Victorian weddings contained many interesting traditions, customs and superstitions, some of which are still used today because of their quaintness. Others have been dropped because of their impracticality in today's modern world.
Let's take a look at all the things that were considered during this fascinating era. Also see our Victorian Weddings: A Garden Celebration In The Afternoon for a lovely afternoon theme wedding.
The meanings of certain gems were particularly important in the jewelry that a young Victorian bride might wear:
A bride would carefully choose what colors to wear on her wedding day. Although white had become the "fashionable" color to wear, many brides still wished to have some color in their bridal outfit according to preferences and possibly circumstances. The following rhyme was well known:
Here is another short rhyme also regarding colors. Some of the meanings are slightly different, so I guess it would have depended on which rhyme the bride believed in:
It was considered unlucky if the groom were to see his bride in her wedding dress before the marriage ceremony. Some still hold to this old custom today, although many discard it as they wish to take pictures before the wedding when everyone is fresh and looking good.
Here's an interesting little tidbit regarding Victorian weddings - the bride would sew a small pouch into her petticoat. Inside she would place a small piece of cloth, a small piece of bread, a sliver of wood, and a single one dollar bill. Each item would help ensure that the couple would always have clothes to wear, food to eat, a roof over their heads, and money for the future.
It was considered bad luck for the bride to bake her own wedding cake.
The bride is never to eat even a crumb of the cake until it has been cut, so she would always be the first to cut the cake, otherwise she would be childless.
The bride should always save a small piece of cake to ensure fidelity. It's interesting to note how some particular Victorian wedding traditions have evolved over time. Nowadays, the bridal couple usually take some cake home and freeze it with the idea that it should be eaten on their first anniversary.
Wedding charms were often baked inside the cake. The cake was then cut into as many pieces as there were guests and everyone was given a piece as a favor. Some of the guests would receive a piece of cake that contained a charm. Their meanings were as follows:
Great meaning was held in the gift of flowers and still is today. One of the first "gifts" a young Victorian gentleman might give the lady he's interested in would be a bouquet of flowers. The flowers used in the bridal bouquet and decorations were also very important and symbolic in meaning. You can read more about flower meanings here.
Here's an interesting custom that was done for the English country bride: Flower blossoms would be spread along the ground as a carpeted pathway to the church. The bride and her bridesmaids would most often walk to the church and the blossoms would ensure a happy journey through life. Today, we sometimes will have the flower girl sprinkle rose petals as she walks in front of the bride.
Choose the wrong day or month for your marriage and you could suffer a lifetime of consequences as these rhymes suggest:
Here's another poem that explained each month:
Of course Sunday was a day of rest, so no marriages were performed.
This short rhyme indicates which month to avoid and the best month for a wedding:
As Victorian wedding traditions go, this is an unusual one. An engaged woman would never use her soon-to-be married name before the marriage as it was considered back luck.
In this respect, she would never practice writing her new name in any way, such as in a journal or while day dreaming, nor would she practice saying her future married name out loud.
It was also important that the last name of her fiance did not begin with the same initial as her own last name. This was also felt to bring bad luck.
There were several good omens that would ensure a smooth wedding and happy marriage if they were done or encountered on the way to the ceremony location.
In turn, there were also several bad omens that may forewarn that the marriage will have problems. As Victorian weddings go, here are some interesting superstitions that they believed in:
There are also several superstitions about how the weather will affect the couple's life on the day of the marriage. Should the day be cloudy and rainy, it signifies that the marriage will be stormy. Should the day be sunny, the couple will have a bright future. Should it rain in the morning and be sunny in the afternoon, it will bring luck to the couple.
It was considered good luck for the wedding ring to drop on the floor during the ceremony. They believed that any evil spirits contained within the band would be shaken loose.
Once the ceremony was over the bride's parents would always exit the church first followed by the bride and groom. They would look neither left nor right as it was in bad form to acknowledge friends and family. The best man would be the last to leave, after paying the clergy.
To ensure fertility, rice, grain or birdseed were thrown at the couple as they departed the church. This custom is one that is still practiced today.
Many marriages took place at home during the 1890's. Good luck symbols such as bells, doves, wishbones, horseshoes and other similar symbols, were hung over the area in which the couple stood as they exchanged their vows.
Having a horse drawn carriage was popular among the more wealthy families. It was considered good luck if the horse(s) pulling the bride and groom's carriage was white.
After the ceremony, the guests would head outside and throw rice and satin slippers as the couple departed. If a slipper landed in the carriage (especially a left slipper) is was considered to ensure good luck forever.
Church bells were rung as the couple entered the church to ward away evil spirits.