“Something old and something new, something borrowed and something blue.” It’s a saying referenced in English folklore from as far back as the 1800s. Most of us have heard the familiar rhyme, which brides are supposed to heed on their wedding day. But that’s not the end of the saying. The original version finishes with the phrase, “And a silver sixpence in her shoe.” As a result, brides in Great Britain incorporate coins into their wedding rituals.
But it’s not just British weddings that include coins in their celebrations. Coins are global symbols of wealth and luck, so it makes sense that weddings all over the world would incorporate coins into their ceremonies.
Brides in Great Britain quite literally wear “something borrowed, something blue, and a silver sixpence in their shoe.” Typically, it’s the father of the bride who places the sixpence in his daughter’s shoe. The ritual is meant to represent the father wishing his daughter luck, wealth, and happiness in her marriage.
In Wales, a silver coin is also placed inside a champagne cork from the wedding ceremony. After the ceremony, the cork with the silver coin is given to the couple as a gift, which serves as a souvenir of the special day.
The Swedish coin ceremony is very similar to Great Britain’s. The only difference is the addition of a gold coin. The mother of the bride gives her daughter a gold coin to wear in her shoe in addition to a silver coin from her father. The coins in the shoes are said to ensure that the new marriage is financially sound.
Far back in history, an Irish groom would pay what’s known as “luck money” to the family of his bride to be. From this ancient custom, a wedding ritual arose. After exchanging rings, the groom would present the bride with a coin. Today, since the concept of “luck money” has faded from fashion, many couples instead exchange coins with each other. Legend has it that if the coins clink together as they’re exchanged, the couple will have children.
In the U.S., many people throw some kind of confetti at the bride and groom as they exit. In Poland, however, the wedding guests throw coins instead. The bride and groom then collect all of the coins together. The practice of helping each other gather the coins is said to bring the new couple closer together.
In Lithuania, wedding guests bring silver coins with them to throw on the dance floor. One of these coins has the wedded couple’s initials on it. After the first dance is complete, the groomsmen and bridesmaids collect all of the coins. Whoever finds the coin with the initials gets to dance with the bride or groom.
This tradition dates back to a story about an impoverished couple. Unable to afford an engagement ring, the groom proposed with a coin he’d specially carved for his bride to be. But soon after he proposed, he was sent off to war. For ten years, his fiancée waited. When he returned, she’d lost the coin, which must have been disappointing. But they decided to proceed with the wedding anyway.
After his actions in the war, the man had been hailed as a hero. So when the wedding day arrived, the whole community attended to show their support. Seeing that the couple was unable to afford rings for their ceremony, the community rallied around them and collected coins to give to them. Among the coins was the very special “Love Coin” the groom had carved for the bride ten years prior. Legend has it that upon discovering the coin, the overjoyed couple danced with the guest who’d brought it. And that’s how the Lithuanian “Love Coin” tradition was born.
Spain and Latin America
During a traditional Hispanic wedding ceremony, brides are given 13 gold coins as a symbol of their husband's pledge to care for them financially. This ritual is known as las arras, and can be traced back to ancient Rome where a coin would be broken in half and split between the bride and groom. This practice was known as arrhae, which translates as "pledge."
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