Smock Weddings

A discussion of lore and superstition surrounding smock weddings.

Superstition:   The lore and symbolism surrounding smock weddings.

Origins:   One curious belief concerning liability for debts needs to be included here: the ritual of the smock wedding. According to lore, a husband would not be held liable for his wife’s premarital debts if she came to the altar barefoot and clad only in her shift, or even sometimes just a


Another (possibly earlier) form of this belief stated that the same freedom from financial obligations could be achieved if the bride walked naked from her own home to that of her future husband.

The underlying rationale for this custom seems to be that a girl sheds her debts with her clothes. Thus, if she comes to her new life wearing nothing, the bills she has previously run up cannot be transferred. An old law states that a husband is only responsible for his wife’s ante-nuptial debts to the extent of the fortune she has brought him. A smock wedding served as public notice that she brought nothing and therefore no claims could be made against him for her past obligations.

Barbara “shift for yourself” 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.
Since 1994
A Word to Our Loyal Readers

Support Snopes and make a difference for readers everywhere.

  • David Mikkelson
  • Doreen Marchionni
  • David Emery
  • Bond Huberman
  • Jordan Liles
  • Alex Kasprak
  • Dan Evon
  • Dan MacGuill
  • Bethania Palma
  • Liz Donaldson
  • Vinny Green
  • Ryan Miller
  • Chris Reilly
  • Chad Ort
  • Elyssa Young

Most Snopes assignments begin when readers ask us, “Is this true?” Those tips launch our fact-checkers on sprints across a vast range of political, scientific, legal, historical, and visual information. We investigate as thoroughly and quickly as possible and relay what we learn. Then another question arrives, and the race starts again.

We do this work every day at no cost to you, but it is far from free to produce, and we cannot afford to slow down. To ensure Snopes endures — and grows to serve more readers — we need a different kind of tip: We need your financial support.

Support Snopes so we continue to pursue the facts — for you and anyone searching for answers.

Team Snopes