Coins and Weddings: An Ancient Tradition Made New

Traditions play such a huge part in weddings – from ‘something blue’ to top table etiquette, there are so many old-fashioned rules you can choose to take inspiration from on your big day. I personally think every wedding tradition should be seen as an interesting idea to consider, rather than a hard and fast rule to follow – but it’s nice to know the history behind them. Today’s guest blog is by Catherine on behalf of The Royal Mint! Enjoy 🙂

Coins and weddings – why a silver sixpence?

In the run up to the big day, most brides will have the ‘something old, something new’ saying thrown their way quite a few times. It is a tradition which we are all familiar with, and many brides today still choose to collect the four items of the mantra for good luck. But did you know there are actually five objects in the original rhyme? The full rhyme, dating back to the Victorian era, is as follows:

Something old, something new,
something borrowed, something blue,
and a silver sixpence in her shoe.

wedding shoes Travers and Brown

Wedding shoes – photo credit Corn­wall wed­ding pho­tog­ra­phers Tra­vers & Brown

The placement of the coin in the bride’s shoe was thought to bring prosperity to the future couple. This connection between coins and weddings is one which is actually found across the world, and in some cultures coins are as much a part of the traditional as the rings and the white dress are to us.

A 16th century English wedding tradition?

Although the rhyme is Victorian, an examination of early marriage vows reveals that in England, the tradition could have existed as far back as the 16th century. The vows, first published in the Book of Common Prayers in 1549, detail an exchange of rings, as well as ‘other tokens of spousage’ including ‘gold and silver’. It was only two years after this, in 1551, that the first silver sixpence was minted in Britain; so it is likely that these coins became a common feature in wedding ceremonies from this point onwards.

wedding rings

Wedding ring at Freddie and Linzi’s wedding – photo credit Mandy Meadows

There are numerous examples worldwide of coins having an integral role in ceremonies. In Scotland, it was often tradition for the groom to place a coin in his shoe, rather than the bride. An old Irish tradition was for the groom to present his bride with a coin just after the exchange of the ring, an action which was thought to symbolise financial security.

This has been updated in modern times to both bridge and groom presenting one another with a coin following the rings.

Further afield, it is common amongst Christian Hispanic communities for the newlyweds to receive thirteen coins, representing Jesus and the twelve disciples. In Indian ceremonies, the bride frequently scatters coins as she leaves her parents’ house to go and live with her husband. It is a symbolic gesture, expressing her thanks for her parents’ generosity and love up until that point.

Coins may not be a common feature in most Western weddings today, but The Royal Mint still design coins to be used as wedding gifts. A silver sixpence makes an excellent alternative gift which is a nod towards tradition while also being quirky and unique.

Or, if you are having a traditional English wedding then you may wish to incorporate coins into the ceremony itself to complete the five symbols of luck.

Claire Gould

Claire spends her days writing - either in beautiful calligraphy or online. She lives on the edge of the English Lake District only minutes away from the beach, where she loves to escape and unwind. Claire's calligraphy can be found at Claire launched the English Wedding Blog in November 2009 - it's been a top 10 UK wedding blog ever since, with a regional focus we hope you LOVE.



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