By Dawn Aiello of Victorian Lace,
Author and Copyright Owner
No matter in what country they began, wedding
customs or superstitions have one thing in common:
They all began with an idea or suggestion that grew
into a full belief, which finally became a
There are many more wedding customs, traditions, and
superstitions than I could ever detail here. They
began long ago, come from every country in the
world, and they have been passed down through the
ages. Though they have evolved a bit and changed
somewhat from their original concept, for whatever
purpose they hold today, they continue to be a part
of wedding rituals and celebrations everywhere.
It was believed that on Valentines Day, if a woman
saw a robin flying overhead, it was an omen that she
would one day marry a sailor. If she saw a
goldfinch, she would marry a millionaire, and if she
saw a sparrow, she would marry a poor man, but they
would be very happy together.
The broom is a "domestic symbol", and brooms have
always held superstition and symbolism in many
cultures through the years, especially pertaining to
marriage. (See "Jumping The Broom" also). It was
believed that if someone swept over your feet while
they were sweeping the floor, it meant that you
would never get married. Also a superstition:
When moving, never take a broom along with you. That
is considered bad luck. Always throw it out and buy
a new one.
It was felt that if a young girl caught a ladybug
and then released it, the direction in which it flew
would be the direction from which her future husband
During the Victorian Era it was considered to be
very bad luck to begin a quilting project but not
complete it. If you began such a project it must
always have been completed or it was believed that
marriage would never come to you.
When a young man had decided to propose and he was
on his way to ask his intended for her hand, it was
considered a bad omen if he encountered a nun or a
monk along the way. These represented barrenness in
However, if he saw pigeons, wolves, or nanny goats
on his journey, these were considered good omens and
would bring luck and fortune to the marriage.
A bride never allowed her married name to be used
before her marriage. This tempted fate and brought
about bad luck. She never would practice writing her
new name for the same reason.
Also, it was felt to be unlucky if a woman married a
man whose last name began with the same letter as
hers. As was typical of the times, a little rhyme
was created to help remember the rule:
"To change the name and not the letter
Is to change for the worse and not the better."
Once the woman's father had given his daughter away
to her new husband, it became the husband's sole
responsibility to care for her. The "bachelor party"
was his opportunity, through gambling, to gather
money for his future finances.Bridal Showers
In a time when the young lady's father might have
disapproved of his daughter's marriage and therefore
refused to provide a dowry for the couple, the
bridal shower became a traditional alternative.
Friends and acquaintances who lived in the village
would gather and then present the bride with a
variety of household items for the couple's new
June was considered the luckiest month in which to
be married, and for many reasons. Other months were
considered equally unlucky, especially the month of
May. (For more details on this, please refer to my
"Victorian Weddings: The Proposal, Rings, and
Things"). There you will see a complete explanation
on why these beliefs existed, as well as the famous
rhyme to help Victorians remember the rules.
Again, choosing the day was as important as choosing
the month. For the most part, Friday was considered
to be a most unlucky day to marry, but Wednesday was
believed to be the best day, and naturally, marrying
on the Sabbath was not even a consideration. The
popular rhyme which helped Victorian ladies remember
the rule went like this:
Monday for wealth,
Tuesday for health,
Wednesday, the best day of all.
Thursday for losses,
Friday for crosses,
Saturday for no luck at all.
The Color Blue
The color blue symbolized faithfulness, fidelity,
and good luck. It was believed that the wearing of
blue would protect people from witches, as well as
the belief that, "Touch blue and your wish will come
true." These are reasons why the color blue is
included in the Victorian rhyme:
Something old, something new,
Something borrowed, something blue,
And a silver sixpence in your shoe.
"Something Old" traditionally was a family heirloom,
something which held meaning for the bride about the
past, and could be passed on to her daughter.
"Something New" might have represented her bridal
gown, or possibly the gift given to her by her
groom. "Something Borrowed" usually was an item of
real value, such as the veil that the bride wore.
Her family, therefore, typically lent it to the
bride, and to ensure good luck, it had to be
returned after the wedding.
"The Silver Sixpence" was to ensure wealth for the
couple in their married life. This custom is still
common today, but typically a penny is substituted
for the silver sixpence.
The Wedding Dress & Veil
It has always been considered unlucky for the groom
to see the bride in her wedding dress before the
ceremony. The exact reason for this is unclear, but
the most likely reason would be that it was probably
felt that this somehow tempted the fates.
The bride never wore her entire ensemble prior to
the wedding. She may have tried on the dress for
fittings, or the veil while deciding upon her
hairstyle, but never did she put on the entire
outfit before her wedding day, when it was safe for
the outfit to be complete.
It was also considered quite unlucky for the bride
to make her own wedding gown.
It was believed that the color of the wedding dress
would influence the bride's future, as well.
Marry in White--You've chosen right
Marry in Blue--Love will be true
Marry in Yellow--Ashamed of your fellow
Marry in Red--You'll wish yourself dead
Marry in Black--You'll wish yourself back
Marry in Grey--You'll travel far away
Marry in Pink--Of you he'll think
Marry in Green--Ashamed to be seen.
Brides pinned a small pouch to the petticoat under
their wedding dress. Inside the pouch they put a
small piece of bread, some cloth, a piece of wood,
and a single one-dollar bill. Superstition held that
by doing this, the couple would always be assured of
enough food, clothes, shelter, and money for their
As brides were believed to be quite vulnerable to
evil spirits, many customs and traditions that are
associated with weddings actually began as a means
to provide protection for the bride. Originally,
Roman brides wore the veil, and it was believed that
it would disguise her and help to hide her from evil
spirits that were jealous of happy people, and
therefore, might do her harm.
Eventually, the veil became associated with purity,
modesty, and chastity.
The original purpose for bridesmaids were as
"decoys". For the same reason as the veil, (in order
to confuse evil spirits and to protect the bride),
bridemaids would be dressed nearly identically to
the bride, usually all in white.
Flowers at a wedding are typically chosen based on
their symbolic meaning. Orange Blossoms, which
represent purity, chastity, and fertility, have
always been associated with weddings and were a
required inclusion for Victorian weddings. As well,
roses signify love, and so, they were commonly
However, flowers to be avoided are Peonies, as they
symbolize shame, and any combination of red and
white flowers should be avoided as well because they
represent blood and bandages--not the best symbols
for a wedding.
Originally, bouquets were a mixture of flowers and
herbs. It was believed in ancient times that strong
smelling herbs and spices would ward off evil
spirits, bad luck, and ill health. Therefore, garlic
was often included, as were chives. Dill was
believed to promote desire, so it was commonly
included in the bouquet and then eater after the
ceremony for this purpose.
The Romans extended the tradition of bouquets to the
wearing of garlands and wreaths. Also, it was
believed that evil spirits could not harm someone
inside a circle, so this may be another explanation
for brides wearing wreaths upon their heads.
On The Way To The Wedding
Before leaving the house for the wedding ceremony,
one last look in the mirror will bring the bride
good luck, however, looking in the mirror again,
once she has set on her way to the church, will
result in bad luck.
In Victorian England, it was customary for the bride
and her wedding party to walk together to the church
along a path that had been strewn with flower
blossoms. This was to ensure that the bride's path
through life would always be happy and fertile.
Lucky Things To See Or Encounter On The Way To The
A Chimney Sweep--the luckiest thing to meet along
the way, and if he gave the bride a kiss on the
cheek, it was considered even better! (Today, people
sometimes hire a chimney sweep to attend their
wedding in the hopes he will bring them good
Bad weather on the wedding day was thought to be a
foretelling of an unhappy marriage. (In some
cultures, however, rain is considered to be a good
omen). Wind or cloudy skies were believed to cause
As previously described, once the bride set on her
path to the church, it was believed an unlucky thing
to look again in a mirror at herself.
Unlucky Things To See Or Encounter On The Way To
A lizard running across the road
Monks or Nuns
Hearing a rooster crow after the break of dawn
Church bells would ring as the couple approached and
entered the church. Not only did this announce that
the ceremony was about to take place, but originally
it was believed that the loud sound of the bells
ringing would frighten away any evil spirits.
The Wedding & Reception
The bride walks down the aisle on the left arm of
her father and her family is seated on the left side
of the church. She stands to the left side of the
groom. The groom's family is seated on the right
side of the church, and he stands on the right side
of the bride. This positioning dates back to
medieval times when men wore swords on the right
side of their bodies. The groom needed his right
side free in case he needed to draw his sword for
Arch Of Swords
To ensure the couple's safe passage into their new
life together, they would symbolically walk through
an arch of swords following the ceremony.
Traditionally, the wedding ring is placed on the
fourth finger of the left hand because it was
believed that this finger is the direct connection
to the heart.
Because all the evil spirits would be shaken out of
it when it fell, it was considered a good omen if
the groom dropped the wedding ring during the
The kiss actually symbolizes more than just
endearment. In early Roman times, any legal bond or
contract was sealed with a kiss, therefore, while
the newly-married couple may kiss as a sign of their
affection, it also represents their agreement to
enter into a life-long binding contract with each
Also, it was believed that the kiss was a means by
which to exchange a part of each other; to transfer
a part of themselves into the other's soul; a way
for their spirit to dwell in their spouse for all
In ancient times, it was believed that a bride's
wedding day tears were good luck because they
brought rain for crops and new growth. By Victorian
times, a crying bride meant that she would never cry
again about her marriage.
The bride would embroider her name on her
handkerchief, carry it with her on her wedding day,
then she might frame it and keep it for the next
family bride to be married.
The Best Man
It was the Best Man's job to keep the groom safe, to
protect him from har or from bad luck. He was to
ensure that the groom arrived safely at the church,
and that once on his journey to the church, he would
for no reason turn back.
It was believed that when the groom paid the
minister's fee for the services, he was to pay an
odd sum to ensure good luck for the couple.
The Receiving Line
It was believed in ancient times, that the bride and
groom were blessed, and those who touched them would
receive good luck and fortune.
Tossing The Bridal Bouquet
This tradition began in England, though Queen
Victoria did not follow the custom. Rather than
throwing her bouquet, she gave each of her
bridesmaids a flower from the bouquet. It was
believed that the Bride's bouquet was filled with
good fortune, and the bride could pass this along to
others by giving them parts of the bouquet, or as is
now customary, tossing the bouquet back over her
shoulder. Tradition holds that the unmarried woman
who catches the bride's bouquet will be the next to
The Garter Toss
Much in the way that the single woman who catches
the bride's bouquet will be the next to marry, The
Garter Toss is the men's version, and the single
male who catches the garter is believed to be the
next to marry.
The custom originated, however, in medieval times
when it was customary for relatives and friends to
lead the newlyweds to their marriage bed. As time
passed, the custom got out of hand, and eager (or
perhaps drunken) guests would attempt to get the
bride out of her wedding clothes before the groom.
In order to prevent such behavior, the bride's
garters were quickly removed and thrown to the crowd
as a distraction. Eventually, the custom evolved
into the tradition that is practiced at most
Signing The Marriage Certificate And The Guest
The signing of the marriage certificate documents a
public record of the marriage and the couple was not
considered legally married until it was signed. The
guest book was a record of all the people who
witnessed the marriage, and therefore (unlike what
is customary today), it was signed following the
official wedding ceremony, not upon the guest's
This tradition comes from an ancient French custom
of placing a small piece of toast in the bottom of
the glass. A good "toaster" would drink all the
contents of the glass to get to the toast at the
bottom, and legend held that when the bride and
groom drank their wedding toast, whichever of them
reached their toast first would rule the family.
Good Luck Charms In The Cake
During the Victorian Era there were usually three
wedding cakes; one main wedding cake, elaborately
decorated, and two smaller cakes called The Bride's
Cake" and "The Groom's Cake". Baked into these cakes
would have been little charms; a ring, a penny, a
thimble, and a button. Each charm held its own
The ring for marriage within a year;
The penny for wealth, my dear;
The thimble for an old maid or bachelor born;
The button for sweethearts all forlorn.
Many wedding customs involve shoes. Shoes were
thought to bring good luck, so it's not surprising
that the symbol should be incorporated into wedding
At one time, the bride's father would have given the
groom a pair of the bride's shoes to symbolize the
passing of responsibility for her onto her new
Instead of throwing her bouquet over her shoulder,
the bride originally threw one of her shoes. Shoes
were tossed after the newlywed couples as they
departed after the wedding to ensure them good luck.
If the couple or their carriage were hit by one of
the shoes, it was considered very lucky. Today,
shoes are tied to the back of the couple's car to
carry on the tradition.
Exiting After The Reception
During the Victorian Era, as the couple drove off in
their carriage, only family and close friends would
have been present. The guests threw shoes or satin
slippers, rice or flower petals after the couple to
ensure them happiness and good fortune. It was a
sign of good luck if a shoe or slipper landed in the
carriage or hit one of them, and if it was the left
slipper, that was all the better, and if the slipper
hit the bride or groom, that was more fortunate
The confetti we see today is small pieces of
colorful paper that is thrown over the bridal
couple. "Confetti" is Italian for sweets, (sugared
almonds) which were, at one time, tossed over the
couple in the way we throw the paper confetti, rice,
or flower petals, today. The throwing of confetti
ensured the couple a "sweet life".
After The Wedding
Shivare or Charivari
It was pronounced "shevaree", this custom dates back
to the Middle Ages when a couple was serenaded on
their wedding night by friends with pots, pans,
horns, bells, whistles, and other noisemakers. The
disruption continued until the newlyweds invited the
friends in for refreshments.
Crossing The Threshold
It was believed that if the bride tripped while
entering her new home for the first time, it would
have resulted in very bad luck. Also, it was
considered unlucky if the bride entered the abode
with her left foot first.
Therefore, the eliminate either catastrophe, it
became customary for the groom to carry his bride
over the threshold. Some believe that the custom
represents the Anglo-Saxon tradition from the times
when a man stole his bride and carried her off by
Jumping The Broom
This tradition, now incorporated into many reception
celebrations, originated with a threshold or
doorway. A broom would be placed before the
threshold, and the act of jumping over the broom (a
domestic symbol) into their new home, represented
the couple's "leap" from single life into married
life. It signifies that the couple is ready to leave
their carefree life behind, and that they are ready
for the responsibilities of marriage.
There was an old superstition that said whichever
spouse fell to sleep first on their wedding night
would be the first to die.
Even this seemingly insignificant occurrence carried
superstition. It was believed that whichever spouse
purchased the first item after the wedding would be
the dominant party.
There are enough superstitions and customs about
babies to start a whole new webpage! However, here
are a few of the more common superstitions:
To predict the sex of the baby, tie the mother's
wedding band to a piece of string or thread, then
suspend it over either her stomach or her palm. If
the ring swings in a circular motion, the baby will
be a girl. If the ring swings in a straight line,
the baby will be a boy. It was also believed (of
course) that having your baby on certain days would
influence the child, and naturally, Victorians
created a rhyme to help them remember the rule:
Monday's child is fair of face;
Tuesday's child is full of grace;
Wednesday's child is full of woe;
Thursday's child has far to go;
Friday's child is loving and giving;
Saturday's child works hard for a living.
But the child that is born on the Sabbath day,
Is fair and wise, good and gay.
Some Customs From Other Countries
It was common for brides in Finland to wear golden
crowns. Then, after the wedding, unmarried women
would dance in a circle around the bride, who had
been blindfolded, and the bride attempted to place
the crown on another young lady's head. Much with
the same symbolism as "tossing the bouquet", it was
believed that whomever the bride crowned would be
the next to wed.
During the reign of Louis XVI, the bride gave as
gifts to her bridesmaids, fans that were intricately
decorated with paintings of mythological images.
Long ago in France, the couple would drink their
wedding toast from a two-handled, engraved cup
called "Le Coupe de Mariage". the cup was then
passed on to future generations, and this custom
continues to be common practice in France.
Long ago, the traditional wedding cake of most
European countries was a rich fruit cake. This
continues to be considered the true wedding cake of
Ireland, but in the spirit of the Emerald Isle, the
cake often contains brandy or bourbon.
Traditionally, the Irish bridal couple has always
received a lucky horseshoe as a gift. In some
European countries, (as well as in America), the
shoe faces downward, but in Ireland, the shoe always
faces upward to "keep the luck from spilling out".
Confetti has always been tossed over Italian
newlyweds. Confetti (sugared almonds) continues to
be a part of the Italian wedding, often as favors
decorating the tables at the reception. Commonly,
pretty little porcelain boxes or tulle bags called
"bomboniere" will be filled with confetti and
personalized with the couple's names and wedding
date. Guests take these home as favors to
commemorate the day.
Ribbons have always signified the tying of two lives
together, and have, throughout the ages, been a part
of wedding customs and traditions. In Italy, a
ribbon is tied across the front of the church door
to represent the bond of marriage.
It has been a belief in most cultures that loud
sounds help scare away evil spirits. One Norwegian
custom is called "The Dance Off", and it utilizes
sterling silver jewelry, or a gold and silver crown
from which silver decorations dangle. With movement,
the silver decorations would tinkle, and it was felt
that the sound would frighten off the evil spirits
who might be lurking nearby.
Also in Norway, two small fir trees would be set on
either side of the doorway to the couple's home
until they had been blessed with a child.
In Scotland, thee is a traditional custom by which
the friends and relatives of the bridal couple wash
the feet of both the bride and groom, thus preparing
them to set off on a new and clean path.
Commonly performed at a Scottish wedding is "The
Sword Dance", which is similar to an Irish Jig.
All through the British Isles brides give their
attendants cuttings of myrtle from their bouquet.
The tradition began with Queen Victoria, as myrtle
was her chosen flower, and after her wedding,
cuttings of myrtle from her bouquet were planted all
around the palace. Since then, tradition has carried
that all brides carry myrtle (symbolizing love), and
then give cuttings to their bridesmaids. If, when
the bridesmaid plants the myrtle, it roots and
blossoms, then it is believed that she will marry