Here's Where the Something Old, New, Borrowed and Blue Tradition Comes From

Learn the meaning behind these wedding good-luck charms.
chapelle johnson the knot assistant editor
by
Chapelle Johnson
chapelle johnson the knot assistant editor
Chapelle Johnson
Assistant Editor
  • Chapelle writes articles for The Knot Worldwide. She covers all things wedding-related and has a personal interest in covering celebrity engagements and fashion.
  • Before joining The Knot Worldwide, Chapelle was an editorial intern for Subvrt Magazine.
  • Chapelle has a degree in English writing from Loyola University New Orleans.
Updated Mar 11, 2022

You may have heard people say you need "something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue" for your wedding day. This little saying has inspired one of the most popular wedding traditions for decades. Many couples who don't follow other wedding conventions might make an effort to add something old, new, borrowed or blue to their wedding in various fun and creative ways. Read on to learn the meaning and origin of this rhyme and how to include it in your wedding.

In this story:

The History of the "Something Old, Something New" Rhyme

The famous wedding recipe derives from the Old English rhyme, "Something Olde, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue, A Sixpence in your Shoe." These objects were considered necessary for brides to incorporate into their wedding dresses or carry with them on their wedding day, with the belief that they would bring good and happy marriages. According to Reader's Digest, the rhyme came about in the Victorian era from Lancashire, a county in England. Most of the ingredients in the rhyme are meant to ward off the evil eye, which, according to Reader's Digest, was "a curse passed through a malicious glare that could make a bride infertile."

But don't stress over this old-school guide for marital success. The objects in the rhyme shouldn't dictate your wedding style or inspire a hunt for the perfect "something." They're usually small tokens of love that your mother, sister or other guests will give you at the eleventh hour (although you can give them to yourself too). And now, of course, this sweet tradition extends far beyond trinkets for the bride. Two grooms can sport blue ties or borrow their grandfathers' cuff links. Bridesmaids can wear blue and act as the bride's something blue. We've seen blue hair and blue manicures, a display of old family photographs as an escort card backdrop, new jewelry or a beautiful new getaway car for the couple—you name it.

Now that you know the history of the something borrowed, something blue rhyme, here's the meaning behind each item you're supposed to collect.

The Meaning of "Something Old"

Back in the day, including something old was a sure way to ward off the evil eye and protect any future children the couple might have. But on a more general and lighthearted note, something old represents continuity. Contemporary couples use this as a chance to wear a sentimental piece of jewelry or item of clothing belonging to an older relative. Often the parents of the bride will gift her an heirloom before the ceremony.

The Meaning of "Something New"

This one's pretty straightforward: something new offers optimism for the future. The couple is about to enter into a new chapter in life, so walking into marriage with something new makes total sense. Don't worry about searching far and wide for something new—it can be anything, like your wedding dress, veil, jewelry or shoes. Couples often tick this box before they even learn this rhyme exists. It's up to you whether your something new is a gift from someone else or the result of a treat-yourself moment.

The Meaning of "Something Borrowed"

Including something borrowed brings the couple good luck. By borrowing something from a happily married friend or relative, the bride or couple ensures a little of their good fortune rubs off on them. The old-fashioned superstition urged the bride to borrow the undergarments of a female friend or relative with a happy marriage and healthy kids (again with the fertility thing). But, of course, today it's all about honoring a loved one or holding onto something of sentimental value—like your grandmother's hair accessory or your mother's diamond earrings—for a touch of good luck as you say your "I do"s.

The Meaning of "Something Blue"

While incorporating something borrowed, something blue was also meant to deflect that pesky evil eye, the blue stands for love, purity and fidelity—what the Old English considered were three key qualities for a solid marriage. The traditional something blue was often a blue wedding garter worn beneath the bride's white dress. But you don't have to wear something blue to ward off wicked spirits. Sprinkle blue clematis into the bouquet, pick out a gorgeous pair of blue pumps, find a powder-blue bow tie or use blue ribbon to tie your wedding invitation suites together—just because you feel like it.

The Meaning of "Sixpence in Your Shoe"

Often forgotten, the sixpence is the final ingredient in the old rhyme. This British coin represents prosperity for couples as they start their lives together. Though the sixpence was decommissioned in the U.K. in 1980, couples who are sticklers for detail can still obtain a sixpence and tuck it in their shoes. If you can't find a sixpence coin, you can substitute it for a penny, which you can put in your shoe or tuck somewhere else into your outfit.

Traditionally, the father of the bride presents her with the sixpence (or the penny) just before she walks down the aisle as a gift of good luck. Some brides make this token extra special by using a penny from the year they were born or from the year they met their one-and-only.

While the evil eye is a thing of the past, "something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue" can be an entertaining tradition to follow at your wedding in whatever way works for you. Have fun with it as you put the finishing touches on your special day.

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