Weddings are full of hope and promise, so make you observe these traditions!
Something old, Something new
Something borrowed, Something blue,
And a silver sixpence in your shoe.
I doubt there is another ceremony that has attracted as many traditions and superstitions as the wedding. It’s an occasion full of symbolism and ritual, all designed to bring the happy couple good luck, health, wealth and happiness. A wedding is a blessing, full of good wishes and hopes for two people who have decided to spend the rest of their lives together. This is the reason so much tradition surrounds weddings - almost every symbol and aspect of the wedding ceremony has some superstition attached to it… the wedding ring, the wedding dress, the bridesmaids, the bouquet, the best man and even the weather are all factors to consider when planning a successful, blessed wedding.
With so much superstition attached to it how could a wedding ceremony fail to inspire any horror/scary writer?
The traditional poem quoted at the introduction dates back to Victorian times. It’s really a form of a blessing for the couple, and the bride is supposed to wear each of the four “somethings” with her wedding dress. The silver sixpence is supposed to bring the couple wealth, although these days the bride normally places a penny in her shoe – silver sixpences are quite difficult to find!
Before The Wedding Ceremony
In the past marriage proposals were a very serious undertaking. A prospective groom would send his representatives to his intended’s family to put forward his case. The journey was taken very seriously indeed. The marriage was guaranteed to succeed if the representatives passed wolves, pigeons or nanny goats during the journey. However if they passed a monk, a blind man or a pregnant woman they would return immediately to the hopeful bridegroom, because these sights were considered a bad omen for the marriage.
There’s an old traditional poem that claimed it was unlucky for a woman to marry a man whose surname began with the same letter as hers to marry:
To change the name and not the letter
Is a change for the worst and not the better
Write her new name before the wedding is not considered a wise practice, and is believed to bring bad luck by tempting fate.
If you can persuade a cat to eat out of your left shoe one week before the wedding good luck will bless your married life. The same thinking applies if there’s a full moon one or two days before your special day.
If candles lit on the wedding day splutter and go out it means those evil spirits are nearby, waiting to cause mischief.
The Wedding Dress
We’ve all heard the superstition that claims it’s bad luck for the groom to see the bride in her wedding dress before the ceremony, but did you know it’s considered bad luck for a bride to sew her own wedding dress? The bride should also never wear the entire outfit until the day of her wedding. Some brides leave one last stitch undone until it’s time to leave for the ceremony, sewing it up before they depart for the church.
The colour of the dress is very important, and there’s a quaint rhyme to guide the bride in her decision:
Married in White, you have chosen right
Married in Grey, you will go far away,
Married in Black, you will wish yourself back,
Married in Red, you will wish yourself dead,
Married in Green, ashamed to be seen,
Married in Blue, you will always be true,
Married in Pearl, you will live in a whirl,
Married in Yellow, ashamed of your fellow,
Married in Brown, you will live in the town,
Married in Pink, your spirit will sink.
Green was the colour considered the most inappropriate. A green dress was thought to be imply grass stains that resulted from the wearer “rolling around in the hay”. The only time a green wedding dress was considered lucky was if the bride was Irish!
Here’s a disturbing fact - Live Aid’s Sir Bob Geldorf’s first wife, Paula Yates, wore a red wedding dress. She died of a drug overdose a few years after the end of their marriage.
A borrowed wedding dress will bring much luck to the wearer, but bad luck to the lender. And any bride who finds a spider inside her wedding dress should rejoice – it’s a good sign! But beware, arachnophobes - try not to struggle too much. Tearing a wedding dress means the marriage will end in death.
Veils were traditionally worn to protect the bride from evil spirits. In some Eastern cultures the groom is does not see his bride’s face until he lifts the veil after the ceremony – now that could be the basis for a wonderful horror story! The tradition behind the bridesmaid doesn’t appear to be offer anyone taking that role much happiness – they were actually decoys to confuse any evil spirits with designs upon the bride! This superstition dates back to Roman times, when the law required ten witnesses to outwit the inevitable evil spirits bound to turn up and spoil a happy event. This meant that ushers and bridesmaids were dressed in a similar fashion to the bride, in the belief that the evil spirits would become confused and take a bridesmaid instead of the bride!
Journey To The Ceremony
Before departing a quick glance in the mirror to check her attire will bring a bride good fortune. However if she returns to the mirror after the journey has begun she will attract only bad luck. There are a number of things to look out for on the journey to the church, because they’re a guarantee of a happy life together. These include: chimney sweeps, lambs, toads, spiders, black cats, rainbows and – if there’s a circus in town – elephants. Conversely the sight of one of the following during the journey is a bad omen:
an open grave, a rabbit, a pig, a lizard, a rooster crowing and monks and nuns. The latter two may be associated with chastity and poverty, and also signify that the newlyweds may be dependant on charity during their marriage.
The best man’s job is to protect the bridegroom from any bad luck and evil spirit’s lurking nearby. He must ensure that once the groom has begun his journey to the church he does not return home – for any reason.
The ring must NEVER be dropped during the ceremony. If it falls to the ground does the union is doomed. An ancient wedding superstition states that if either the groom or the bride drops it, it’s a sign that he or she will be the first to die. If it rolled away from the altar steps, the omen was extremely bad. If it came to rest on a gravestone in the floor, it foretold an early death for one of the pair - the bride if the person buried beneath the stone was a woman, the groom if it was a man.
The reason the ring is placed on the third finger of the left hand dates back to Roman times, when they believed that the left hand was more clean and pure because most work was done with the right hand. They also believed the vein in this finger was directly connected to the heart, the centre of LOVE. The third finger is also symbolic of the Holy Trinity: The Father, Son and Holy Ghost.
The reason the groom arrives at the church before the bride is another old belief. It’s supposed to increase the marriage’s good fortune. This is also the reason the bride is supposed to take her first step into the church with her right foot. Timing is also import – ensure the vows are not spoken at the bottom of the hour, because that will encourage bad luck. If the bride weeps on her wedding day it’s a guarantee that she will never cry again during the duration of her marriage.
The new bride must enter her home by the main door, and she must not trip or fall. It’s unlucky for the bride to step into her new home with the left foot first, which is the reason the custom of carrying the bride over the threshold came about.
And remember – the spouse who falls asleep first on the wedding night will be the first to die…