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

Learn the meaning behind these wedding good-luck charms.
The Knot
Updated Jun 04, 2020

You may have heard people say you need "something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue" for your wedding day. In fact, this little sayingditty has inspired one of the most popular traditions around. Many brides who don't follow other wedding conventions will make an effort to add something old and something new to their bridal ensemble, along with something borrowed and something blue. But what is the something old, something new meaning? Where did this rhyme come from?

The History of Something Old, Something New

The famous wedding recipe derives from the Old English rhyme, "Something Olde, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue, A Sixpence in your Shoe"—which names the four good-luck objects (plus a sixpence) a bride should include somewhere in her wedding outfit or carry with her on her wedding day. 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 bridal success. The objects in the rhyme aren't meant to dictate your wedding style or inspire a hunt for the perfect "somethings." They're usually small tokens of love that your mother, sister, other relatives and/or attendants 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 something old, something new, 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 (the Evil Eye was thought to cause infertility in the bride—yikes). But more generally, and on a more lighthearted note, "something old" represents continuity, and 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 truly be anything, including your wedding dress, veil, jewelry and 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"

Incorporating "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 wedding hair comb or your mother's diamond earrings—for a touch of good luck as you say your "I dos."

The Meaning of "Something Blue"

While wearing or carrying "something blue" was also meant to deflect that pesky Evil Eye, the color blue stands for love, purity and fidelity—three key qualities for a solid marriage. The traditional "something blue" was often a blue 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 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 is meant to represent prosperity for the couple as they start their lives together. Though the sixpence was decommissioned in the U.K. in 1980, brides who are sticklers for detail can still obtain a sixpence and tuck it in their shoe. Brides on the other side of the pond (that'd be the United States), often substitute the sixpence for a penny, which they can put in their shoe or tuck somewhere else on their 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 the year they met their one-and-only.

While the Evil Eye is a thing of the past, this little wedding rhyme 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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