Pearl Bridal Traditions: Here Come the Pearls!
“Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.” The origins of this old saying and the bridal tradition it represents are in Victorian England, tucked into a little book entitled Happy is the Bride the Sun Shines On. Bridal bouquets often hold flowers that symbolize attributes the bride hopes to bring to her marriage: stephanotis for marital happiness, white roses for unity, celandine for joy. The language of flowers was also a Victorian creation. Another time honored wedding custom, the wearing of pearls, soundly predates Victorian England. Ancient Hindu texts from 1000 B.C. claim that Lord Krishna discovered the first pearls and gave them to his daughter on her wedding day to symbolize love and purity.
In ancient Greek wedding ceremonies, pearls were given to the bride to assure a blissful union. Crusading knights brought pearls back from the Middle East to give to a fair damsel on her wedding day. In the courts of 15th century France, wedding celebrations were awash with pearls. The bride and all of her guests, both men and women, attended the celebrations dripping in priceless, naturally occurring pearls.
Throughout contemporary history, famous brides have continued to include pearls in their wedding finery. For her wedding in 1941, Gloria Vanderbilt selected a perfect single strand choker from her family’s pearl collection. Queen Elizabeth II wore a stunning pearl tiara and double strand pearl necklace to her nuptials in 1947. Jackie Kennedy chose a single strand of round pearls for her wedding day in 1953, and pearls became her signature accessory. When Grace Kelly married Prince Rainer of Monaco in 1956, a classic pearl necklace was her jewel of choice. Since the advent of the cultured pearl industry in the early part of the 20th century, the custom of giving pearls as gifts for the bride to wear on her wedding day passed from the privileged few to the multitudes of deserving brides.
Modern brides incorporate the tradition of bridal pearls into other wedding customs, as well. Family heirloom cultured pearl teardrops are worn as the bride’s “something old.” Other brides are given a new pearl treasure to grace their weddings and then pass on to future daughters on their wedding days. One bride’s “something new” becomes another’s “something borrowed.” Because of the refined dying techniques perfected by the Japanese, pearls are now available in every color of the rainbow and then some. A spunky bride can even have her “something blue” be sapphire blue pearls to wear or tuck into her bouquet. Besides the symbolism of the flower choices, a bridal bouquet frequently has something of significance hidden in the flowers or in an attached satchel: a love poem, devotional jewelry, or great grandmother’s pearl rosary.
Pearls are traditional gifts for members of the bridal party, too. As symbols of love, pearls serve as a classic remembrance of a celebration of love. Cultured pearls are not just round either. Luminous coin pearls, for example, are so named because of their flatness and brilliant luster. But not all coin pearls are circular coin shapes. Some are rectangles, crosses, and even stars! Many bridal parties are completely adorned with pearls to match the wedding color palette and style of the bride––classic single strands create a traditional look, delicate seed pearls paired with crystals add romance, coin pearls are opulent and regal, mabé pearls make the contemporary fashion statement, and Biwa are for nature girls!