Fact Check

Barring the Way

A discussion of the wedding custom of barring the newlyweds' way.

Published May 24, 2000

Superstition:   Wedding attendees bar the way of the newly-married couple as they try to leave the church.

Origins:   One familiar wedding custom is for guests to bar the way of the newly-married pair as they try to leave the church. A rope or chain is stretched across their path,

Ready for wed

and the bridegroom is made to pay a toll before being allowed to continue on with his bride. Money paid to clear the way is spent on drinks which must be used to toast the couple.

In much earlier times, the bride, groom, or both were made to jump over an obstacle immediately after the ceremony. Benches, chairs, and chains stretched across doorways, or even a locked churchyard gate could serve as the obstacle; what mattered was getting clear of it. (Sometimes it was permissible to lift the bride over the impediment, but the groom always had to do his own leaping.)

One explanation for barring is it represents in a concrete way the transition from single to married life by facing the newlyweds with an immediate and tangible threshold they must breach if they're to get on with their lives.

Barbara "obstacle course of action" Mikkelson

Last updated:   27 June 2005


  Sources Sources:

    Hole, Christina.   The Encyclopedia of Superstitions.

    New York: Barnes & Noble, 1996.   ISBN 0-76070-228-4.

    Opie, Iona and Moira Tatem.   A Dictionary of Superstitions.

    Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989.   ISBN 0-19-282-916-5.

    Pickering, David.   Dictionary of Superstitions.

    London: Cassell, 1995.   ISBN 0-304-345350.

    Tuleja, Tad.   Curious Customs.

    New York: Harmony Books, 1987.   ISBN 0-517-56654-0.

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