letter
Is to change for the worst and not the better
It is also said to bring bad luck by tempting fate if a bride practices writing her new name before the wedding.
Choosing the Day of the Week
Although today most weddings take place on either a Saturday or a Friday, these days were in the past considered as unlucky days to get married on. A rhyme was used to advise of which day to marry.
Monday for wealth
Tuesday for health
Wednesday the best day of all
Thursday for losses
Friday for crosses
Saturday for no luck at all
Choosing the Month
It is also thought that different months bring different meanings to the future of the couple’s marriage. The summer as a whole was seen as a good time to get married. This is linked to the summers association with fertility. Another rhyme was used to give advice on which month to get married in.Advice on which month to marry in is given by the following rhyme:
Married when the year is new, he’ll be loving, kind and true.
When February birds do mate, You wed nor 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, and you’ll surely rue the day.
Marry when June roses grow, over land and sea you’ll go.
Those who in July do wed, must labour for their daily bred.
Whoever wed in August be, many a change is sure to see
Marry in September’s shrine, 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 joys will come, remember.
When December snows fall fast, marry and true love will last.
The Wedding Dress
It is thought to be unlucky for the Bride to make her own wedding dress, although today it is very uncommon for Brides not to have dresses professionally made. It is also thought to be unlucky for the Groom to see his Bride in her wedding dress before she arrives at the ceremony, a tradition that still remains today. Some also believe that trying on the entire outfit before the wedding day is bad luck so some Brides leave a single stitch undone on the dress until just before leaving for the ceremony.
Wedding Dress Colour
Today white is seen as the traditional colour to get married in but this wasn’t always the way. This tradition was started by rich families in the 16 Century and became the desirable colour to marry in after Queen Victoria decided to marry in white instead of silver which was the traditional colour for Royal brides to marry in. White was considered to symbolise maidenhood and after Queen Victoria wore white it became a symbol of wealth because only the wealthy could afford to wear a white dress which could only be worn once.
Before the white dress, bride’s wore their best dress so colour was just down to personal preference. A rhyme offered brides advice on the colour of their wedding dress.
Married in White, you have chosen right,
Married in Blue, your love will always be true,
Married in Pearl, you will live in a whirl,
Married in Brown, you will live in town,
Married in Red, you will wish yourself dead,
Married in Yellow, ashamed of your fellow,
Married in Green, ashamed to be seen,
Married in Pink, your spirit will sink,
Married in Grey, you will go far away,
Married in Black, you will wish yourself back.
Traditionally brides wore veils to disguise themselves and therefore confuse the evil spirits and protect themselves. In Britain, wearing a veil became popular in the 19th Century as it was thought to symbolise modesty and chastity.
Something Old, Something New…
Something old, something new
Something borrowed, something blue
And a silver sixpence in your shoe
This is a good luck saying which dates back to the Victorian era and many brides will try and ensure that they have something of each in their wedding outfit.
The “something old” represents the link with the Bride’s family, the past and the couple’s friends. Something old is a symbol of continuity. To symbolise this a Bride often chooses to wear a piece of jewellery belonging to a family member or a garter belonging to a happily married woman in the hope that her happiness will be passed onto the new bride.
“Something new” symbolises a happy and bright future for the newlyweds. The wedding gown often represents the ‘something new’.
The “something borrowed” represents the fact that the Bride’s friends and family will be there for her on her big day but also that they will always be there for her in the future too. The ‘something borrowed’ is often lent by the bride’s family and must be returned to the owner after the wedding to ensure good luck.
The custom of the bride wearing “something blue” dates back to biblical times when blue represented purity, faithfulness and loyalty. A popular way to incorporate ‘something blue’ is to wear a blue garter so that the blue is not seen.
Placing a silver sixpence in the bride’s shoe was to ensure wealth in the couples married life.
Having flowers at weddings has been around for a long time, dating back to the Ancient Greeks. Bridesmaids would make garlands from flowers and plants to give to the Bride as it was considered to be a gift of nature and therefore very appropriate for a wedding.
In Europe, wedding flowers and bouquets became popular in the middle ages as it was usual to only bathe twice a year. This was due to the amount of labour involved in heating enough water for bathing and the expense of soap. Therefore for the special occasion of a wedding they came up with the solution of using floral and herbal arrangements to mask the smell of any bodily odours. This is obviously no longer a problem today but the tradition still remains.
Traditionally the Bride throws her bouquet over her shoulder to unmarried female guests. It is then said that who ever catches the bouquet will be the next to marry. This tradition started in Medieval times. In medieval times, a bride didn’t expect to ever wear her dress again so it became a symbol of good luck to other women. After a wedding, single female guests would chase the bride to rip bits off of her dress. Over the years wedding dresses became more expensive and women wanted to keep their dresses as a memento of the day. Therefore Brides began throwing other objects as a distraction from the dress. The garter was thrown but the bouquet became the more traditional item to throw.The Bouquet
More traditions, superstitions and customs to come in Part 2…