Something Borrowed, Something Blue

We all know the rhyme, “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.” Even if you are not superstitious in your everyday life, you have probably thought about this when deciding on what you will wear on your wedding day or what you will have as décor or wedding party outfits. Anything with as old a tradition as a wedding ceremony will come with numerous superstitions attached to it. But what are the other superstitions around weddings?

 

My Gran was a dressmaker by profession. She was also a superstitious woman. Some of those have rubbed off on me. Never eat a mince pie before the 1st December, and its bad luck to speak to anyone during the course of eating that first mince pie! (Even as I type it, I know it’s ridiculous, but I still abide by it!). Don’t put new shoes on a table and don’t put a new hat on the bed. I have no idea where most of these came from, but there is one relating to weddings that she strongly believed, and it had sound reasoning behind it:

 

It is bad luck to wear green at a wedding.

I’m often surprised by how many people haven’t heard of this one, but it is something I must have picked up from her when I was little and it has stuck with me. Even when friends have had teal or emerald green bridesmaid dresses (I attempt to hide the shudder this prompts in me). I will never wear a dress to a wedding where green is the predominate colour. And this extends to décor, and yes, cake too. If you asked me to make you a green wedding cake, I would make it for you, but it would make me feel very on edge. She also maintained that Emeralds were unlucky, particularly in an engagement ring.

So where did her superstition come from?

Once upon a time, green dye was created using lead, a dangerous and noxious substance. Bad enough for the dyers creating the cloth, obviously. But for a dressmaker like my gran, this could prove lethal if asked to sew yards and yards of green cloth with thread also dyed with lead. Think about how you thread a needle. You lick the thread. Now imagine doing that for hours a day, over a long period of time, when your thread was covered in poison. Asking a dressmaker to sew you a green dress to wear on your wedding day (so probably also heavily embroidered or embellished with beads) was tantamount to asking the dressmaker to eat lead. As with many superstitions, it was born out of fact.

 

Peacock feathers in the house are unlucky

Another thing my gran also believed was that it was massively unlucky to have peacock feathers in the house. I found a beautiful example of peacock feather on a school trip once. I hid it in my bedroom so she wouldn’t see it. But in a lot of cultures peacocks and their feathers are symbols of luck or opulance, and particularly feature on wedding cakes.

 

So back to the wedding superstition we all know:

Something old,
something new,
something borrowed,
something blue,
and a sixpence in her shoe

I have to admit, I didn’t know about the sixpence, and apparently it should be worn in your left shoe. The Victorians (instigators of so many traditions we still abide by) added in the last line, to bestow prosperity on the couple. The other items are there to invoke fertility and protect them from evil – presumably leading to a happy marriage.

When I got married, I wore a new dress and shoes, a sapphire bracelet for something blue and borrowed something old, the horseshoe my mum had carried on her bouquet at her wedding 46 years earlier! Which brings me to another wedding superstition.

A horseshoe

I remember when I was probably 13 or so, a cousin got married and I carried a horseshoe on a ribbon which I then gave to the bride after the ceremony. I didn’t know why, my mum just made me! Apparently, it is again about making sure the marriage is prosperous in the chid-bearing department, as female members of the family present horseshoes to the bride to wish her fertility. But remember to hold it the correct way up (ends pointing up) so the luck doesn’t run out! (Another one of my family’s traditions, we have lucky horseshoes everywhere – but then again, we are from the country, I used to ride and horseracing is a family affair).

 

Rain on your wedding day is good luck

This is another one that I think was probably invented to placate an anxious couple before their ceremony. We all hope for a beautiful day, with no inclement weather to spoil photos, hair dos or ruin shoes. (In my case, rain for a cake delivery is always a breath-holding moment and involves a large amount of cellophane and a prayer to the cake-delivery-gods). Certainly, it was not lucky on my own wedding day. It was so wet and windy that we had to have the post-ceremony photos inside the church and missed hearing the bells being rung (the bells we had paid extra money to have rung). We did get married in December though (I was secretly hoping for snow, I’d bought flowery wellies just in case).

 

Throwing the bouquet

This is one I didn’t do, because a) most of my guests were already married, or not in the slightest bit interested in getting married, so there would have been no one to throw it to and b) my bouquet was made of glass and crystal beads – bit heavy to lob at a crowd!

Apparently this superstition comes from medieval times, when the bride would throw her bouquet over her head at the crowd of women chasing her, to distract them. Why were they chasing her? Because it was good luck to tear a piece of her dress off as a keepsake. Yeah, I’d run too! Thankfully we don’t have that superstition anymore!

 

Saving the top tier of your cake

We had to come back to cake at some point, right? This is a cake blog, after all.

This tradition is one that has fallen by the wayside slightly recently, as wedding cakes are created from different flavours of sponge, rather than the more storable booze-soaked rich fruit cake. The idea was to save the top tier to use as a christening cake for your first-born. If you’ve borrowed something blue, been given a horseshoe and abided by the other superstitions, you should be lucky enough to be blessed with a child within the first year of your marriage. The fruitcake, if it’s been properly stored, can then be cut at the christening.

Many couples these days keep their top tier for their first anniversary. Couples marry having already had children, or not wanting to have children in the next few years, or at all. It is possible to keep your sponge top tier for your first anniversary. Ask your cake designer how to store it correctly. But sponge cake is best eaten fresh, so enjoy your cake on or soon after your wedding day, then ask your cake designer to make a new cake for your anniversary (you can replicate design elements from your wedding cake) or make a christening cake for your children.

But if you do want a fruit cake top tier and want to save it then the best way is to strip off the fondant and marzipan, give it another feed of alcohol, wrap well in greaseproof and then foil, put it in a sealed plastic bag and pop it in the freezer. When you want to use it again it can be defrosted and recovered and will taste even more delicious as it will have matured even whilst sitting in the depths of your freezer.

 

What do you think about these? Have you got any superstitions you follow? What superstitions will you abide by on your own wedding day? Or do you think there is no room for these sort of things in this day and age? Leave me a comment and let me know

Touch wood and fingers crossed,

Clare

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