The Wacky Superstitions Behind Common Wedding Traditions

In honor of Friday the 13th, discover the meaning behind the strangest wedding lore.

The Wacky Superstitions Behind Common Wedding Traditions

Photo: Heather Kincaid

bouquet toss

Happy Friday the 13th! Because today is accepted to be the spookiest of all days, it's the perfect time to brush up on all of the odd wedding superstitions we take for granted. Why, for example, do we insist on dressing all the bridesmaids alike (in most cases)? Why are tiered cakes the dessert of choice? And what do Southerners believe is the secret to preventing rain on the big day? All of these traditions were born out of ancient superstitions that have become ingrained wedding practices we still follow today. Before blindly participating in these traditions yourself, discover the myths that inspired them. 

Read on to learn the superstition behind some of the most common wedding traditions. Whether or not you want to take a chance and not uphold these centuries-old customs is up to you – and how lucky you feel!

1. The groom carries the bride across the threshold of their new home. According to superstitious Europeans, if a wife tripped upon entering her new home, she would bring bad luck to the marriage. New homes were believed to be full of roaming spirits and brides were thought to be especially susceptible, so carrying her safely into the home would "protect her" from becoming inhabited.

2. In Christian ceremonies, the bride stands to the groom's left. In ancient times, this allowed the groom's right hand to be free to fend off other suitors!

3. Wearing a veil. We take veils for granted now, but Greeks and Romans believed they protected brides from evil spirits. Another reason: it obscured the bride's face in cases of arranged marriages, where the couple wasn't supposed to see each other before the ceremony.

4. Brides and grooms can't see each other before the wedding. Another nod to arranged marriages – that way, couples wouldn't have time to change their minds before saying "I do!"

5. Bury a bottle of bourbon at the wedding site. Southern tradition claims if a full bottle of bourbon is buried upside down at the spot where the couple will get married exactly one month before the wedding, it won't rain on the wedding day.

6. Finding a spider on your wedding dress. It sounds terrifying, but English legend states that discovering a spider on your wedding dress is actually good luck.

7. Matching bridesmaid dresses. Bridesmaids actually used to dress the same as the bride, to confuse evil spirits who wished to harm her.

8. Serving a tiered wedding cake. In ancient Roman weddings, wedding ceremonies were celebrated by breaking bread of wheat or barley over the bride's head to symbolize good fortune. After the newlyweds ate a few crumbs, guests would gather crumbs as tokens of good luck. Years later, medieval Europeans developed the tradition of stacking tiers of cake as high as they could; if the newlyweds could kiss over the stack, they would have a lifetime of prosperity.

9. The best day to wed is actually Wednesday. According to a classic folk rhyme, "Monday for health/Tuesday for wealth/Wednesday best of all/Thursday for losses/Friday for crosses/Saturday no luck at all." Unfortunately, Saturday is now the most popular wedding day!

10. Sleeping with wedding cake under your pillow. In Victorian England, it was commonly said that if a single woman slept with wedding cake under her pillow, she would dream of the man she would marry.

11. Swedish brides put a coin in each shoe. A silver coin from her father and a gold coin from her mother go in each shoe, so she'll never be without.

12. Tossing the bouquet and garter. Back in medieval times, guests fought to grab a piece of the bride's gown, which was thought to be good luck. In an effort to protect the bride and distract guests so she could escape, brides tossed the bouquet into the crowd. Then, the couple would retire to the newlywed bedroom, and grooms tossed the garter to the waiting crowd to prove the marriage had been consummated.

Opening photo by Jen Yuson Photography