What’s it all about – Traditions and Superstitions

A wedding is one of those special occasions where, despite our best efforts to avoid it, taking action in honouring traditions still occurs whether you want it to or not.

It may be that your great Nan is insisting you must wear something old and wants to pin a broach to your bridal petticoat – and you have no idea why you must do this other than to keep her happy.  Or maybe your future mother-in-law keeps pointing out that her son, your fiancé, must have a flower in his button hole even though you detest the thought!  There are so many traditions now that are just commonplace in a wedding ceremony that over time we have forgotten the significance of their meaning.  Here is a refresher on just a few:-

*Proposals – It is only during a leap year that a woman may ask a man to marry her, any other time would be considered to be a precursor to a bad marriage.

*The Bridal Shower – A popular tradition the bridal shower is an opportunity for the bride’s friends to assist her in entering married life by providing her with a celebration to honour her.  More personalised gifts are usually given to assist her in setting up her new home.  Less expensive gifts than for the wedding present, such as linen, utensils or nick knacks, are what are usually given at bridal showers.  It is from this that the ‘kitchen tea’ tradition was born.  The same as a bridal shower, the kitchen tea is a little less formal with the focus of gifts being solely for the ‘kitchen’.

*The Hens Night/Bucks Night.  – The hen’s night is an occasion that has been born through modern times in answer to the male occasion of the ‘Bucks’ night.  The Bucks night is usually regarded as the last ‘hoorah’ before the Groom settles down to married life.  From the 70’s with feminism and women’s rights becoming more prominent, the Hen’s night tradition has grown for the same reasons as the buck’s night.

*The Wedding Rings- they are worn on the third finger of the left hand because in ancient times it was believed by Egyptians that the main vein of the heart ran straight to this finger.

*The Wedding Flowers – The wearing or carrying of flowers by a bride is an ancient tradition that dates back to Roman times.  Meanings vary depending on culture and history, but basically flowers are worn because they look pretty.  The oldest tradition to date with wedding flowers would be the use of the Orange Blossom.  A popular wedding flower for many hundreds of years the Orange Blossom was at its height during the Victorian era.  Meant to symbolise fertility because it is the only plant that bears fruit whilst its flowers blossom this flower was slowly replaced during last century by the use of roses which were more readily available and less expensive.

*The Wedding Gown- It wasn’t until the late 1700’s that the fashion of wearing a ‘wedding gown’ came into style.  Up until that point brides would mostly just purchase a special ensemble or dress for the occasion. These dresses’s would be of any colour and usually reflected the top end of what was in style at the time. It was Queen Victoria who actually set the trend of marrying in white, as up to that point royals traditionally married in silver to reflect their regality.  A White gown is a symbol of virginity.  It was believed that wearing white on your wedding day would keep away evil spirits.  For a long time it was also believed that a bride should not be seen in her wedding dress by her fiancé until the actual ceremony a custom that still stands to today;  to not do so was believed bad luck.  A habit that has slowly crept into fashion more out of need than want is for the wedding photo’s to be taken before the ceremony.  Avoid this at all times if you can;  go with a photographer who is not booked for time and will accommodate you and allow you to have the photos after the ceremony.  Keep in mind, this is your special day and you and your partner are about to embark on the rest of your life together. Make that walk down the aisle to where you place your hand in his to be extra special and allow him to see you for the first time in your gown at that point, planning photo’s of an event before the actual event has occurred has taken the shine of the occasion and kind of defeats the purpose.

*Wedding Veils – were originally worn to conceal the bride from evil spirits.

*Bridesmaids - came about through pagan times to also confuse evil spirits so they wouldn’t know which girl was the bride.

*Wedding Cake – the cutting of the wedding cake together came about to symbolise the start of new life together. It was also thought to assist in the couple conceiving.  The actual tradition of having the cake itself came from the return of King Charles II to England from exile in France.  When he came back he brought with him French chefs.  The chefs began the practice of tiered cakes by layering sticky buns with icing upon each other.  They then topped these tiered creations with tiny figurines – hence the tiered wedding cake was born.

*Throwing of confetti came from ancient times when rose petals were thrown before the feet of the royalty.  It is used to ‘throw good blessings’ upon the couple and increase their fertility.

*Over the threshold – If a bride was to stumble or fall during entry to her abode after the wedding it was considered a bad omen.  To prevent this occurring the husband would carry his wife over the threshold, the “thresh” being the step and the “hold” being the door frame that held the step.

Something old, something new
Something borrowed, something blue
And a silver sixpence in her shoe.

One of the oldest poems relating to a wedding so commonly known it is still remembered even today.  A very old  English saying (sixpence is an English form of currency dating back hundreds of years to when it was fazed out in 1967) this poem symbolises the beliefs of the Victorian era:

Something Old – this relates to the Bride and her family and friends and the wearing of something old by a bride on her wedding day signifies her “past’ and the importance it plays in her new life.

Something New – this signifies the Bride’s future, the object she wears in honour of this should be something to show or represent new hope and success for her ‘new’ life.

Something Borrowed – is given to the Bride to bring her good luck.  As such it should be received from a person (usually a family member) who is considered to hold luck, especially in the area of marriage.  Hence your’s Nan’s broach on your petticoat if Nan’s marriage was long and prosperous.

Something Blue – As the colour blue is representative of fidelity and dependability it became a tradition for brides to wear some form of blue to assist in her acquiring these values.

A Sixpence – was usually placed either in her carry bag or the grooms shoe to help bring the married couple wealth.

By Nicky Perry