Since Victorian times, brides looking for an extra bit of luck on their wedding day have been sure to include each of these special items in their celebration — a new dress or pair of shoes, a borrowed necklace and perhaps a sapphire-hued ribbon tucked into their bouquet. Traditionally, the “old” is a piece of jewelry, such as the pearl bracelet that Catherine Hipp Warth wore on her wedding day, which had been her grandmother’s.
Today, though, many brides are choosing to get creative with the “old,” incorporating beloved family heirlooms into their celebrations in beautiful and unique ways that include converting antique brooches into hair pins and sewing pearls or other gems onto wedding gown sleeves and hems. Grooms are getting into the trend as well, often using family ring boxes to hold their future wife’s wedding ring during the ceremony or carrying a beloved grandfather’s handkerchief in their pocket.
When Katherine Gaulin was planning her wedding to Charlie Carter, her mother suggested that, instead of flowers, the couple top their cake with Katherine’s silver baby cup. “I told her that if she wanted to find it and polish it, it was fine with me,” says Katherine with a laugh. “She did, and it was so much more beautiful than I ever could have imagined. The florist filled it with flowers. It was a really special way to incorporate something old into our wedding.”
Some couples are fortunate enough to have access to a generations-old piece to use as their something old. The cake topper that adorned Ali Hymson and Taylor Brown’s wedding cake was a cherished bride-and-groom statuette that had crowned the wedding cakes of Taylor’s parents and grandparents. Brie Logue Burnett wore a nearly 100-year-old veil from Italy that the great-grandmother of her husband, Parker, had worn for her wedding in the 1920s. Brie was fortunate. Parker’s family had taken good care of the veil, and it was in perfect condition. But it turns out brides who discover that the family veil is torn or discolored can also have a piece of history at their weddings — if they’re up for a bit of originality. Even the tiniest bits of lace look stunning when they’ve been set into clear amulets and worn as pendants; brides with access to larger pieces can have them gilded and transformed into custom bracelets, necklaces, and earrings. Delicate lace can also be framed and set near the guest book alongside historic family photographs.
Lace isn’t the only fabric that makes a sweet something old. Creative couples are cutting hearts from, say, a grandfather’s military uniform, a father’s favorite tie, a great-aunt’s tablecloth, and other sturdy items and having them sewn into wedding gown hems, attached to suspenders, or even tucked into pockets.
Ideas abound for couples who want to weave heirlooms in the flowers they’ll be wearing or carrying. Brides can use strips of fabric from sentimental items such as a father’s handkerchief or a mother’s wedding dress to gather their bouquet together or wrap individual stems; both brides and grooms can also hang small pendants made from pieces of jewelry, military medals, or religious icons from their bouquets and boutonnieres.
Something old can also be purely symbolic, as was the case of one couple who wrote their wedding vows around a few lines of a Shakespeare sonnet that had been a favorite of the bride’s mother. Other brides work from photographs to recreate wedding cakes, bouquets, and even dresses from their parents’ and grandparents’ weddings.
“It didn’t dawn on me until I saw my wedding pictures how many old things I had at my wedding,” says Katherine. “But I’m so glad that I did. It made the day even more special.”