Not Seeing the Bride

A discussion of the custom of the groom's not seeing his bride before the wedding.

Superstition:   The lore and customs surrounding the groom’s not seeing his bride before the wedding.

Origins:   Though in older times it was customary for the


about-to-be-married to accompany each other on the walk to the church on their wedding morning, modern custom dictates that bride and groom not see each other before the ceremony. Why this is so is a bit of a mystery, with the most popular guess so far postulating that the build-up to the lady’s unveiling at the altar possibly keeps the groom from getting cold feet and rethinking the whole matter. Another explanation speculates that this custom is in some way related to primitive seclusion rites in which a betrothed girl cannot be seen by anyone prior to her wedding lest she pass ill luck to others. (The betrothed are regarded as occupying an in-between stage in life and thus one fraught with potential danger because of its uncertainty.)

Whatever the original reason for the practice, this symbolic separation has almost become de rigeur, even among couples who have been cohabiting prior to marriage. Generally, the pair must part ways no later than before midnight the evening prior to the big day. On the wedding day itself, the groom should even avoid entering his bride’s home, lest he catch a glimpse of her. This stricture against seeing one another is carried so far that grooms are cautioned not to look at their brides until they both stand at the altar. He must not even turn to watch her as she makes her way up the aisle, but should stand with his back to the


So strong runs the belief that the groom must not see his bride prior to their meeting at the altar that aspects of it carry over to the wedding dress. At any time prior to the wedding (including all the months leading up to it), he is not to see this piece of clothing. In an odd way, the groom’s seeing this item, even if it’s just hung on a hanger, is deemed akin to his seeing the decked-out bride prematurely.

Barbara “unbridal’d” 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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