Wedding protocol changes like the weather and we see trends come and go but there are some age old customs that have stayed with us, even though they seem quite out of place in a modern context. Here in Ireland and the UK we share a fondness for some quite bizarre, old-fashioned marriage practices. Here are three of the strangest:
The Wedding Garter (often in blue) is an elasticated frill worn on the thigh, around the top of the stocking to hold it in place. In days of old it was thought to be lucky to carry a small piece of a wedding dress. Items were designed to be removed easily so that they could be thrown to the crowd, similar to the bouquet throwing custom. The catcher would be bestowed with luck and love and this is where the tradition of throwing the garter first came from. More recently it was divided by gender, the ladies jumping for the bouquet and the gentlemen jumping to catch the garter. The garter is traditionally removed by the grooms teeth. this would happen later on in the night at the ‘ties around the head’ phase of the evening’s proceedings. Yes that’s right, the groom takes the bride’s undergarment off with his teeth in front of their guests and throws it to the men! It has become a little less fashionable in the last ten years as many consider it a bit too risque or bawdy. For some, it still provides some lighthearted Craic at the end of the night, it certainly has stood the test of time as a wedding tradition of old.
Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue.
This is an old English tradition stemming from a rhyme first published back to the 19th Century. The poem goes:
Something old, something new, Something Borrowed, Something blue, and a silver sixpence in her shoe.
Something old was said to provide protection for the children born from the marriage. Something new is usually the dress. Something borrowed it is thought came from a tradition of borrowing and under-slip from a woman who had had many healthy children, this was thought to bring fertility to the bride. Something blue was generally worn as part of the garter under the dress. The sixpence was there to bring financial success to the couple throughout the marriage. This is also very superstitious and it is surprising that people still adhere to this custom but a bit of good luck can’t be a bad thing when beginning a marriage, so what harm?
The Child of Prague
Devotion to statues of the Infant of Prague became popular in Ireland in the late 19th Century in Ireland. Over the years the statue has become linked to Irish weddings, many of us will have had a granny or an auntie out burying the statue in the garden as a ritual to bring good weather. Although there are some variations, most customs insist on placing of the statue outside of the brides house under a hedge in the garden to guarantee good weather. Some people say the statue needs to be outside the church where the wedding is to take place and others even go so far as to bury it in the garden. The custom stemmed from a belief that the statue can influence weather. The Child of Prague is a small medieval statue of the child Jesus, adorned in an colourful robes, housed in the Carmelite Church of Our Lady Voctorious in Malá Strana, Prague. Like the Sacred heart, a Child of Prague is still displayed in many Irish homes today to watch over and bring luck to the occupants. Even our own James Bond, Navan born actor Pierce Brosnan engaged in the custom for his wedding to Keely Shaye Smith in 2013. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky!
Good omens and lucky charms have always been a big part of the wedding day. We love to ritualise this milestone and couples often look to the past for traditional customs which will give them a sense of hope, optimism and good fortune for their future.
Visit here for some other Irish wedding traditions of old. Do you have your own? Please leave a comment. If you’d like any of our celebrants here to perform a traditional or bespoke wedding ceremony, simply get in touch.