The old wedding rhyme goes, “Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, and a silver sixpence in my shoe.”
Brides all over the world have heeded this superstition closely because it is believed to bring luck not only on the wedding day but during their entire married life.
The advice seems bizarre; after all, what does blue have to do with the wedding? And why would you want to use something old in a once-in-a-lifetime event? But a few hundred years ago, these demands made perfect sense.
The origin of the rhyme shows that brides of old did everything they could to ensure a successful marriage, just like today’s couples do.
The Evil Eye in Victorian England
The superstition started in England around the late 1800s, where people were wary of the Evil Eye — a curse that someone could give you through a malicious stare. Usually, a cursed glare could come from a person who may be envious of your fortune and happiness, two things that are obvious during your wedding day.
Cultures around the world have different versions of the Evil Eye, which has spurred countless amulets, charms and, in the case of Victorian England, superstitious rhymes.
Breaking Down the Rhyme
Victorian brides collected and used these five objects to thwart the Evil Eye, which, according to superstition, causes infertility. On her wedding day, she wears:
- Something Old – These are usually an heirloom dress or family treasures passed down through the generations. These protect the bride from the Evil Eye. In contemporary times, something old also represents family continuity and protection for future children.
- Something New – Together with something old, something new is meant to baffle the Evil Eye. This also represents the start of a new life and the union of two families. Since the couple is entering a new chapter in life, it’s only fitting that they buy something new for their nuptials.
- Something Borrowed – This is preferably the undergarment of another woman who is married and has children. By wearing “something borrowed” on her wedding day, the bride tricks the Evil Eye into thinking she’s already fertile and gave birth, thus thwarting the curse. In contemporary times, a bride wears something borrowed, usually from a married girl, in the hopes that some of the good fortune will rub off them.
- Something Blue – Blue traditionally represents love, fidelity, and purity. In Christian tradition, the Virgin Mary is often shown wearing blue robes. It’s also connected to another proverb that goes, “Marry in blue, lover be true.” So even without the rhyme, a lot of brides use blue trinkets and design motifs in the church and at wedding venues. Some splurge and go all out by chartering a wedding yacht or a luxurious bridal car, then decorates them in blue to symbolize the purity of their love. But this doesn’t have to be fancy — it could be little blue flowers, blue pendants, or blue ribbons. In fact, the Duchess of Cambridge had a blue ribbon sewn inside her wedding gown to follow the rhyme.
- Sixpence in the Shoe – This wards off evil from frustrated suitors. In Victorian times, the penny also symbolizes wealth and good fortune, so brides would wear them for a prosperous and blessed marriage.
Although people are no longer worried about the Evil Eye, brides still follow the rhyme because it has been a long-standing wedding tradition. Besides, who wouldn’t want a bit of luck on their wedding day?