8 British Wedding Traditions
Throughout history, weddings have been celebrated with various traditions that add depth and significance to the occasion. Whether you're planning a traditional wedding or a modern celebration, incorporating some time-honoured customs can add charm and meaning to your special day. Here, we will explore a selection of timeless wedding traditions that you can embrace to make your wedding day truly memorable.
1. Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue & a sixpence in her shoe
We’ve all heard the saying “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue and a sixpence in her shoe”. Dating back to the late 1800’s, the rhyme refers to items a bride’s family and friends would collect to give to the bride to bring her good luck on her wedding day and a happy marriage. Each item has a meaning behind it:
● Something old to represent the tie between the bride’s past and her family.
● Something new represents the new chapter the bride is about to embark upon.
● Something borrowed usually comes from someone who is happily married, with the idea that their sense of happiness will be passed on to the bride and stay with the couple.
● Something blue represents the colour of love, purity and faithfulness.
● And a sixpence in her shoe to symbolise lasting wealth for the couple.
2. White dress & veil
A bride’s wedding attire is steeped in tradition. Firstly the dress being white, is a tradition popularised by Queen Victoria, who wore white when she married Prince Albert. Before this, brides often wore their most expensive dress to celebrate their happy day, but the white gown signified both wealth, because many couldn’t afford white dresses, as well as the purity of the bride. Another tradition is wearing a veil. There are a couple of theories about where this tradition comes from, the first being the veil was to hide the bride’s beauty and ward off evil spirits. The second theory, takes a slightly more pessimistic view, in that the veil was there to cover the bride’s face until the groom was too far into the ceremony to back out! Today, we don’t have to worry about evil spirits or grooms running from the altar because they’ve never met the bride (unless you’re on Married At First Sight!). These are definitely some of the more popular traditions to uphold on your wedding day. That being said, we’re seeing fewer brides opt for veils, many choosing intricate hair accessories or capes instead and when it comes to the colour of wedding dresses we’ve seen them all; white, ivory, red, black, the sky’s the limit!
3. Not seeing each other before the wedding
The tradition of couples not seeing each other before the wedding actually dates back to the days when arranged marriages were the norm. As marriage was often more of a business deal between families rather than an act of love, the couple weren’t allowed to see each other before the ceremony in case one of them had second thoughts! Today, seeing each other on the morning of your wedding is considered bad luck and not seeing your other half adds to the suspense and excitement of walking down the aisle.
A wedding wouldn’t be a wedding without a stunning bouquet of flowers. But the tradition of a bride carrying a bouquet of flowers down the aisle has a not so pleasantly fragranced beginning. It’s believed the beautiful scents of the fresh flowers in the bouquets were used to ward off evil spirits and disguise the bride’s odour in times where personal hygiene wasn't what it is now!
5. Been given away
This is another tradition that was born out of the age of arranged marriages and a time when women were essentially owned by their fathers or husbands. Brides were quite literally handed over from father to their husband to be at the altar and usually with this came payment in the form of a dowry. Despite its chauvinist origins, today the tradition is a special moment to share with your dad or another close family member or friend.
Wedding guests would throw rice at the couple to celebrate their nuptials and encourage fertility. In the Victorian era, the rice was thankfully swapped out for shredded paper, because who wants to be picking dried rice out of their hair on their wedding day!
7. Top tier of the cake
Traditionally, couples save the top tier of their wedding cake for the christening of their first child. Not only was it seen as good luck, but also to symbolise the couple’s commitment to each other and their hopes for a long and happy marriage. This is another tradition that dates back to the Victorian era, when wedding cakes were made up of rich fruitcakes, which had a much longer shelf life than your run of the mill sponge cake. Many modern wedding cakes aren’t suitable to be preserved, so this is a tradition that often isn’t possible for couples to uphold. However, you can freeze your wedding cake & enjoy it on your first wedding anniversary instead, which we love the thought of!
8. Carrying the bride over the threshold
Another one for those pesky evil spirits! The tradition of carrying the bride over the threshold originated from the groom protecting his bride from any evil spirits that may be lurking in her new home.
Embracing wedding traditions can add a sense of timelessness and elegance to your special day. Whether you're inspired by classic customs or seeking to create unique and personal touches, these traditions can enhance the joy and meaning of your wedding celebration. Remember, you don’t have to include them all, just cherry pick the ones you like. Also, lots of these traditions were for brides and grooms. If you’re hosting a same-sex or non-binary wedding, don’t be afraid to mix things up and put your own spin on things! At the end of the day, what truly matters is the love shared between you as a couple and the commitment to a lifetime of happiness together.