What is one of the most famous phrases that comes to mind when you think about a wedding? The marriage ceremony is steeped in tradition from many aspects, but one of the biggest ones is the old phrase “Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, and a silver sixpence in her shoe”.
Most brides will just run along with the age-old tradition without knowing the origins of the term, especially as in the modern era it is usually just shortened down to “something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue.” It has, in its modern status, become just a nice way to incorporate family heirlooms and personal touches into a wedding, but it’s worth looking back at the origins, especially at the lesser-used silver sixpence part of it.
So, what is the silver sixpence all about?
The phrase is from an old English rhyme and is a tradition which goes back to the middle ages when people were very superstitious and were wary that evil spirits played a part in their lives. So, to ward off said spirits on their wedding day, a good luck charm was needed, a talisman to keep them free of any meddling from the spirits.
The silver sixpence became a symbol of good omens and as it used to be customary for the Lord of the Manor to give a bride a piece of silver as a gift, the common practice was to hand over a silver sixpence. That originated around the 1600’s and from then on, it grew to become a natural part of a dowry offered by the bride’s family to a groom.
The silver sixpence is also a symbol of good luck and some people even take this a little further by using a sixpence which has been minted in a significant year, such as the birth year or a grandparent. Therefore, playing its part in the “Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, and a silver sixpence in her shoe tradition,” it plays the role of good luck.
“Something Old” symbolizes continuity throughout life and pledges towards a long marriage, while “Something New” symbolizes an optimism for the future in all aspects of the marriage. “Something Borrowed” isn’t just about scrounging up an old garter from someone to save a bit of cash, it is used as a message of borrowed happiness, meaning that if the bride was to borrow something for the ceremony from someone who has had a long and prosperous marriage themselves, this is good luck to pass on.
“Something Blue” is a nod towards fidelity in the marriage and the circle is all complete with the silver sixpence for luck. The silver coin traditions remain largely a British custom, but it was used predominantly in Maryland in the 17th-20th century. So, whether the collected pieces are used for sentimental reasons over superstition, the “Something Old…” tradition run strongly in weddings to this very day.