Bridal customs are often passed down through generations, leaving the origins of the tradition obscured. The tradition of a bride harboring a penny in her shoe hails from a Victorian British rhyme: "Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, and a sixpence in her shoe." Though sixpences haven't circulated as currency since 1967, many brides still keep lucky pennies or specialty coins in their shoes on their special days.
The sixpence symbolizes good fortune and prosperity for the bride and the groom. The coin emerged in the British Empire in 1551 and was worth six pennies. According to And A Sixpence, the lord of the manor traditionally gave the bride a sixpence as a wedding gift in the early 1600s. At the end of the 17th century, however, it became more common for the bride's parents to give the sixpence to the groom as part of the bride's dowry. Silver Sixpence notes that the coin was viewed as a sort of lucky talisman during the Middle Ages, when people feared that evil spirits were more active during rites of passage.
Coins in Other Cultures
In Sweden, a bride is traditionally given a gold coin by her mother and a silver coin by her father, representing her parents' desire that she never be without. The gold coin is worn in the right shoe and the silver in the left. A Lithuanian tradition brings wedding guests into the fold. Guests scatter silver dollars, quarters and half dollars on the dance floor, marking one coin with the bride and groom's initials. After the first dance, whoever finds the coin with the initials gets to dance with the bride or groom.
Practical Tips and Tricks
Though you wont find one at the bank, silver sixpences are available through many specialty wedding retailers. You can opt for a newly minted penny instead, perhaps one minted during a year that holds significance for you. The penny can easily be contained in close-toed shoes; however, brides wearing open-toed shoes should consider taping the coins in place so they don't slip out. If you're going barefoot, consider starting a new tradition and putting the coin somewhere in your undergarments instead.
After your wedding day, you can save the coin as a souvenir of your wedding day. Visit a jewelry maker and have the coin turned into a necklace, bracelet or key ring. And A Sixpence notes that cleaning a coin lowers its value, though that won't matter much if you're planning on having it altered. You can make your coin look shiny and new by making a paste of baking soda and water and scrubbing it with a toothbrush.
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Michelle Wishhart is a writer based in Portland, Ore. She has been writing professionally since 2005, starting with her position as a staff arts writer for City on a Hill Press, an alternative weekly newspaper in Santa Cruz, Calif. An avid gardener, Wishhart worked as a Wholesale Nursery Grower at Encinal Nursery for two years. Wishhart holds a Bachelor of Arts in fine arts and English literature from the University of California, Santa Cruz.