An English saying turned into a popular wedding tradition for brides
There are very few people, if any, that haven’t heard the saying, “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.” The phrase has been a wedding tradition and superstitious practice for many brides for longer than anyone can remember. But why is it that we have followed this for generations?
The now time-honored tradition seems to have arisen during the Victorian Era – and we, as Anglophiles, didn’t manipulate the data!
The entire saying is “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, a sixpence in your shoe.” There are many ideas as to why the rhyme became important, but everyone pretty much agrees it came out of England in the Victorian Era. According to insider.com, the first known written record is in an 1871 issue of St. James Magazine — and the author is complaining about the tradition.
Where the history gets tricky is the meaning or symbolism of each part of the rhyme. Reader’s Digest suggests that most of them are to ward off evil and protect the bride from curses of infertility. The “something blue” was typically a garter and the color was to fend off the Evil Eye — or, as RD says, “a curse passed through a malicious glare that could make the bride infertile.” Additionally, RD continues that “something borrowed” also dealt with infertility, but this time it was in the form of a borrowed undergarments from a woman who already had children. This was meant to confuse the evil spirit (naturally) from thinking the bride was already fertile and thus the evil curse would be avoided. After this, RD agrees with a breakdown from The Knot on what the other steps to the tradition symbolize. (The Knot counts something borrowed as a token to bring the couple good luck from a happily married friend or relative. We definitely like this explanation better than the RD version.)
For your “something old,” it was also a way to ward off evil in the past, but more recently, something old has been used to represent continuity. This part of the saying, in our opinion, can make for the more sentimental token. Many brides opt for something that belonged to an older relative or grandparent, often someone that wasn’t able to physically attend the wedding festivities. Some parents of the couple use this tradition as an opportunity to gift the bride an heirloom before the start of the ceremony. No matter what you chose, this is sure to bring an extra dose of love and sentiment to your Big Day.
The “something new” represents hope for the future. “The couple is about to enter into a new chapter in life, so walking into marriage with “something new” makes total sense,” says TheKnot.com. Lucky for all brides (and grooms, if they feel so inclined), something new can literally be anything “new” the bride wears on the day of the wedding. Jewelry, shoes or even the wedding dress itself all count as something new on the day of the wedding.
The part of the saying that some don’t even know exists is “a sixpence in your shoe.” The sixpence is a British coin first minted in 1551 and circulated until 1980. It is equal to one-fortieth of a pound or half of a shilling. Merriam-Webster says it’s a unit equal to six pennies. Since it’s no longer in circulation, you can keep that for your “Jeopardy” knowledge.
For the purposes of this wedding rhyme, the sixpence was to represent prosperity as a couple started their new journey together. Many American brides instead stick a penny in their shoe. As we all know, a penny is considered lucky for many. The Knot also adds that many brides get a penny that was minted the year they were born or the year they met their future spouse as an added touch of sentimental value.
Kelly here: I love this tradition. I love most traditions when it comes to weddings, but this one is special. There are so many ways to interpret each of the steps and they are all positive. Why wouldn’t you want to start your new married life with all the positive energy you could muster? Makes sense to me.