Weddings are events steeped in tradition, but these traditions have changed or lost their meanings with the ravages of time. Here are four wedding customs that for one reason or another are no longer as they once were.
Something Borrowed, Something Blue
The rhyme “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, and a sixpence in your shoe” is a mnemonic device created to help remember several wedding customs from the Victorian era related to wedding attire. Something old is worn by the bride to tie her to her past and her family. The bride wears something new to represent her new life as part of a new family. The bride was to borrow something from a successfully married wife, to hopefully pass along the luck which made that marriage a success. The color blue stood for faithfulness, loyalty, and purity, all virtues expected to be inherent in a proper bride. And a sixpence in the shoe was, of course, intended to help bring literal fortune to the bride and groom.
Wedding Vows including “Love, Cherish, and Obey”
You can suggest reviving this custom with your soon-to-be bride; however, you might want to find something to hide behind first. Traditional marriage vows used to include the phrase “to love, cherish, and obey” in the bride’s vows, where grooms would recite “to love, cherish, and worship.” It was King Henry VIII who approved the word “obey” in wedding vows shortly after he established the Church of England in 1534. And it was the Episcopal Church (the U.S. branch of the Church of England) that on the 12th of September 1922 (on the heels of the women’s suffrage movement) voted to remove the word “obey” from the bride’s vows.
Carrying the Bride across the Threshold
The custom of carrying the bride across the threshold of the couple’s house as it was first entered was started during Roman times. The chance that a bride would trip across the threshold and forever bring bad luck to the marriage was not a chance to be taken. She was therefore carried across the threshold of her groom’s house, which also prevented her from seeming too eager to lose her virginity. Ancient Romans also believed that evil spirits gathered at the threshold of the home and might enter through the soles of the bride’s feet if she was not carried across. Why the groom did not have evil spirits enter the soles of his feet is likely a question which cannot be answered!
Witnessing the Consummation
Jokes about the wedding night are plentiful, but it wasn’t always an experience to be looked forward to. The act of having intercourse to consummate a marriage, and providing evidence of such, was a custom that gave birth to many decidedly awkward traditions. Especially in cases of nobility, servants stayed in the bedchamber of the newly wedded couple to “witness” the consummation. The privacy of the wedded couple included only the set of curtains which surrounded the bed. In medieval England and France, wedding guests would actually put their hands on the bride’s stockings to verify consummation and steal portions of the wedding dress for good luck. This invasive assault by wedding guests gave rise to the more modern traditions of throwing the bouquet and garter.
There are many more customs which to a certain degree have changed over time. There is the tradition of keeping the top of a wedding cake in the freezer to eat one year later, and the traditions of a wedding toast, the best man, and the wedding party. Sacramental and ceremonious occasions are rife with traditions, which are all the more fun when you learn their true origins.