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Wedding, Engagement, Anniversary & Love Rings

Wedding Customs and Superstitions

Throughout time, cultures around the world have honored special traditions as part of their wedding celebrations.

A Guide To Special Wedding Traditions

wedding bouquet tradition
During the 15th century, people took their yearly baths in May and would generally get married in June. Just to be safe, brides carried bouquets to mask the smell of body odor.

Throughout the world, weddings are sacred ceremonies with tremendous impact on the future lives of the couple.  For this reason, they are associated with many customs and superstitions.  

Western Wedding Superstitions

  • The Victorians believed it was lucky to marry on the day of the week the groom was born, but the luckiest day to marry was the groom’s actual birthday.
  • If you take a photograph of the one you love and hold a ring on the end of a thread in front of it, you can determine if they will be your future mate. If the ring moves in a circle, you will marry the person in the photo; if the ring moves back and forth, it is unlikely you will marry them. Should the ring not move at all, you are likely to remain single.
  • The bride and groom should smash their glasses after the toast to ensure that they are never used for a better purpose.
  • If a small piece of wedding cake is passed three times through a wedding ring and then placed under her pillow, a woman will dream of her future husband.   The same effect is achieved if a borrowed wedding ring is placed on the third finger of a woman’s left hand and her shoes are placed in the shape of a “T” before she goes to sleep.
  • If a woman eats a salted herring just before she goes to bed, her future husband will appear to her in a dream, bearing a cup of water to quench her thirst.

queen victoria wedding gown
A portrait of Queen Victoria on her wedding day to Prince Albert. She popularized the color white for wedding gowns.

  • Most brides marry in white, which symbolizes virginity.  This tradition started in the 16th century, and was given a boost by Queen Victoria who chose to marry in white instead of silver, the traditional color for Royal brides.  Before the white dress tradition started, brides wore their best dress. The color may have been influenced by the following rhyme:

“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.”

  • Although most weddings now take place on a Saturday it was considered unlucky in the past.  Fridays were also considered unlucky, particularly Friday the 13th.  The famous old rhyme advises a wedding in the first half of the week:

“Monday for wealth

Tuesday for health

Wednesday the best day of all

Thursday for losses

Friday for crosses

Saturday for no luck at all.”

Peasant Wedding Dance tradition
The painting Peasant Wedding Dance by Pieter Bruegel the Younger (1607).

Married when the year is new, he’ll be loving, kind and true.  

When February birds do mate, you either wed or dread your fate.  

If you wed when March winds blow, joy and sorrow both you’ll know.  

Marry in April when you can, joy for maiden & for man.  

Marry in the month of May, and you’ll surely rue the day.  

Marry when June roses grow, over land and sea you’ll go.  

Those who in July do wed, must labor for their daily bread.  

Whoever wed in August be, many a change is sure to see.  

Marry in September’s shrine, your living will be rich and fine.  

If in October you do marry, love will come, but riches tarry.  

If you wed in bleak November, only joys will come, remember.  

When December snows fall fast, marry and true love will last.

  • The new bride must enter her home by the main door, and must not trip or fall.  This is the origin of the custom of carrying the bride over the threshold.

blue wedding shoes
In a modern move, many brides are choosing to make their something blue be their shoes.

  • Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue, and a Silver Sixpence in Her Shoe.”  This good luck saying dates back to the Victorian period.  Many brides choose to wear a piece of jewelry from the family for the “something old.”  The wedding gown is often chosen as the new item.  The borrowed object is worn to remind the bride that she will have help in the future if she needs it.  Blue is the symbol of loyalty and chastity.  The “something blue” is frequently the garter.
  • Throwing the bride’s garter began in France where pieces of the bridal attire were once considered lucky.  The bride would throw the garter to the wedding guests and whomever caught it would receive good luck.  In the United States, the groom traditionally removes the garter from the bride and throws it to the unmarried men.  The man who catches it is thought to be the next to marry.  At some weddings, the man who catches the garter will place it on the leg of the lady who caught the bride’s bouquet or they may start the next dance.  It is also customary for the recipients of the bouquet and garter to have a photograph taken with the bride and groom.

peasant wedding customs
The painting “The Peasant Wedding” by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, circa 1567.

  • In Italy, the groom is required to carry a piece of iron in his pocket to keep the evil eye (mal’ochino) away from himself and his bride. The iron is supposed to banish evil spirits.
  • It is important that the couple repeat their vows when the minute hand on the clock is going upwards.  This ensures they will work together in their married life.  It is bad luck to say your vows when the minute hand is moving downward.
  • A bride may wear pears to ensure that she will not cry on her wedding day.
  • The flower girl strews flower petals to ensure the couple is blessed with children.  
  • The wedding veil hides the bride from evil spirits. The veil should never be put on before the wedding morning except during fittings, and then it must be tried on separately, not with the dress.  When the bride is dressing for the ceremony, the veil should not be donned until she is otherwise completely ready, nor should she see herself in it until she takes her last look in the mirror just before starting for the church.
  • It is thought unlucky for the bride to make her own wedding dress.  It is also unlucky for the groom to see the bride in her wedding dress before until she arrives at the ceremony.  The bride should not wear her entire outfit before the wedding day. Some brides leave a final stitch on the dress undone until it is time to leave for the ceremony.
  • In the past, the prospective groom sent his friends or members of his family to represent his interests to the prospective bride and her family.  If they encountered a blind man, a monk, or a pregnant woman along the way, the marriage was thought to be doomed.  On the other hand, goats, pigeons, and wolves were considered good omens, bringing good fortune to the marriage.

hawthorn branch.
A hawthorn branch with red berries would act as a proposal and acceptance.

  • During the Middle Ages in England, a man proposed by leaving a hawthorn branch at the door of his beloved on the first of May.  If the woman left the branch at the door, it was a sign that she accepted the proposal.  However, if she replaced the hawthorn branch with a cauliflower, it meant she refused his offer.  
  • It is unlucky to remove the wedding ring once it has been put on in church.  If it falls off or is accidentally removed, then the husband must place it back on the bride’s finger.  If the wedding ring is dropped before or during the ceremony, it is considered a bad omen.

black cat lucky wedding omen
Although contrary to expectations, a black cat seen on one’s wedding day is considered lucky.

  • Seeing a chimney sweep on the way to a wedding brings good luck.  In some countries, it is possible to hire one to attend the wedding.  Other good luck omens when seen on the way to the ceremony include: lambs, toads, spiders, black cats, and rainbows.  Bad omens include: an open grave, pigs, lizards, monks, and nuns.
  • In some cultures, inclement weather on the wedding day is considered a bad omen; but in other cultures, it is a good omen.  Cloudy skies and wind are believed to cause stormy marriages.  Snow on the other hand is associated with fertility and wealth.

Eastern Wedding Superstitions

  • In India, members of the Bonthuk caste would add a bound pig to the orchestra playing at a wedding.  It was thought that the pig’s squeals helped frighten away evil spirits, assuring a good marriage.

ring ceremony hindu wedding
A traditional ring ceremony at a Hindu wedding.

  • Love is no stranger in Myanmar (formerly Burma), where people say that the love between a man and a woman may be manifested in 1,500 ways.  Sir James George Scott spent a great deal of time observing the customs of the Burmese people during his extended residency in the country towards the end of the 19th century.  From Sir Scott’s The Burman:

“Friday’s daughter

Didn’t oughter

Marry with a Monday’s son;

Should she do it

Both will rue it,

Life’s last lap will soon be run.”

“Saturdays and Thursdays,

The Serpent and the rat,

You cannot find out worse days,

Life’s short enough at that.”  

Wife of a Burmese King's Merchant
Painting of The Wife of a Burmese King’s Merchant.

  • The traditional Burmese calendar consists of 12 months: Tagu, Kasôn, Nayôn, Waso, Wagaung, Tawthalin, Thadingyut, Tasaungmôn, Na’daw, Pyatho, Tabodwè, and Tabaung.  Although today, the traditional Burmese calendar has been replaced by the Gregorian one, Sir Scott had the following to say about how wedding dates were selected in 19th century Burma:

“The lucky day has to be sought from the horoscopes of the two chief parties, but beyond this there are a number of obstacles which must on no account be overlooked…the year begins with Tagu, commencing about the middle of April.  In this month and Kasôn the next, couples marrying will be very rich.  In Nayôn, they will love one another.  Those marrying in Waso and Wagaung, when Lent begins, will die or be grievously sick.  If the young pair are so mad as to brave the danger, their parents should stop the marriage.  In Tawthalin, Na’daw, and Pyatho if you marry, you will lose goods and money.  In Thadingyut, you will have slaves, children, and money as much as you want.  In Tasaungmôn slaves, buffaloes, cattle and furniture in abundance will flow in upon the married couple.  Tabodwè and Tabaung are very unlucky for those who tempt [fortune].  There will be no children, or only girls, and misfortunes will be frequent.”

  • In Korea, ducks–which are believed to mate for life–are included in the wedding.
  • modern chinese wedding couple
    A modern take on the custom of incorporating red in Chinese weddings for luck.

    In China, red is a very lucky color for weddings, and a red umbrella is often used to protect the bride from evil spirits as she progresses up the aisle. Red is also used for much of the decorations, attire and many other aspects of the ceremony.

  • In the Philippines, a number of superstitions and traditions hold sway. Two daughters from the same family must not marry in the same year.  It is good luck to give a chamber pot for a wedding gift.  The betrothed couple must not travel far to their wedding.  The groom must arrive first at the church.  The bride should step on the groom’s foot during the wedding if she wants him to follow her wishes during the marriage.
  • In the Middle East, decorative dyes called henna are applied to the hands and feet of the bride to ward off evil.  At the wedding, guests are given five almonds to thank them for wishing for five things: health, happiness, fertility, wealth, and long life for the happy couple.  In Egypt, the bride is pinched for good luck on her wedding day.
  • In Iran, the night before the wedding, three or four unmarried girls hold a clean white cloth over the heads of the bride and groom.  One of the unmarried girls will grind two sugar cubes together as she asks God to bless the married couple.
  • Moroccan women take a milk bath to purify themselves before their wedding ceremony.
  • names on wedding shoes
    The woman whose name rubs off by the end of the night is said to be the next to marry in a Turkish and Greek custom.

    In Turkey, when a girl gets married, all her female friends write their names inside her shoes.  After the wedding ceremony, if someone’s name has been rubbed off and can not be read anymore, it means this person will be married next.

The impact of tradition also plays a strong part throughout the next section, which discusses Where to Wear Love Rings | Traditions and Current Trends.

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