We’ve likely all heard anecdotes from friends or family members about how they had to go way out of their way to avoid seeing their bride in her gown before the wedding ceremony. We’ve heard that it’s bad luck for this to happen, and many of us continue the tradition in the same way that we might forward a chain email that promises seven years of misfortune unless you pass it to another ten recipients.
But what would happen if the situation were reversed — is it bad luck for the bride to see the groom’s suit before the wedding ceremony? What about rain on a wedding day or carrying the bride over the threshold? In this post, we will discuss wedding superstitions and traditions, including ten of the most common ones still practiced around the world today.
What Is the Difference Between a Superstition and a Tradition?
While arguments could be made that superstition can be the root of most traditions, they are not technically the same thing — at least, not conceptually or semantically. A superstition is a belief that if a person does or does not do something, bad luck will befall them — or that certain actions or objects are either lucky or unlucky.
A famous example of a superstition is that crossing a black cat’s path will bring you bad luck. In reality, it’s more like we are bad luck for the cats, as some people go so far as to kill black cats out of fear of their “bad luck.” Because this is not based on logic, science, math or any sort of predictable data pattern, this is considered a superstition.
Traditions, on the other hand, are gestures, actions, tools, beliefs and customs handed down for generations. Generally, traditions have much to do with the land on which the culture lived. While some might have been born out of superstition, they continued to be handed down for some practical benefit. Actions that promote the benefit of the species continue to allow the culture to survive — much like natural selection selects for survivalist traits in the wild.
Where Did the Tradition That a Groom Cannot See the Bride On Their Wedding Day Come From?
If this tradition seems silly and archaic to you, there’s a good reason. In fact, it has to do with the way marriages were arranged before the 18th century. It was said to be “unlucky” for a groom to see his bride before the wedding in case he wanted to back out of the ceremony after laying eyes on her.
Some grooms would not even get to meet their brides before the wedding — so while a glance at your betrothed is not exactly the same thing as having a relationship with them, for some grooms, it was enough to send them running! Of course, in modern, non-arranged marriages, this tradition doesn’t exactly apply — as most people get married after weeks, months or years of knowing each other.
If the groom gets cold feet, it’s for a reason other than “surprise” at who his life partner will be. He should already know them pretty well by that point. While this tradition may be redundant, maybe it has a place in society as we can all remember the Reddit user that told his bride he hated her dress and jeopardized the relationship altogether.
Can Bride See Groom Suit Before the Wedding?
You might be wondering: Ok, so if a groom couldn’t see a bride back in the day, can a bride see a groom or his suit before the wedding? While this question doesn’t have roots in history (though plenty of brides have backed out of marriages throughout history for one reason or another), it is a fair one to ask. Does it go both ways with this superstition?
In short, whether or not a bride sees the groom’s suit before the wedding is up to what the two of them determine. Most wedding industry experts say it is totally up to the bride — if they want to see the groom’s suit to help style it, make sure it matches the color schema or even iron it, there’s no logical reason why they should not do this.
While there is no superstition dictating that this is “bad luck” per se, some couples anticipate the “first look” when they see each other from across the aisle, dressed and groomed to their best and walking towards a life together.
“The first look” can be a sacred and beautiful part of the wedding ceremony — a sort of innocent refreshment on the relationship that cannot be emulated and is rarely recreated. As such, many couples find this to be a significant moment in solidifying their vows and commitment to each other. Others do not find this moment as meaningful.
If the bride likes surprises, it’s best to save looking at the suit for the big day — but if she wants to work with the groom’s aesthetic, it may be practical for them to look at the suit in advance. Besides, seeing it on a hanger is not the same as seeing the groom filling it out in person.
Top 15 Wedding Superstitions and Traditions
The groom not being able to see the bride on the wedding day for fear of “bad luck” is perhaps the most well-known wedding superstition — but there are many others, from cultures all over the world, that have rippled throughout history and even rooted themselves in tradition. Here are some of the top wedding traditions that may have roots in superstition:
1. Freezing the top tier of the wedding cake for the anniversary celebration:
It is thought to be good luck to save either the entire top tier of your wedding cake or two slices from it to store in your freezer until your first anniversary comes around. However, many couples find that their cake does not last more than four or five months in the fridge, and anything beyond that becomes unpleasant to eat. Luckily, some wedding cake bakers offer a complimentary one-year wedding anniversary cake instead! It’s the best of all worlds.
2. “Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue”:
This tradition stems from the blending of the bride’s “old” family with her “new” family and something borrowed — usually from a friend. Blue is meant to symbolize purity and fidelity. So, for example, a bride might wear her mother’s old veil, a necklace given by her parent-in-law, a shade of lipstick borrowed from a friend and a blue shawl.
3. Getting married on a rainy day:
While many wedding planners go out of their way to avoid planning a wedding on a day that is supposed to rain, it can actually be a good omen for some. For example, rain often symbolizes spiritual cleansing and fertility — and can be viewed as a wonderful start to a marriage.
4. Ringing bells:
In cultures throughout the centuries all over the world, sounds like Tibetan bowls, bells, chimes and other tuned frequency resonators were thought to ward off bad spirits. Today, we carry this tradition with wedding bells. Wedding bells keep bad energies away and promote a harmonious and happy life. Some brides even wear tiny bells on their bouquets and jewelry or sewn onto the edges of their coverups.
While at first glance, it might not seem like a great thing to cry before or during your wedding, it is generally accepted that this is a good omen. Tears of joy should be celebrated, uplifted and remembered for the years to come, as you might have leaner, less abundant times. What’s more, it is said that a bride who does not cry on her wedding day has already “shed all of her tears” and therefore will not cry during the marriage.
6. Carrying the bride over the threshold:
This superstition goes back to Medieval times. During those days, brides were thought to be vulnerable to bad spirits through the soles of their feet — and clumsy brides who may trip in the doorway to their new home were thought to bring bad luck to the house and the marriage in general.
To “solve” these problems, it was decided that the groom would carry the bride swiftly over the threshold to avoid both dilemmas. Today, most people don’t believe that evil spirits can possess us through the soles of our feet or that tripping over a door jamb portends bad luck; as such, it is primarily used as a romantic gesture.
7. Smashing glass:
Who doesn’t love to smash stuff? This fun tradition harkens back to Italy, where a wine glass or a flower vase would be smashed during the festivities; according to lore, the number of discernible shards of glass was the number of happy years a couple would have in their wedding.
Perhaps dating back to Scottish folklore, giving a knife as a gift can sometimes be perceived as an attack on the relationship’s success, as a severing of ties between the gift giver and the couple or as a means of sabotaging the couple themselves. Fortunately, there is an easy way to mitigate this!
According to superstition, if the giver packs a coin in the wrappings, the receiver can hand it to the giver so that they have “paid” for the knife, which wasn’t a gift. This is especially good news for folks who want to give their newlywed friends knives for outdoor activities, cooking, leatherwork or other activities.
While many people may associate spiders with bad luck, bugs and everything gross, according to old English lore, if you find a spider on your wedding dress, it’s good luck! If you think about it this way, spiders lay a foundation (their web) and wait for abundance to come to them (insects and other matter). A spider settles into a niche like a couple looks to settle into a home — and seeing a spider on your wedding day is a good omen for your future and quality of life.
10. Almonds as parting gifts:
Many cultures give gifts to celebrants who made the journey — no matter how long or short — to show up at the venue and help celebrate their union. This can be a nice gesture, even if it’s just a complementary bag of rice or confetti to throw on the newlyweds as they depart the venue. Italians have infused even more intention into this parting gift by offering guests five candy-coated almonds, signifying longevity, happiness, health, wealth and fertility.
11. The Wedding Veil:
The wedding veil is a huge part of the bride’s wedding attire and its role has evolved over the years. While the veil is currently a style item used to add character to the dress, it was traditionally considered a sign of the bride’s purity and humility. Ancient Greeks and Romans however believed the veil could cover the bride’s face to protect her from the curses of evil witches looking to steal her happiness and doom her marriage. While we don’t have to worry about jealous witches today, we appreciate the veil sticking around as long as it has.
12. Weekday Weddings:
Saturday weddings may be all the rave these days but according to an ancient poem, they weren’t quite as popular. Here’s a sneak peek; “Monday for wealth, Tuesday for health, Wednesday the best day of all, Thursday for losses, Friday for crosses, and Saturday no luck at all.” While these traditions may have been practical back in the day, we have to admit that weekday weddings aren’t a hit anymore due to the employment structure. After all, we want to have all our loved ones on our big day! However, if a weekday wedding is in the cards for you, maybe you should consider a day between Monday and Wednesday.
Pearls are a common accessory during the wedding season as they are elegant and subtle however, this wasn’t always the case. Many cultures associate pearls with sadness, pain, and suffering which are emotions you’re not looking to tap into on your big day. Well, aren’t we glad that’s old news because some things look better with pearls? If you’re still a little superstitious, it helps to know that some cultures embraced pearls on your wedding day to protect your marriage from tears and suffering. That sounds a lot better if you ask me. After all, pearls are still precious gems!
14. Dropping the Rings:
Dropping the rings today will get you a couple of eye rolls for ruining the wedding photos and maybe even a permanent ban from being a ring bearer which may be extreme but wait till you hear the superstition. In the past, whoever dropped the rings was considered next to pass away. What a way to dampen the mood at a wedding! Fortunately, there is absolutely no truth to it but you may still want to entrust a responsible person with this task to ensure you don’t waste valuable time looking for the dropped rings.
15. Rushing through your time as fiancé:
It’s easy to get carried away with the excitement of finally getting engaged and maybe even taking up your soon–to–be husband’s name. As excited as brides were, they were encouraged not to rush things by addressing themselves by their husband’s name to avoid preventing the wedding from actually happening. Well, the only perk I see is being able to hold your head high in case of a broken engagement because explaining the names can be a little embarrassing.
- Can You Get Married Without Rings?
- The Ultimate Guide to Indian Weddings
- Wedding Traditions and Customs – The Ultimate Guide to Traditional & Non-traditional Marriages
Ways to Carry Traditions Forward with Fun (Not Stress)!
There are all sorts of ways that we shoulder traditions — whether superstitious or not — in our daily lives, though these tend to rear their heads the higher the stakes become. Surely, you’ve heard people whisper “Shhh!” at someone who accidentally utters the word “Macbeth” in a theater or who knocks on wood after an optimistic statement about the future was made.
Weddings fall in the high stakes category (a lifelong commitment, vows to love, hold, protect and keep, in sickness and health). As such, there are all sorts of cultural superstitions — and traditions — around what makes a newly sanctioned marital relationship successful.
Even if you don’t believe in superstitions and you think traditions are silly and made to be broken, from a romantic perspective, having your lover carry you over the threshold from the worlds you’re leaving behind and into the new beginning of life and love that awaits you sounds pretty nice. These metaphors add meaning, beauty, joy and romance to the occasion — plus, they’re just kind of fun. That is, unless you believe in bad luck and evil spirits. In the latter case, they are less fun and more practical.
However you approach your big day, how you celebrate and express your wedding is completely up to each unique couple!
What wedding superstitions ring true for you if any? Do you have any to add to this list? Drop a note in the comments!