Every bride-to-be is familiar with this old rhyme — but do you know where it comes from? Or why so many brides decide to honour the tradition?
We reveal all and ask real life brides to share their “something borrowed”.
Based on this old English poem, the custom of carrying four special items on your wedding day is widespread across the globe.
Something old symbolises continuity with the past, extending the bride and groom’s family and keeping up old friendships and family ties. Brides will often choose an old piece of jewellery that has been handed down to them with special meaning; they might wear a bracelet, vintage pendant or a dainty chain.
Something new stands for the future, and symbolises the bride’s hopes and dreams. If not the dress, most brides buy at least one new item for their wedding day, whether it’s a headdress, veil, shawl, shoes or a beautiful bridal clutch bag. Something new is the easiest box to tick!
Something blue has a more old-fashioned meaning: before the 19th century, blue was a very common colour for bridal dresses and stood for purity, loyalty and femininity (Queen Victoria made white wedding dresses popular after her nuptials in 1840). Today, many brides opt for sapphire jewellery, or subtle blue beads, stones or feathers in their headdress. Others pick blue shoes to contrast with their dress (Carrie Bradshaw-style) or to match their flowers and wedding décor. But by far the most popular choice is to wear a blue garter, unseen by everyone on the big day — and reserved for the groom’s eyes only on the wedding night.
Something borrowed is perhaps the most special of the four items. It gives a friend or family member the chance to feel involved in your special day. Ideally, and in line with tradition, you should borrow an item from a happily married person; their good fortune in marriage is said to transfer to the new bride and groom.
Many brides borrow a special possession from a member of the family. Smazzy_Smoo on the hitched forum borrowed her Mum’s veil. “And we’re getting married in the same church as my Mum and Dad 27 years later,” she says.
The Future Mrs. Galloway is borrowing her best friend’s veil: “She got married in March and I was her bridesmaid; she will be a bridesmaid at my wedding too. It’s special to me and will also save me a few pounds not having to buy one.”
Karen Anne borrowed her mum’s necklace. “I remembered it from when I was a child,” she says. “I was always attracted to it and often tried it on.”
“My ‘something borrowed’ is my other half’s grandmother’s wedding ring,” says trouble_GB. The ring is being sewn into her wedding dress on a blue ribbon: “He was very close to his gran and we wanted her to be included in our big day.”
Barefoot Beach Bride asked her future mother-in-law for a loan: “She offered me her late mother’s lace-trimmed handkerchief. It was pinned around my bouquet on the day, and was perfect since my ‘something old’ was my own late grandmother’s ring.”
MummyMoo82 is also attaching her ‘something borrowed’ to her bouquet: a brooch made from her great grandmother’s necklace fastening. “There’s no more room for glitz or glam on my dress or body,” she says.
But not all borrowed items have to be jewellery or heirlooms. ESW on the hitched.co.uk forum is using borrowed perfume for the wedding ceremony; she will go back to her normal fragrance for the evening reception.
Some brides decide to combine their ‘something borrowed’ with their ‘something blue’: Nancy borrowed her mother’s blue garter, for example.
“My something borrowed and blue was a tiny blue butterfly brooch of my mum’s,” says Suzi. “We pinned it to my bouquet as a reminder of my brother who died when I was young.”
Another hitched.co.uk bride (ForTheLoveOfMrsBrown) sewed a pendant left to her mother by her late grandmother onto the ribbon-wrapped stem of her brooch bouquet. “It was a blue stone in a gold setting,” she days. “It was something old, something borrowed and something blue.”
And if you borrow your dress, your ‘something borrowed’ becomes the focal point of the day. “We got married on a shoestring,” says Lynley. “I was going to hire a dress but even then I couldn’t really afford much. I was a bit down in the dumps about it but then a friend turned up with her sister’s wedding dress, and insisted I try it on... it fitted like a glove!”
Of course, you could take a light-hearted approach to tradition. Sarah, for example, borrowed her friend’s breast enhancers: “I’d lost so much weight for the wedding that my boobs disappeared and my dress couldn’t be taken in anymore – so my ‘something borrowed’ was my friend’s chicken fillets!”
And, however well intentioned, not every borrowed item works out according to plan: Helen had her mum’s wedding ring sewn into her garter for the big day. The wedding band made the garter too heavy and it fell down just before she walked down the aisle!