10 Fascinating Wedding Superstitions and Traditions Explained
Even if you take no stock in old wives’ tales, you’ve probably heard some of the more popular wedding superstitions. Everyone knows that the groom shouldn’t see the bride before the wedding, for example.
But what you might not know is that many of the most common wedding traditions are also rooted in superstition. Did you know, for example, that having bridesmaids was originally a way of keeping jealous spirits from harming the bride?
Today, we’re sharing 10 of the most common and the most interesting wedding superstitions and traditions. Read on to find out why rain on your wedding day is good fortune, why it’s bad luck to wear pearls, and why you shouldn’t panic if you find a spider on your dress!
Something Old, Something New
Something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue. We’ve all heard that it’s good luck for a bride to have these items as she walks down the aisle. It’s a classic tradition that goes back as far back as the 1800s.
The origin of this poem is rooted in superstition. It was thought that something old, new, borrowed and blue would protect the bride from the “Evil Eye”. The Evil Eye was a curse, administered through a glare, which could render a woman infertile.
Some versions of the poem also include “a silver sixpence in her shoe”. This line was actually added later, during the Victorian era. Modern brides tend to ignore the sixpence rule mainly because they’re harder to come by these days.
Interestingly, the “something borrowed” always used to be an undergarment borrowed from a woman who’d had children. This tradition isn’t followed anymore, curiously enough!
Rain on Your Wedding Day
Most people dream of getting married in the beautiful sunshine. After all, nobody wants to have to wear a raincoat and wellington boots on their big day. That’s why the summertime is the most popular time of year to get married.
In 1996, Alanis Morissette’s famous single made it quite clear that rain on your wedding day is “ironic”. But did you know that traditionally, it’s considered good fortune for it to rain as you’re tying the knot?
Nobody really knows why rain on your wedding way brings luck. But it’s thought to have something to do with rain’s cleansing and renewing nature. Rain also symbolises fertility, as it helps flowers grow and bloom.
Lucky and Unlucky Days to Marry
Over half of all weddings in the UK take place on a Saturday. It’s a popular choice because your guests won’t need to book time off, or get up early for work the next day.
But history tells a different tale. According to old English folklore, it’s actually bad luck to get married on a Friday or a Saturday. By contrast, Wednesday is the luckiest day for a wedding.
A folk rhyme, written by an anonymous poet, illustrates this. “Monday for wealth, Tuesday for health; Wednesday, the best day of all. Thursday for crosses, Friday for losses; Saturday, no luck at all.”
June is traditionally a lucky month in which to marry. This is because it’s named after Juno, the ancient Roman goddess of marriage and childbirth. And according to superstition, “Marry in May, rue the day”.
Spider on Your Wedding Dress
If you’re an arachnophobe, you might want to scream at the idea of finding a spider on your wedding dress. But if you did, you’d actually be blessed with good luck, according to superstition.
Spiders have long been regarded as lucky, and in particular associated with money. If you find a “money spider” on your right hand, for example, you’ll soon come into wealth. (Don’t hold it in your left hand, as this means you’ll lose money instead.)
Going along with this theme, if you find a spider crawling on your wedding dress, it’s a good omen. It means that you’ll have a successful and prosperous marriage. This belief used to be held so strongly that some brides would sew a spider into their wedding dress!
The Groom Can’t See the Bride
One of the oldest wedding traditions states that the groom shouldn’t see the bride before the wedding. It’s bad luck if the couple see each other on the day before the bride walks down the aisle.
This is one of the most regularly followed wedding traditions. It’s so ubiquitous that you’ll receive looks of horror from friends and relatives if you suggest breaking tradition and seeing your partner before the wedding.
Going back hundreds of years, this tradition likely originated when arranged marriages were commonplace. Back then, engaged couples wouldn’t even meet each other before they got married. It was feared that if the groom saw the bride before marrying her, he’d change his mind and run away.
Tossing the Bouquet and Garter
The tradition of the bride tossing her bouquet over her shoulder originated in the medieval period. The single, female wedding guests are supposed to gather and try to catch the bouquet. According to an old wives’ tale, whoever catches the bouquet will be the next to marry.
This is still practised today, although some modern brides opt to throw a separate “tossing bouquet” instead of their original one.
A less well observed tradition involves the tossing of the bride’s garter. This time it’s the single men who clamour to be on the receiving end. This began when wedding guests would attempt to rip off part of the bride’s dress for good luck.
Showering the Newlyweds with Rice
Are you planning to have your wedding guests throw confetti on your wedding day? This is a wedding tradition that, once again, originated in superstition.
Traditionally, newlyweds were showered with rice or wheat instead of confetti. It was believed that this would bring “fruitfulness”; in other words, fertility. In China, a similar superstition saw the bride and groom showered with red and green beans.
Nowadays, rice and wheat are rarely used, over fears that the grains could harm wildlife if ingested. For a more eco-friendly alternative, consider dried flower petals or rice-paper confetti. You could also have your guests blow bubbles over you instead.
Pearls Bring Misfortune
You might assume that pearls, being precious, beautiful and white, might make the perfect accessory on your wedding day. But if you’ve considered wearing pearls as you walk down the aisle, you might want to think again.
An old wives’ tale claims that pearls will bring misfortune to a bride who wears them on her wedding day. It’s not known exactly why, but it’s thought to be due to their tear-drop like shape.
This is particularly true if you have a pearl on your ring. So if you insist on pearls, it may be best to stick with pearl earrings or a pendant.
In Nicaragua, it’s still believed to this day that pearls will bring sadness to a marriage. They’re thought of as “tears of the sea”, and considered deeply unlucky.
Almost all modern weddings involve bridesmaids in some fashion. You might choose to have bridesmaids in order to involve your close friends in the wedding, or just because it’s traditional. But why do bridesmaids feature in weddings in the first place?
You may be surprised by the answer. Bridesmaids were originally designed to confuse and deter jealous spirits, that might want to harm the bride.
Historically, bridesmaids would wear the same dress as the bride. The bridesmaids would also have their faces hidden by a veil. That way, the evil spirits wouldn’t know which maiden was the bride. Bridesmaids continued to wear the same colour dress as the bride up until very recently: Queen Victoria’s bridesmaids famously wore white along with her.
Ring the Bells
Finally, have you ever wondered why the church bells ring out when a couple gets married? It’s not just because they sound nice.
According to ancient Irish tradition, wedding bells help to ward off evil spirits on your wedding day. The bells also bring luck, and foretell that the marriage will be successful.
Of course, many marriages today don’t take place in a church, so bells don’t feature. If you’re having a non-religious wedding, don’t panic: there is a solution. You can incorporate bells into your wedding decorations, or even hide miniature bells in your bouquet!
Friday for crosses.