This wedding rhyme is a traditional English rhyme of unknown origin and is often referred to as the ‘four something’s’. However it has become customary over the years to omit the final line ‘and a silver sixpence in her shoe’.
Though being cited in an 1898 compilation of English folklore, its use goes back many years prior. There is also disagreement from where in the country it originated with claims from both Lancashire and Leicestershire for similar sounding rhymes.
But there is a consensus of what the rhyme is about. The four something’s should be worn or carried by the bride on her wedding day to bring good luck.
The ‘old’ signifies continuity and is often an item handed down through the generations from mother to daughter. The ‘new’ signifies the future and is to bring good luck and health in the couple new life together. Something ‘borrowed’ is to symbolise the borrowing of happiness from a close friend or family member. Other sources regard the borrowing of an item wards off evil by confusing the devil, who would normally render the bride childless. Early Christians considered that blue was the colour of purity and later years this has become the favoured colour of the brides garter. There are a number of theories regarding the bridges garter. One origin is thought to stem from the ancient Order of the Garter, whose knights wore a blue garter, and as the only female members of the order were queens and princesses, this elevated the status of the bride to queen for the day. Other garter theories are a little more down to earth subscribing to the idea that the removal of the garter was proof of consummation of the marriage or that the groom tossed it to the wedding party to avoid having the bridal gown ripped as guests sought a lucky souvenir. The ‘silver sixpence in her shoe’ is plainly a wish for wealth and good fortune.