The often unquoted last line of the traditional bridal saying gives a hint at its origin. The complete phrase is: “Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, and a silver sixpence in her shoe.”
A sixpence is a coin made of silver and worth six pennies that was minted in Britain from 1551 to 1967, indicating that the wedding tradition of the bride wearing something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue is English. Many sources say that it began in the Victorian era.
Each item in this poem represents a good-luck token for the bride. If she carries all of them on her wedding day, her marriage will be happy. “Something old” symbolizes continuity with the bride’s family and the past. “Something new” means optimism and hope for the bride’s new life ahead. “Something borrowed” is usually an item from a happily married friend or family member, whose good fortune in marriage is supposed to carry over to the new bride. The borrowed item also reminds the bride that she can depend on her friends and family. Blue has been connected to weddings for centuries. In ancient Rome, brides wore blue to symbolize love, modesty, and fidelity. Christianity has long dressed the Virgin Mary in blue, so purity was associated with the color. Before the late 19th century, blue was a popular color for wedding gowns, as evidenced in proverbs like, “Marry in blue, lover be true.”
And finally, a silver sixpence in the bride’s shoe represents wealth and financial security. It may date back to a Scottish custom of a groom putting a silver coin under his foot for good luck. For optimum fortune, the sixpence should be in the left shoe. These days, a dime or a copper penny is sometimes substituted, and many companies sell keepsake sixpences for weddings.