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Wedding Superstitions

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 tradition.

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.

Pre-Wedding Beliefs

Birds

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.

Brooms

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.

Ladybugs

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 would come.

Quilting

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.

Proposal

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 the marriage.

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.

Names

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."

Bachelor Parties

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 home.

The Month

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 webpage titled:

"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.

The Day

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

The Dress

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 future.

The Veil

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.

Bridesmaids

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

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 included.

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

Good Omens

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 Church

Rainbows
Black cats
Spiders
Toads
Lambs
Sun Shine
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 fortune!)

Bad Omens

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 "stormy" marriages.

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 The Church:

A lizard running across the road
Pigs
Hares
Open Graves
Monks or Nuns
Hearing a rooster crow after the break of dawn

Bells

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

Altar Positioning


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 defense.

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.

The Ring

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 ceremony.

The Kiss

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 other.

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 time.

Bride's Handerchief

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 marry.

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 weddings today.

Signing The Marriage Certificate And The Guest Book

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 arrival.

Toasting

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 meaning:

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.

Shoes

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 traditions.

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 husband.

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 still!

Confetti

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 force.

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.

Sleeping

There was an old superstition that said whichever spouse fell to sleep first on their wedding night would be the first to die.

First Purchase

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.

Babies

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

Finland


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.

France

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.

Ireland

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".

Italy

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.

Norway

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.

Scotland

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.

Wales

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 soon.

 


Article Information:
Article Name: Wedding Superstitions
Website: http:www.thehistorybox.com |Author: Dawn Aiello  Victorian Lace
Source: This article was written by Dawn Aiello of Victorian Lace. She is owner of copyright.
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