Why do brides wear white wedding dresses and long bridal veils and what exactly does having something old, new, borrowed, and blue have to do with it all anyway? Weddings are big business today and the trend of having a lavish and traditional style wedding is showing no signs of stopping, but where did these wedding day traditions come from and what do they really mean? Wedding traditions are a wonderful way to make your special day even more meaningful, so you might want to familiarize yourself with what exactly these wedding day traditions are really all about.
The first white wedding dress that is credited with starting the white wedding trend belonged to Anne of Brittany on her third trip down the aisle to King Louis XII on January 8, 1499. Anne was forced by law to marry the new king as her second husband, King Charles VIII, had died. Prior to that time, most brides wore their best dress, usually yellow, red, or blue.
The color blue has been a popular wedding dress color since biblical times due to its symbolic association with purity and the Virgin Mary. In some cultures, the color of white is considered the color of mourning and was worn to symbolize the child leaving the family and joining a new family, a metaphor for the death of a child, as she becomes a woman. In other cultures white has always been associated with purity, joy, celebration, and happiness.
Bridal veils were originally meant to symbolize a woman’s submission to her new husband and were often yellow or red in color. They were also meant to represent the virginity, modesty, and innocence of the young bride as she was handed over to the new family. Bridal veils were draped over the bride’s head and would be lifted off by her husband after the ceremony to symbolize the taking of the bride and the end of her child-like innocence. Many brides would lift the veils themselves in a show of defiance and independence that she was not his property, but a partner in marriage.
In some Eastern cultures, the bride would be hidden beneath her veil until after the wedding ceremony when the groom could see his bride for the very first time. This was a common practice in cultures that participate in arranged marriages. It was meant to keep the groom from running off before the wedding because he didn’t like the look of his intended bride. Bridal veils became popular in the United States when Nelly Curtis wore one at her wedding to Major Lawrence Lewis, one of George Washington’s aides. Since that time, the white wedding dress has become the standard in the United States.
As the entire saying goes… Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue, and a Silver Sixpence in Her Shoe. This is a good luck wish from Victorian times that has stuck around for one reason or another. The something old should be something that connects the bride to her own family, such as a piece of antique jewelry that has been handed down through the generations. The something new symbolizes success, good luck, and happiness for the future of her new marriage. This is often represented by the new wedding gown. Something borrowed is meant to remind the new bride of her friends. The item borrowed must be from a happily married woman in order to give her good luck for a happy marriage of her own. The something blue is a symbol of fidelity and is often represented on the garter around the leg. Finally, the sixpence, which is often left out of the modern version, is meant to bring the new marriage wealth. Placing a penny in the shoe on your wedding day should do the trick!
Therefore, when you are putting your own wedding together, you will now understand the deeper meanings of these wedding traditions. While you certainly don’t have to believe in the old meanings, you can give them new meaning of your own as you put on your wedding dress, bridal veil, and other symbolic items on before your wedding.