Probably the most well-known is that the bride should wear ‘something, new, something borrowed, something blue’. The origin of this particular custom was reckoned to be obscure but it was thought to have its roots in an old Jewish tradition of having wedding garments edged with blue, which was seen as a sign of purity, love and fidelity.
Other customs were less well-known. In some northern counties of Scotland the wedding date was fixed in accordance with the phase of the moon. A wedding during the period when the moon was increasing was seen as lucky while a date when the moon was waning was thought to be courting disaster.
By 1959 the custom of the groom getting a ‘wadding sark’ (wedding shirt) from his intended had largely disappeared. The shirt showed bride’s needlework skills, as well as being a pledge of marriage.
One custom I certainly wasn’t aware of, although obviously still practised in the 1950s, was ‘feet washing’. This ceremony took place in the bridegroom’s home where his socks and shoes were removed before his feet were plunged into water and smeared with soot which was reckoned to have magical properties.
The concept of giving the bride away apparently dates back to the times when brides were often captured and the best man is a throwback to the same period, representing the ‘warrior’ who helped the groom capture his new wife.
At one time rice was thrown over the happy couple, now generally confetti, but at one time an old shoe would have been thrown after them, a symbol of the surrender by the bride’s parents of their legal rights over her.
Food, of course, was very important in olden times and at one time a piece of bannock or shortbread was broken over the bride’s head when she entered her new home to ensure plenty. The remaining pieces were shared among the unmarried who took it home and literally slept on it to dream of their own future spouse. Today this is done with the wedding cake, although whether today’s trendy young folk believe in such superstition is another matter.
The idea of a ring apparently came from the Egyptians who used it as a symbol when making marriage vows.
Today the bride is often given a horse shoe. In the past, that would have been the real thing rather than a shiny copy, which was nailed to the door, curved side downwards, to make certain that the couple’s luck never ran out.