Something Borrowed, Something Blue: The History Behind the Rhyme

Liz Susong weighs in on the age-old wedding proverb

Bride wearing a blue garter under wedding dress

Maxwell Monty / EyeEm / Getty Images

“Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, a sixpence in your shoe” is the famous rhyme that superstitious brides follow in the name of luck for a long and happy marriage. But, what does any of that have to do with a long and happy marriage?

If you're on a time crunch, you can fulfill the rhyme by checking multiple superstitions off at once. For example by wearing a borrowed pair of blue shoes that your friend just bought (or has had for awhile).

The History Behind the Rhyme

This rhyme dates back to Victorian England, and it seems to signify the simultaneous hope for continuity and a fresh beginning. "The rhyme refers to the things a bride is supposed to wear on her wedding day in hopes of having a successful marriage," explains wedding planner and president of Evoke Design & Creative Jeannette Tavares. "This dates back to Lancashire, England in the late 1800’s. The oldest written reference is in an 1871 issue of St. James Magazine." 

Tavares explains that her and her team often get questions about how to incorporate the tradition in a meaningful way. "Some brides feel that the tradition is a bit dated and are concerned with being overly cheesy," she says. "Another concern is finding ways to differentiate the items the bride wears so it is not like what everyone else does." Ahead we have some ideas, both modern and traditional. Whether or not you believe in superstitions, there are plenty of couples who do take this sweet tradition seriously.

Something Old

Vintage Jewelry Box and Combs
Glasshouse Images / Getty Images

“Something old...signifies the desire that the best of the couple’s previous lives...remain with them in the new life to come,” writes wedding historian Susan Waggoner. This often includes a piece of jewelry worn by the bride's mother, grandmother, or aunt.

Dawn, a bride who incorporated items into her wedding that had sentimental attachments to family and friends says, "Both of our wedding bands were ‘old’: My mother gave me her band, and my grandmother gave Njaluka my grandfather’s wedding band."

Something New

bridal clutch
Lori Paladino Photography

Meanwhile “something new” is all about the new life the couple will start together. It can commonly include a gift from the groom or the groom's family, Tavares says, but it can also include everything from a new piece of clothing to a new bridal accessory.

Something Borrowed

hair accessory
Courtesy of Art Deco by Donatale

“Something borrowed” is a bit more superstitious, pointing to the idea that borrowing items from a happily married woman will transfer that woman’s good luck onto the new bride. It can be a hair pin or jewelry, like a bracelet from your mother which is what bride Dawn wore on her big day.

Something Blue

blue wedding shoes
Photo by Justin Lee

The color blue is representative of “fidelity and love’s purity.” It was also a popular color to wear prior to the white wedding dress trend. Tavares adds that it's also meant to represent an item to “baffle the evil eye.”

Bride Lucy used the rhyme as a way to honor those that loved her. For something blue, she invited her friends to write sweet messages on the bottom of her shoes with a blue marker. Other options include a blue garter or blue shoes for a fun pop of color. "We still see a lot of brides monogram their initial or date into the bottom of the dress in blue," Tavares shares.

A Sixpence in Your Shoe

cufflinks
Photo by Ryan Ray 

Back in Victorian times, the father of the bride would place a sixpence into his daughter's shoe as a symbol of good luck and prosperity.

Nowadays, many couples trade the sixpence for a penny and, instead of slipping it in your shoe, they might tie the coin to the ring bearer's pillow or incorporate the coin into the groom's cufflinks.

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