You probably know this popular bridal rhyme even if you can’t place where you first learned it. It goes like this:
“Something old, something new; something borrowed, something blue; and a sixpence in her shoe.”
This short poem can be traced to England in the 1870s, where variations of the stanza began appearing in cultural texts like newspapers and stories. It’s not clear exactly how the phrase came into being or how it became so pervasive in Western wedding culture.
So what does each component of this rhyme mean? Should brides include these elements in their wedding day look?
Weddings are very much about new beginnings, so it’s understandable if an “old” item is the last thing on your mind.
But the first line of this poem is what many people find to be the most important. This old item is meant to represent the bride’s history and her lasting ties to her past. As she embarks on a new chapter in her life, this old item symbolizes her intention to stay true to herself. It also symbolizes her gratitude for her past and her closeness with her family.
While this symbol traditionally emphasizes familial ties, brides can also include “something old” to symbolize their love for their childhood friends, their city, their work, and their experiences. This item is simply meant to symbolize a link to the bride’s beloved past—what that looks like is up to each bride to decide.
Ideas for “something old” items to include in your wedding day look could include:
Jewelry, like an heirloom, given to you by a family member, including your engagement ring
A treasured family photograph folded into a locket, or stitched inside your dress
These items don’t have to be visible to “count”. The point is that they’re with you on this important day.
Your “something new” item is straightforward. This item symbolizes the chapter in your life upon which you’re about to embark—as such, this item can be anything that symbolizes your hope, optimism, and excitement for the future.
Ideas for your “something new” item could include:
New jewelry bought by yourself or given as a gift, like earrings or a necklace
Your wedding gown
As you’re likely to purchase many new items for your wedding, this item is likely the easiest to tick off your list.
“Something borrowed” has quite a curious and specific origin. This poem intends to protect the bride’s health, wealth, and fertility, as it may be eroded by the effect of the “Evil Eye” (which we’ll talk about next!).
“Something borrowed” plays a central role in protecting fertility. This item was typically borrowed from a female friend or relative of the bride that herself was happily married with children. These items are meant to confer fertility upon the new bride.
Traditionally, this “something borrowed” was ideally an undergarment borrowed from a mother in the bride’s life. But like the other lines in this poem, how you interpret it is up to you!
“Something borrowed” ideas could include:
Jewelry borrowed from a family member or friend
Accessories like a small bag or a hair clip borrowed from a friend
A veil, belt, gloves, or shawl worn by your mother, friend, or grandmother on her wedding day
This item gives a great excuse to borrow your friend’s Tiffany bracelet!
This item, “something blue”, relates to the moral values and themes associated with the colour blue. Traditionally, blue has been thought to represent modesty, purity, fidelity, and wealth. Some of these values are less relevant to couples today, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t include a blue item in your wedding day look.
Something blue was also said to ward off the Evil Eye. The concept of this malevolent gaze has been traced back to the ancient Greeks.
According to the BBC, the Evil Eye is a curse bestowed by an envious gaze.1 They note Heliodorus of Emesa in the ancient Greek romance Aethiopica, who wrote, “when any one looks at what is excellent with an envious eye he fills the surrounding atmosphere with a pernicious quality, and transmits his own envenomed exhalations into whatever is nearest to him.”
Something blue hides the bride—and by extension, her marriage—from this envious glare. It could be a good idea to wear something blue, just in case!
“Something blue” ideas may include:
Your garter, hidden under your dress
A phrase, date, or name stitched in blue thread on the inside of your gown.
Balancing Bridal Style With Tradition
Lastly, there’s the sixpence. This one is pretty self explanatory: the bride is meant to wear a sixpence in her left shoe to bring wealth and prosperity to her marriage.
Most of us don’t have any direct ties to this 1870s English poem, yet it continues to hold great meaning for many couples in the 21st century.
So should you incorporate these items into your wedding day look? It can be helpful to think of the poem in another way. Rather than rules or commandments, each item can be considered a celebration of the couple’s life, imbued with remembrances that surround the bride with people that love her, well wishes, and hope for the future.
What you wear on your wedding day is up to you, but we think wearing items that symbolize what makes our lives so beautiful can be a very special tribute. Just imagine that each item is a subtle reminder of how charmed life can truly be.