The In Lores
26 Jul 2011
The In Lores
Do you smash a plate for luck or shove a sixpence in your shoe? Discover why modern brides still stick with tradition
We live in the hyper modern age of the internet, the iPad and 3D television and yet we still believe that all hell will break loose if we don’t wear our granny’s tatty old blue garter on our wedding day.
Even now, when brides can pretty much do what they like, from arriving by hot air balloon to dressing up as Calamity Jane, most still seem nervous about l letting go of key traditions. Why?
‘Brides might be completely non-traditional in many respects, but they still have a basic plan of how a wedding should be in the back of their minds,’ says Mark Norton-Noon, director of Lancashire Wedding Planners.
‘To be honest, people often unwittingly include traditions in their weddings because they are so embedded in our culture. Wearing a white dress is a tradition. Having a tiered wedding cake is a tradition. They’re not written in law anywhere, they’re just traditions that most couples choose to maintain.’
Many of the lores that still crop up today come from centuries old mystical beliefs, echoing down the years from when weddings were seen as a prime time for bad luck and evil spirits to descend on the couple.
Others are more recent conceits, most notably from the Victorian era when it seems everyone spent inordinate amounts of time throwing salt over their shoulders, shoving coins in their shoes and borrowing blue things. When they found time to eat, sleep and build an empire is anyone’s guess.
The ever popular ‘something old, something new’ rhyme is a Victorian tradition, as is the joyous ringing of church bells after the service, although 19th century couples handed out individual handbells to their guests so they could ring them up the aisle rather than relying on the big boys in the bell tower.
According to Mark, it is the ‘something old, something new’ tradition that modern brides cling on to most.
‘That’s the one that is still included in most weddings,’ he says. ‘Although most of them tend to forget about the last line about putting a silver sixpence in their shoe. We remind them but not many fancy limping down the aisle. That’s where they draw the line.
‘Something old usually refers to a small family item -generally from their mother - maybe a bracelet, necklace or even a hankie in a bag. Something new is usually the dress. Something borrowed is often a small keepsake from their chief bridesmaid. And something blue tends to be an item incorporated into their outfit – a stone in a ring or a flower in their headdress - or part of the colour theme of the wedding itself. Sometimes it’s even the groom who wears a blue waistcoat.’
This apparently originated in ancient Israel where the bride wore a blue ribbon in her hair to represent love and fidelity. What the Israelites would have made of today’s trend for blue garters remains a mystery.
Not all rhymes, traditions and customs have made the cut though. For instance, it was once thought unlucky for a woman to marry a man whose surname began with the same letter as hers (‘to change the name and not the letter is to change for the worst and not the better’) and that it was tempting fate to practice writing your new name before the wedding.
There was also a time when May weddings were frowned on. Queen Victoria is believed to have banned her children from marrying in this unlucky month, favouring June instead as it was named after Juno, the Roman goddess of love. In fact Queen Victoria also gave the tradition of the white wedding dress a boost when she chose this colour, that signifies ‘maidenhood’ and sometimes purity or chastity, instead of the traditional silver favoured for royal weddings.
But some traditions just won’t be sidelined, even if they have absolutely no relevance to modern life whatsoever.
‘The tradition of the bride standing on the groom’s left goes back a long way to when men carried swords, usually in their right hand,’ Mark explains. ‘If someone spoke up when the vicar asked for objections he could immediately defend his wife’s honour.
‘Obviously we don’t encourage grooms to carry swords now but the bride still tends to stand on the groom’s left.’
Some traditions are probably best forgotten though. Like the one involving the bride’s father handing the groom one of his daughter’s shoes as a symbol of authority and possession and encouraging him to give her a little love tap on the head with it.
It’s probably best not to try that one now boys. Unless, of course, you have a burning desire to have a white silk kitten heel embedded in your forehead on your wedding photos.