Wedding Day Superstitions, Omens, and Folklore
Here Comes the Bride
Most little girls fantasize about the day they will get married. Every little girl, at least once, will walk around wearing a fancy white costume and veil, dreaming about their wedding day from a young age. Then the day comes, and the wedding might go off without a hitch. And maybe sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes brides or grooms get "cold feet" and ditch their wedding altogether. Sometimes (often more than not) family members throw tantrums or start drama at the wedding or wedding reception. But has anyone stopped to think about where the tradition of a wedding comes from? Why do we wear white? Why are there so many traditions and superstitions surrounding the wedding day? Many different cultures have their own customs and beliefs about wedding days. In this article, we will identify some of the most common wedding day superstitions, omens, and customs and also take a look at some of the creepiest bits of wedding folklore. What might be a life-changing, magical day for some could be another's worst nightmare.
Old Wedding Traditions and Superstitions
Most of us go to our wedding day carrying on old traditions and customs that have been passed down for ages without ever knowing the meaning or origins of those customs. Flowers, colors, vows, food, and poems all have a place on one's wedding day. While some of these customs seem innocent and sweet, others have a more grisly origin.
Have you ever heard the wedding custom, "something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, and a silver sixpence in her shoe"? In modern times, often the bride is given each item reflected in the poem by family members or friends, though the original custom delegated this responsibility to the bride herself. This wedding tradition supposedly dates to the Victorian era, as this is when we have documented evidence of it; however, it may date back even further. The idea is each item should be a family heirloom of some kind and that she should wear all of them on her wedding day to bring good luck to her marriage. This custom reflects older traditions of wearing charms to bring about magical luck and changes in one's life. The "something old" represents continuity, "something new" brings luck in the future, "something borrowed" represents someone else's joyful marriage, "something blue" represents fidelity in the marriage, and a "sixpence in her shoe" brings monetary abundance. It is believed this wedding superstition originated in England.
Why does a bride wear white? We hear through word of mouth that the color white represents purity, but white wasn't always the bride's choice color. For example, in the Middle Ages, white was actually considered the color of mourning. So when someone close to you died, you would wear white to the funeral/ceremony and thereafter to mourn their death. White became a popular color for brides in the Victorian era because of Queen Victoria's decision to wear white to her wedding.
An interesting tradition that originates from superstition is when the groom is supposed to carry the bride over the threshold of their new home. Thresholds such as doors and windows to a home were once considered a magical place to our ancient ancestors. They were a liminal place between the physical and spiritual, and they were also thought to harbor potential spirits (either benevolent or malevolent). The tradition of carrying the bride over the threshold would protect her from evil spirits that she could potentially invite into the home, as new brides were thought to attract evil spirits. Another theory states that this superstition dates back to the tradition of the man being the first to enter the house so that he shows the spirits of the place that he is the head of the house. Still others believe this tradition dates back to the times when a bride was captured by another tribe and unwillingly made his wife and so, obviously, he would be forced to carry her into his hut or cottage/home.
Other superstitious traditions go unnoticed today, as they've simply become a part of our customs. Keep in mind that most of these traditions have a long history, having been passed down from family to family over centuries. Sprinkling flower petals, the bride walking on a runner down the aisle, throwing a bouquet, consummating the marriage, etc., all have a superstitious or spiritual origin.
Wedding Day Omens and Signs
Many of the old wedding day omens and signs have been forgotten in time, though some still exist. As society advances in technology and mindset, the old superstitions start to die off. Most of these wedding day omens and signs are American superstitions, but they might have originally come from other countries and traveled to America with the immigrants (Irish, English, Scottish, African, German, Italian, French, etc.)
Here's some of the more popular wedding day omens and signs from past years that you might or might not have heard:
- rain on a wedding day is very good luck
- wind on a wedding day predicts the couple will fight a lot
- they also say sunshine is best on a wedding day to predict a happy wife
- when you see a redbird, your spouse is coming to you
- snow on a wedding day indicates the couple will be happy and rich
- never walk between two lovers or they will quarrel
- never kiss over a gate
- a man should never kiss his wife while she is sitting down, this will lead to an argument
- two snakes in a house means a wedding is coming soon
- coffee grounds or tea leaves forming a ring at the bottom of a cup foretells a wedding is soon to come
- a butterfly in the house is a sign of a wedding to come
- a bee in a woman's shoe is also a sign of a forthcoming wedding
- accidentally dropping three pans at once indicates a future wedding
- weddings on waxing and full moons are joyful and prosperous
- June weddings on a full moon lead to the best marriages
- Weddings during the sign of the Scorpio (the sign of the loins) are best of all
- a postponed wedding and/or a long engagement is bad luck to the marriage
- a bride that helps cook the wedding dinner will soon die (mothers in the Ozarks would prevent their daughters from going anywhere near the kitchen a few days before and after a wedding because of this superstition)
- it is bad luck to marry a man whose last name's initial is the same as yours
Life, weddings, relationships, road trips, gardening, making out, haircuts: few of the fun things in life always go as expected.— Ariel Meadow Stallings
Creepy American Wedding Folklore and Scary Stories
Some of the saddest and scariest ghost stories from American folklore involve a tragic wedding of some kind.
One of the more popular scary bride urban legends in the United States goes something like this:
One fine day, a bride and groom had their wedding. Their family members and friends were all there. After some feasting and partying, the bride suggested to play hide-and-go-seek so that the children at the reception would get to play too. The bride went missing during the seemingly harmless game, and the family searched and searched for her for hours and days. The groom went on with his life, despite losing his brand new bride and never having answers as to what happened to her. A few years later, the bride's mother passed away and the bride's father went to look through an old antique trunk in the attic at his late wife's heirlooms. And there...he found...his daughter's remains in her wedding dress. The story goes that she hid in the chest and the rusty latch accidentally closed, locking the poor girl inside the chest.
As a child, I remember reading some particularly creepy stories in a book called "Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark" by Alvin Schwartz. Schwartz claims the stories in his terrifying books were inspired or were direct re-tellings of American folklore and urban legends. The bride in the trunk, as told above, was one of the scary wedding stories re-told by Schwartz that still haunts me to this day. There are different versions of this story, but the bride always ends up dying in the trunk to be found later by an unsuspecting family member.
There are many other creepy American wedding stories, some that involve ghost brides searching for their husbands. In Clearwater, Florida there is a popular story about a ghost bride looking for her husband who was lost at sea. She is said to walk up and down the shoreline of Clearwater Beach on certain nights, calling out for her lost beloved. This is a popular motif in ghost bride lore.
Another well-known and widespread wedding ghost story tells different versions of a ghost bride who asks for a ride of some passerby, stating she's trying to get to her wedding. When the driver drops the bride off at the destination, he realizes it's a cemetery or it's the middle of woods where a church once stood years before.
Wedding days are supposed to be some of the happiest days of our lives, but unfortunately, for some people it is the saddest or most deadly day of their lives.
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© 2018 Nicole Canfield