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Old Wives’ Tales: Explanations for Future Wives

If you are in the process of planning your wedding, you have a lot of practical matters to be concerned with. But you also have your old wives’ tales, and the old wives just might know a thing or two about getting married.

Everyone wants their marriage to start on the right foot, and many people still engage in luck-based traditions to sway the gods (or spirits or fate or the ether) in their favor before they walk down the aisle.

Here is a list of (lucky) seven common wedding superstitions and where they come from to either rest your mind, or give you more to worry about.
A veil is one of the oldest traditional garments, dating back to ancient cultures, and the reason for wearing one was twofold: to symbolize the bride’s purity and to ward away evil spirits. In ancient Rome, the spirits were said to be jealous of the bride’s happiness, and the veil was to prevent this from happening.

The purity angle, however, seems to be more common than the evil spirit angle. Veiis were worn to symbolize that the woman was untouched and virginal. In cultures with arranged marriages, a bride would wear a veil to hide her face prior to the wedding ceremony—when she would meet the man she was to spend her life with.

Seeing Each Other

As mentioned above, cultures with arranged marriages do not always allow the two getting married to meet prior to the ceremony. This was done to prevent either of the couple from backing out of the marriage. This is uncommon now—even for an arranged marriage—but many cultures picked up this tradition in different ways.

Today, many western cultures believe it is bad luck for the groom to see the bride on the wedding day, or for the groom to see the bride in her wedding dress, specifically, prior to when she walks down the aisle. Although, this is said to be a way to prevent the ‘surprise’ of the bride all dressed up from being ruined, rather than a way to prevent anyone from backing out of the marriage.


It may not be ironic, but there are still some things to say about rain on your wedding day. In many cultures, rain symbolizes cleansing and fertility (April showers, and such). Because weddings are supposed to involve the merging of two pure souls into one fertile partnership, rain—with its cleansing and life-giving powers—is a good omen.

The Threshold

This superstition goes back to a fear of evil spirits. In Medieval Europe, many people worried that a bride was particularly vulnerable to evil spirits entering through the soles of her feet. If one of these spirits got into the bride through her feel as she was walking into her new home with her new husband, she risked dragging these evil spirits with her. I don’t know what those in Medieval Europe thought about the groom’s feet, but it probably had something to do with swords and the groom’s duty to protect his new wife.

Old, New, Borrowed, and Blue

This superstition comes from an English rhyme (Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue, A Sixpence in your Shoe), and the four ‘somethings’ are said to simply be good luck charms (no warding off evil spirits in this one).

The ‘something old’ symbolizes continuity with the past, and the ‘something new’ symbolizes optimism for the new journey the couple is embarking on. The ‘something borrowed’ symbolizes family and borrowed happiness, and the ‘something blue’ symbolizes purity, fidelity, and love. There does not seem to be rules for combining these characteristics into fewer items (<em>e.g.</em>, a borrowed, blue bow), but this would likely decrease the wedding’s overall luck.

Breaking Glass

In Jewish traditions and Mediterranean cultures (Greece, Italy), newlyweds smash a glass at their wedding. In Jewish tradition, the glass is said to symbolize the fragility of relationships, and the glass is broken so that the marriage never breaks (also, loud noises—such as breaking glass—are said to frighten jealous spirits). In Italy, the number of pieces the glass breaks into symbolizes how many happy years the couple will be married.

Day of the Week

In English tradition, the day of the week a couple gets married carries symbolic importance. This, once again, comes from the English penchant for rhymes. Monday is for wealth and Tuesday is for health, but Wednesday is considered the luckiest wedding marry; and Thursday brings losses and Friday brings crosses, but Saturday is the unluckiest wedding day.