Where the “Something Old, New, Borrowed and Blue” Tradition Comes From?
The traditional wedding rhyme goes something old, something new, and something borrowed something blue, and a sixpence in your shoe.
It describes the four (technically five) objects a bride should have with her on her wedding day for good luck, and brides have been following this custom for centuries. But why?
The mantra started as a Victorian-era rhyme that came out of the English country Lancashire. In that time, the “something blue” was usually a garter, and the blue and old items protected the bride against the Evil Eye, a curse passed through a malicious glare that could make the bride infertile. “Something borrowed” was preferably the undergarment of a woman who already had children. Legend says that wearing this would confuse the Evil Eye into thinking the bride was already fertile, and the curse would be thwarted. Also, if you’re wondering, this is why brides stand on the left at weddings.
These special items have taken on slightly different meanings today, but their symbolism is still important for brides on their special day. According to The Knot, “something old” stands for continuity; “something new” shows optimism for the future; “something borrowed” symbolizes borrowed happiness; and “something blue” represents purity, love, and fidelity.
And if a non-British bride is so lucky to find a sixpence to put in her shoe, she uses it as a wish for good fortune and prosperity. Some people chose to stray from tradition though and don’t have something old, new, borrow, or blue at their wedding; these are other outdated wedding rules no one follows anymore.
But don’t stress over this old-school guide for bridal success. The objects in the rhyme aren’t meant to dictate your wedding style or inspire a hunt for the perfect “something.” They’re usually small tokens of love that your mother, sister, other relatives and/or attendants will give you at the eleventh hour (although you can give them to yourself too). And now, of course, this sweet tradition extends far beyond trinkets for the bride. Two grooms can sport blue ties or borrow their grandfathers’ cuff links. Bridesmaids can wear blue and act as the bride’s “something blue.” We’ve seen blue hair and blue manicures, a display of old family photographs as an escort card backdrop, new jewellery or a beautiful new getaway car for the couple—you name it.
We’ve all heard the phrase something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue. It’s the list of items that no bride wants to walk down the aisle without. If worn on your wedding day, these good luck charms are thought to be the recipe for a successful marriage. It’s a superstition followed by almost every bride, but why? We’ve researched the myth to discover where it came from and the meaning behind wearing something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue on your wedding day.
The oldest written evidence of this rhyme dates back to the late 1800s. The phrase comes from the English rhyme, “Something Olde, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue, A Sixpence in your Shoe.” Although in the present day, the first four items are most familiar, some modern brides still maintain the tradition of putting a sixpence or penny in their shoe.
Now that you know the history of something old, something new, rhyme, here’s the meaning behind each item you’re supposed to collect.
The Meaning of “Something Old”
Back in the day, including “something old” was a sure way to ward off the Evil Eye and protect any future children the couple might have (the Evil Eye was thought to cause infertility in the bride—yikes). But more generally, and on a more lighthearted note, “something old” represents continuity, and contemporary couples use this as a chance to wear a sentimental piece of jewellery or item of clothing belonging to an older relative. Often the parents of the bride will gift her an heirloom before the ceremony.
With the trend for vintage-looking like it’s not going to go away anytime soon, there are quite a few ‘old’ items that you can incorporate into your wedding look.
We love the idea of wearing your mother’s or grandmother’s jewellery on the big day. It might be a brooch, garter, neckline or a pair of earrings. Maybe you had a christening bracelet you want to wear on your wedding day. Something old doesn’t have to mean clothing or accessories, either. If you have an old family cake topper, you could use that.
If there’s an old family veil that your mother, aunts or older sisters wore on their big days, ask to borrow that. Wedding veils don’t date too much, so this could be a money-saving item for you, too.
The bride’s “something old” item symbolizes her family, past, and traditions. The vintage trend is here to stay, so there are plenty of ways to incorporate an “old” item into your ensemble. In addition to wearing a relative’s dress and jewellery from her wedding day, you can use:
- An old locket, pin, or pocket watch incorporated into the bouquet
- An old family Bible with the rings tied on top
- A strip of lace from your mom’s wedding dress wrapped around the bouquet or sewn into your dress
- A new locket filled with old pictures of loved ones (this one counts as both “old” and “new”). Wear the locket or add it to the bouquet.
The Meaning of “Something New”
This one’s pretty straightforward: “Something new” offers optimism for the future. The couple is about to enter into a new chapter in life, so walking into marriage with “something new” makes total sense. Don’t worry about searching far and wide for “something new”—it can truly be anything, including your wedding dress, veil, jewellery and shoes. Couples often tick this box before they even learn this rhyme exists. It’s up to you whether your “something new” is a gift from someone else or the result of a treat-yourself moment.
Your something new is most likely to be your wedding dress or your new husband! If you’re recycling a family wedding dress or borrowing one, then what else would be good that’s new? Kate Middleton wore a new pair of diamond earrings on her wedding day to Prince William, and her parents had them commissioned especially for her, lucky girl.
Many generous grooms buy their brides-to-be a gift that is presented to them on the morning of their wedding, which might be something like a pearl bracelet, earrings or a necklace.
Alternatively, if you’re not into possessions, you could treat yourself to something new that’s going to give you a different look. You could have a brand new look by having a teeth whitening session or have laser eye surgery. Or you could even just buy a new lipstick or makeup if your budget is tight. Just make sure your something new is something practical that you’re going to enjoy in the long term.
“Something new” is a symbol of a bride’s new life ahead of her. You may choose to designate your dress as your “something new,” as many brides do, or you may receive a gift on the morning of the wedding from your betrothed. It could be earrings, a necklace, or a bracelet that would be appropriate for the ceremony. Consider:
- A new perfume is chosen especially for the day
- New makeup with a (new) signature-shade lipstick
- Your new initials monogrammed on a handkerchief or a necklace
- New lingerie is worn under your dress
- A new haircut
The Meaning of “Something Borrowed”
Incorporating “something borrowed” brings the couple good luck. By borrowing something from a happily married friend or relative, the bride or couple ensures a little of their good fortune rubs off on them. The old-fashioned superstition urged the bride to borrow the undergarments of a female friend or relative with a happy marriage and healthy kids (again with the fertility thing). But, of course, today it’s all about honouring a loved one or holding onto something of sentimental value—like your grandmother’s wedding hair comb or your mother’s diamond earrings—for a touch of good luck as you say your “I dos.””
Kate Middleton had the ultimate borrowed accessory on her wedding day when the Queen lent her a sparkling vintage diamond tiara. While your new in-laws may not have something quite as valuable to lend you, your mother-in-law may be delighted to lend you a vintage accessory or brooch to decorate your bridal bouquet.
We think accessories are a great thing to borrow if you can. It will make the lender feel that bit closer to you on your big day.
Another item to borrow is a veil. Traditional fingertip or church length veils aren’t particularly inspired by fashion so they’re a good classic item to borrow and you’ll certainly save by doing so. Just ask around to see who has a veil tucked away in a box somewhere.
Traditionally on loan from another happy bride, the “borrowed” item symbolizes happiness. Potential “borrowed” items include:
- A friend’s veil from her wedding
- A cake knife or cake topper from a relative or friend’s wedding
- Your cousin’s wedding shoes
- The earrings your mother wore on her wedding day
- Flowers from a family member’s garden for inclusion in the bouquet
The Meaning of “Something Blue”
While wearing or carrying “something blue” was also meant to deflect that pesky Evil Eye, the colour blue stands for love, purity and fidelity—three key qualities for a solid marriage. The traditional “something blue” was often a blue garter worn beneath the bride’s white dress. But you don’t have to wear “something blue” to ward off wicked spirits: Sprinkle blue clematis into the bouquet, pick out a gorgeous pair of blue pumps, find a powder-blue bow tie or use blue ribbon to tie your invitation suites together—just because you feel like it.
We see a lot of brides-to-be add a bit of blue to their garter as their something blue, but you could choose a more visible blue accessory.
Light blue wedding shoes can look amazing with a traditional wedding dress. You could even opt for a coloured wedding dress it doesn’t have to be in a dramatic shade, but pale blues and pinks are right on trend now for wedding gowns – think of Jessica Biel in her blush pink dress on her wedding day to Justin Timberlake!
If you had a sapphire engagement ring then maybe that could be your something blue?
“Something blue” is a symbol of fidelity, purity, and love. For Christian brides, it is also a symbol of the Virgin Mary. Options for “something blue” include:
- “Something Blue” Perfume by Oscar De La Renta
- The couple’s names and wedding date embroidered inside the wedding dress in blue thread
- Sapphire jewellery
- Bright blue heels or blue-bottomed flats
- Blue nail polish
The Meaning of “Sixpence in Your Shoe”
The classic rhyme ends with a silver sixpence in your shoe. You don’t have to wear this all the time, but this is something you could borrow from a friend who had one on her big day, that way you could double your luck!
Often forgotten, the sixpence is the final ingredient in the old rhyme. This British coin is meant to represent prosperity for the couple as they start their lives together. Though the sixpence was decommissioned in the U.K. in 1980, brides who are sticklers for detail can still obtain a sixpence and tuck it in their shoe. Brides on the other side of the pond (that’d be the United States), often substitute the sixpence for a penny, which they can put in their shoe or tuck somewhere else on their outfit.
Traditionally, the father of the bride presents her with the sixpence (or the penny) just before she walks down the aisle as a gift of good luck. Some brides make this token extra special by using a penny from the year they were born, or the year they met their one-and-only.
A “sixpence in her shoe” is a symbol of future prosperity and wealth. The sixpence is a British coin that was in use from 1551 to 1967. If you have a chance to purchase an antique coin, tape it to your soul for good luck. You might prefer to use a coin from the year you met your future spouse or from the year you were born.
While the Evil Eye is a thing of the past, this little wedding rhyme can be an entertaining tradition to follow at your wedding in whatever way works for you. Have fun with it as you put the finishing touches on your Special Day.