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Summary Article: Wed or wedding
From Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable

The word ‘wed’ goes back to Old English, and meant originally ‘a pledge’. The ring is the pledge given by the man to confirm that he will perform his part of the contract. See also MARRIAGE.

Wedding anniversaries

Fanciful names have been given to many wedding anniversaries, the popular idea being that they designate the nature of the gifts suitable for the occasion. The following includes variants for the lesser anniversaries. Many of them are not observed, with the exception of the 25th and 50th.

1st: Paper

2nd: Cotton

3rd: Leather

4th: Flower or fruit

5th: Wooden

6th: Iron or sugar-candy

7th: Woollen

8th: Bronze or electrical appliances

9th: Copper or pottery

10th: Tin

11th: Steel

12th: Silk and fine linen

13th: Lace

14th: Ivory

15th: Crystal

20th: China

25th: Silver

30th: Pearl

35th: Coral

40th: Ruby

45th: Sapphire

50th: Golden

55th: Emerald

60th: Diamond

70th: Platinum

75th: Diamond

The 60th anniversary is often reckoned the Diamond wedding in place of the 75th, as the 60th anniversary of Queen Victoria's accession was her ‘Diamond Jubilee’. See also JUBILEE.

Wedding breakfast

The meal (not actually breakfast) that is traditionally served at the reception after a wedding ceremony or just before the married couple leave for their honeymoon. Weddings now usually take place in the early afternoon, but the expression dates from the time when they were held in the morning.

Wedding finger

The fourth finger of the left hand. Macrobius says that the thumb is too busy to be set apart, the forefinger and little finger are only half-protected, the middle finger is called medicus, and is too opprobrious for the purpose of honour, so the only finger left is the pronubus.

Aulus Gellius tells how Appianus asserts in his Egyptian books that a very delicate nerve runs from the fourth finger on the left hand to the heart, on which account this finger is used for the marriage ring.

The finger on which the [wedding] ring is to be worn is the fourth finger on the left hand, next unto the little finger; because by the received opinion of the learned … in ripping up and anatomising men's bodies, there is a vein of blood, called vena amoris, which passeth from that finger to the heart.

henry swinburne: Treaties of Spousals 1680

In the ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH, the thumb and next two fingers represent the TRINITY. The bridegroom says: ‘In the name of the Father’ and touches the thumb, ‘in the name of the Son’ and touches the index finger, and ‘in the name of the Holy Ghost’ and touches the long or third finger. With the word ‘Amen’ he then puts it on the fourth finger and leaves it there. In some countries the wedding ring is worn on the right hand. This was the custom generally in England until the end of the 16th century, and among Roman Catholics until much later.

In the Hereford, York and Salisbury missals, the ring is directed to be put first on the thumb, then on the index finger, then on the long finger and lastly on the ring finger, quia in illo digito est quaedam vena procedens usque ad cor (‘because in this finger there is a certain vein running to the heart’).

Wedding tackle

A humorous term for the male genitalia, dating from the early years of the 20th century.


This word comes from Old English wed, ‘pledge’, and -lāc, a suffix indicating activity, the whole meaning the marriage vow and hence the married state. It does not imply the unopenable lock of marriage, as has sometimes been supposed.

Blood-red wedding, The

See under BLOOD.

Golden wedding

See under GOLDEN.

Monkey's wedding

See under MONKEY.

No herring, no wedding

See under HERRING.

Parisian wedding

See under PARIS.

Penny weddings

See under PENNY.

Shotgun wedding

See under SHOT.

Silver wedding

See under SILVER.

White wedding

See under WHITE.

© Chambers Harrap Publishers Ltd 2012

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