The History Behind The Something Old, Something New Wedding Tradition

From tossing rice to wearing white, weddings are full of traditions that date back hundreds of years. While some of them have stayed in the past, most traditions are still present and accounted for in weddings to this day. Whether you're a spouse-to-be or your guilty pleasure is planning your big day on a very detailed Pinterest board with all the latest wedding trends, you've probably heard the phrase "something old, something new." This phrase is actually only one part of the century-old tradition, dating back to Victorian-era England. (Via The Knot).

The rhyme sings: "Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, and a sixpence in your shoe." Reader's Digest reports that the first written record of the rhyme was printed in an 1871 issue of St. James Magazine. Historically, brides would be gifted one of each item to adorn on their wedding day, hoping to ensure they were safe from the evil eye, which was "a curse passed through a malicious glare that could make a bride infertile" (via The Knot).

The original something old, something new wedding tradition is outdated

For most modern-day couples, fertility and evil spirits might not be their first worries when they think about their wedding day. Wedding traditions like this tend to feel a bit outdated, especially when the last part of the rhyme isn't even relevant anymore. For example, the sixpence is a British coin that is no longer in circulation, and according to The Pioneer Woman, brides would walk around with coins in their shoes so that they could guarantee fortune and prosperity in their coming marriage. While that's always a great goal for couples, stepping on old coins all day may not be the best way to achieve it.

Even so, there are plenty of ways to update and modernize these traditions to make them personal to each engaged couple. Luckily, each of these items doesn't have an exact definition, so it is totally up to interpretation. Whether you're a superstitious bride-to-be or you overheard the rhyme while binging "Four Weddings," knowing the origins of this rhyme will help you find ways to modernize it.

Wearing something old represented protection of the bride

Originally, brides needed to collect something old to wear that would represent continuity and protection for their future child, per Reader's Digest. What would they need protection from, you may be asking? Oh, just that evil eye that hangs around weddings waiting to curse newlyweds and ruin their fertility (via The Knot). Luckily, these days we are less afraid of the evil eye, and interpret this line in a more sentimental way. Brides report, "Something old symbolizes your lives prior to when they became intertwined and offers a chance to honor your family heritage."

Your "something old" could be some antique jewelry you found at a thrift store, a family heirloom given to you by your mother-in-law, or a piece of your mom's wedding dress sewn into your own. Some brides and grooms choose to honor their family by incorporating photos of those who have passed, placed in a locket, or framed on a reserved chair during their ceremony. Even your reception playlist can be full of oldies-but-goodies, and we'll count it. Nowadays, you don't have to physically wear the item to participate in the tradition, as long as it's present in some way on your day.

Something new represented hope for the future

A dress, a suit, the wedding decor, and even your fiancé can be counted as "something new." According to Pioneer Woman, this part of the rhyme traditionally represented hope for the future, which is still a relevant theme in modern-day weddings. When the tradition began, each of the items were "collected from women in the bride's family, or female friends who have had successful marriages and families." (via Reader's Digest).

These days, a bride can treat herself to a nice new pair of shoes and call it her "something new." And these traditions aren't just for the brides anymore, grooms are encouraged to participate too. Whether it's something tangible like a pair of cufflinks or a sweet sentiment like personalized wedding vows, couples have found creative ways to turn this age-old tradition into something special and personal. Brides report that some couples decide to give each other a wedding day gift for their "something new" such as a watch or bracelet, a note of love for them to read before the ceremony, or an item off their own registry

Something borrowed traditionally represents well wishes

Having "something borrowed" traditionally represents well wishes from another married couple. According to Reader's Digest, the idea was that if two people had a successful marriage and had produced children already, their good luck would transfer to the newlyweds. While this seems like a sweet sentiment, one of the original items a bride might've borrowed included "the undergarment from a woman who already had children." Understandably, most couples today opt-out of that particular item.

Thankfully, there are still lots of things you can borrow from your loved ones that represent their good wishes (and maybe give you a little bit of luck). This can be a piece of jewelry from your grandma who's been married to grandpa for 68 years, the veil your mom wore on her wedding day or even a drink recipe from your favorite bar. Thinking outside the box is one of the best parts of participating in this tradition.

The something blue tradition arose from an evil-eye curse

Your colors are navy and gray? Perfect, there's your something blue. But brides 400 years ago didn't really have wedding colors to rely on to ward off "the evil eye." Yeah, this part of the rhyme is specifically for that pesky curse — as blue was viewed as a symbol of purity, love, and fidelity, and was thought to be the color that the evil eye really didn't like. The blue item was usually a garter belt that the groom would later fling across the room. That tradition seems to be fading out in recent years as well, but the blue has remained. 

Even if you aren't too worried about the evil eye, finding something blue can be a beautiful way for a bride to add a little accessory. Whether you decide on baby blue flowers, a navy ring box, or a signature cocktail full of blue curacao, incorporate whatever feels most like you.

If the "something old, something new" tradition feels like a fun bridal scavenger hunt, that's great. But if the very thought of tracking down one of your mom's old necklaces is going to stress you out further leading up to your big day, maybe skip it. The evil eye most likely has better things to do, anyways.