Victorian Weddings:

Marriage Traditions, Customs and Superstitions

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.

Gem Meanings

The meanings of certain gems were particularly important in the jewelry that a young Victorian bride might wear:

  • Amethyst - Perfection, faithfulness, sincerity, ensure a husband's love
  • Aquamarine - Courage, intelligence, helps one to know the others thoughts
  • Diamond - Matrimonial happiness, courage, protection from evil spirits, innocence
  • Emerald - Domestic bliss, success in love
  • Garnet - Constancy, true friendship
  • Ruby - Warm flame, will ward off evil spirits, helps to prevent bad dreams
  • Sapphire - Truth, faithfulness, good health, good fortune

Victorian Wedding Attire

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:

Married in white, you have chosen right
Married in gray, you will go far away
Married in black, you will wish yourself back
Married in red, you'd better be dead
Married in green, ashamed to be seen
Married in blue, you'll always be true
Married in pearl, you'll live in a whirl
Married in yellow, ashamed of the fellow
Married in brown, you'll live out of town
Married in pink, your spirit will sink

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:

White - chosen right
Blue - love will be true
Yellow - ashamed of her fellow
Black - wish herself back
Grey - travel far away
Pink - of you he'll always think
Green - ashamed to be seen

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.

The Wedding Cake

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:

The ring for marriage within a year
The penny for wealth, my dear
The thimble for an old maid or bachelor born
The button for sweethearts all forlorn.

Victorian Flowers

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.

The Day and Month In Which To Marry

Choose the wrong day or month for your marriage and you could suffer a lifetime of consequences as these rhymes suggest:

Marry on Monday for health,
Tuesday for wealth,
Wednesday, the best day of all,
Thursday for losses,
Friday for crosses,
Saturday for no luck at all.

Here's another poem that explained each month:

A January bride will be a prudent housekeeper, and very good tempered.
A February bride will be an affectionate wife, And a tender mother.
A March bride will be a frivolous catterbox, Somewhat given to quarreling.
An April bride will be inconsistent, or forceful, But well-meaning.
A May bride will be handsome, agreeable, And practical.
A June bride will be impetuous, And generous.
A July bride will be handsome, But a trifle quick-tempered.
An August bride will be agreeable, And practical as well.
A September bride will be discreet, affable, And much liked.
An October bride will be pretty, coquettish, Loving but jealous.
A November bride will be liberal and kind, But sometimes cold.
A December bride will be fond of novelty, Entertaining but extravagant

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:

Marry in May and you'll surely rue the day.
Marry in September's shrine,
Your living will be rich and fine.

Careful With The Names

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.

To change the name and not the letter
Is to change for the worse and not the better.

Good Omens and Bad Omens - What To Expect On The Way To The Ceremony

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:

  • If the bride looked in the mirror before leaving for the ceremony, it would bring good luck. However, if she were to look into a mirror again on the way to the church, it would bring bad luck.
  • The bride and her bridesmaids would walk together to the church. Along the way, if they encountered any of the following signs, it would indicate a happy, smooth marriage: a rainbows, lambs, black cat, spiders, and toads. One of the luckiest "things" to encounter would be a chimney sweeper, especially if he gave the bride a kiss on the cheek.
  • A sunny day for the wedding was always a good omen. However if it was raining, very windy or cloudy, then that would foretell a stormy marriage. If it rained before the wedding, but became sunny and clear, especially with a rainbow in the sky, that was an very good indication of a wonderful marriage.
  • There were several bad luck omens as well, should one encounter them on the way to the church such as pigs, lizards, hares, a monk or nun, an open grave.
  • Hearing a rooster crow after the break of dawn was also considered bad luck.

General Victorian Superstitions About The Wedding Day

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.

Related Vintage Wedding Links

Victorian Weddings: A Garden Celebration In The Afternoon

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