The choice of good luck gifts that you can give to a bride is something of a bizarre collection really Horseshoes, spoons and old sixpences! If you’ve ever wondered what’s behind these strange traditions, here’s your chance to find out.

Looking at each on their own, they really are strange objects that are supposed to bring good luck, and yet these three make up more than 75% of the good luck tokens given to brides in the UK over the last decade. It’s actually quite unlikely that more than a third of those either giving or receiving really know why they are supposed to bring luck to the new bride, but we all recognize them and we all know that they are the right gifts to give. They are frequently so beautifully decorated and presented that no-one thinks about their real meaning. They’re traditional, and that’s good enough.

When it comes to horseshoes, there is more than one story behind the reason for them being symbols of good luck, and all of the stories go back beyond the mists of time. They have certainly been a symbol for good fortune since the middle ages at least. The strongest of these stories involves St. Dunstan, who was a blacksmith. It is said that the devil once visited his Smithy because he required his cloven feet to be re-shoed. St. Dunstan invited him in, but recognizing him for who he was, he inflicted the maximum pain on the devil during the process of securing the shoes on his feet. So much so, that he managed to put great fear of horseshoes into the devil and obtained a pledge from him that he would never again attempt to enter a house where a horseshoe was displayed.

The second story is more vague, as it was said that witches had a loathing for horses because they were animals of truth, honesty and forbearance, all the qualities that witches were not. As a result, witches would not ride horses and so learnt to ride broomsticks instead. It’s even more far fetched than the story of St. Dunstan and the devil, but these myths were believed hundreds of years ago, and from this came the view that a horseshoe was capable of warding off evil spirits, and so symbolizes good luck.

The third story is the least romantic, and yet is probably more believable than the other two. The only material that effectively protects the horses foot from the rigors of its daily toil is iron, and this has been used exclusively down the centuries for shoeing horses. In the middle ages iron was not easy to obtain, and so was seen as a material of wealth and prosperity. The shoe is shaped like a crescent moon which is itself a symbol of prosperity

The spoon is an easier conundrum to solve, and this tradition has its origins in Wales, and is well documented. The welsh love spoon has long been an article that was carved by a man for the object of his affection. The more complicated and intricate the carving, the more it was said that the man loved the woman for whom he was making the spoon. Once ready, and when the gentleman concerned had plucked up the courage, he would have the spoon delivered to the lady he desired. If she kept the gift, this would mean that she accepted her beau, and they would be engaged. If she returned the spoon, she was saying that she rejected the man. The spoon, therefore, has ever since been a symbol of love, and now exists in many forms, wooden, metal and porcelain. The spoons given as charms for today’s weddings retain the tradition of decoration but can be found covered in lace, beautifully decorated and presented in gift boxes of all types

The sixpence is associated with the well known rhyme that is bound up with weddings, and most brides still want to ensure that they comply with all parts of the rhyme to maintain the good fortune that has got them to their wedding in the first place. The rhyme is :

‘Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue,  And a silver sixpence in her shoe’

This tradition is not that old, since the first silver sixpence was not minted until 1551 and the rhyme, whose author is unknown, only surfaced in Victorian England. However, the tradition is that the bride’s father gave his daughter sixpence to place inside her shoe on her wedding day as a representation of health, wealth and happiness. In many cases the same sixpence was then kept by the daughter for her husband to pass on to their daughter when she was married, and so in many cases the same sixpence has passed through generations of the same family. The last sixpence was minted 46 years ago, in 1967, but there are still a great many of them available for brides today!

There are many other gifts that are also available as small gifts for brides, and the most common of the alternatives are hearts. Perhaps the most obvious symbol of love, these can be found in abundance. They do usually conform to similar decorative styles as their popular counterparts above, and most have a ribbon attached so that they can be hung or carried by the bride.

Author: Philip Marshall owner and director of the great UK based celebration and wedding decoration and tableware store