It's a little rhyme we all know, but where does it come from and what does it mean?

By Melissa Locker
Each product we feature has been independently selected and reviewed by our editorial team. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
Grandmother's Pearls
This Southern bride wore her grandmother's pearls, which had been restrung as a bracelet.
| Credit: Photo: Jen Fariello Photography

Every bride-to-be knows the rundown: When they walk down the aisle, they must have something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue. It's a little rhyme that brides, mothers-of-the-brides, maids of honor, bridesmaids, and probably even flower girls can recite, but where does it come from and what do these wedding traditions mean?

The rhyme dates back to a few lines of verse from an unknown English poet, who suggested brides carry "something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, a sixpence in your shoe". The first four items are meant to bring good luck, while tucking a sixpence into your shoe was meant to ensure the bride had a life of prosperity. The folks at Business Insider tracked down what they believe is the oldest written reference to way back in an 1871 issue of St. James Magazine. Naturally, the author was complaining about the tradition. A more thorough explanation of the tradition was inscribed in an 1883 publication delightfully called, "Shropshire Folklore: A Sheaf of Gleanings."

So why did brides need each of those items? According to the wedding sages at bridal site The Knot, carrying "something old" was meant to ward off the Evil Eye and keep the bride and groom safe and ensure they had children as the Evil Eye was thought to cause infertility. These days, though, the tradition tends to be about family and continuity and as many a Southern bride knows, is a great excuse to inherit a family heirloom before the wedding.

"Something new" was meant to be a sign of the new couples' future together, while "something borrowed" was meant to bring the couple good luck by borrowing a little good luck from a happily married friend or family member. Back in the day, it was suggested that brides borrow "the undergarment of some woman who has been blessed with children" to pass on their fertility, but since that unsanitary habit is a non-starter for most brides, the concept has evolved. These days brides borrow something to bring their community together and pay homage to close friends, loved ones, or a relative by borrowing something of sentimental value, like a grandmother's veil or a mother's pearls to hold them extra close on their wedding day.

WATCH: The Origins Behind These Wedding Traditions Are Wacky

The "something blue" comes from the idea that the color blue represents love, purity and fidelity, which are all important elements of a happy couple and a happier marriage. Plus, it's supposed to ward off the Evil Eye, too, which is an underappreciated part of a solid marriage, too.

While the first four traditions are still in use today, it's hard to find sixpence these days and most brides skip that element (plus the rhyme works better without it).