Have you ever wondered what the meaning and the origin behind the famous bridal poem ‘Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue’ was? Well as a wedding photographer, I too was intrigued, as I am with any aspect of the wedding tradition and I did a little research. It’s a poem that’s synonymous with modern weddings, it’s a tradition that is still fiercely followed to this day, despite it’s meaning mostly being lost upon many of the brides I’ve talked to about it. If I see a bride getting these items ready, I generally try to take a photo of the set before they are worn for posterity’s sake, so I figured it might be interesting to find out why the tradition exists in the first place. Turns out the poem is actually simply a rhyming list of varying other traditions that were in place prior to the poem for various different ways to grant good luck to the bride and her marriage.
‘Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue’
The poem dates back to Victorian times, and as I wrote earlier, links a number of older traditions that brides adhere to for good luck. All 4 traditions of something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue are purely superstitious in nature with the minor exception that the ‘something blue’ part could relate to the religious colours of the Virgin Mary. However in Victorian times, brides would choose the colour blue to symbolise faithfulness and loyalty, and was actually the preferred colour of wedding dresses at the time, but that’s another story.
Incorporating something old into a bride’s attire was meant to symbolise her connection to her roots, her family and where she grew up. Carrying this with her into her future so that she may draw from her family’s strength in whatever the future has in store for her. Many brides choose to wear a piece of antique family jewelry or a piece of clothing handed down through the generations. In modern times this idea that the ‘something old’ has some connection to family is often forgotten in lieu of some old possession, often shoes or even underwear.
Just as the ‘something old’ was supposed to link her with her past, the ‘something new’ part of the poem was supposed to symbolise the new life she will have wedded to her new husband. One marketing technique bridal boutiques use when selling their customers wedding gowns is that the ‘something new’ should represent good fortune and success in the bride’s new life, and therefore should be the most expensive thing she’s wearing. Quite often though, aside from the wedding dress the ‘new’ item is the engagement ring, or her shoes.
Getting ‘something borrowed’ in modern times is often misunderstood as simply ‘borrowing’ something from anyone, be it perfume or some earrings. Often brides accidentally get it right however by borrowing something from their mother or Matron of honour as traditionally the ‘borrowed’ item should be something borrowed from an already happily wedded wife so as to bring a little bit of the good luck she has had in her life into this new marriage. The borrowed item is also there to remind the bride that friends and family are there to support her.
Having something blue in the Victorian era symbolised faithfulness, loyalty and purity. All the things the white wedding dress these days represents. The colour blue however relates to the colour of the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus in the Christian faith, thereby being the only tradition in the list directly related to organised religion, the rest being a secular tradition. That said however, the colour blue represents these things purely by the nature of its hue, just as red represents danger and gold, wealth.
And a silver sixpence in my shoe
An often forgotten part of the poem ‘Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, and a silver sixpence in my shoe’ is the last of the five traditions which was to place a silver sixpence in the bride’s shoe to ensure wealth in the future. Obviously we no longer use sixpences anywhere outside of the UK, and therefore have largely forgotten this part of the rhyme, but it was there and it may be something you brides out there might like to consider if you’re following the rhyme 🙂
In addition to the bride carrying Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue and a sixpence in her shoe; nestled all over her body would be bunches of herbs to ward off bad spirits. This tradition has been almost completely replaced by the carrying of a bridal bouquet, which has it’s own sets of traditions associated with it.