Giving horseshoes to the bride

When I was a bridesmaid earlier last year, I found myself trying to coordinate when a guest with children needed to pass over the traditional horseshoe. I managed to sneak a quick conversation with the celebrant, and could text the friend with the appropriate cue, but it led me to wonder – do you still give horseshoes at weddings? Do brides even know about this tradition? I asked celebrant Heather Sorensen if she could share her knowledge on this topic and the million dollar question: when do you give the bride the horseshoe?

beautiful wedding horseshoe

Giving horseshoes as good luck token at your wedding

The giving of horseshoes to a bride is a tradition of long standing. Well before Christian times a horseshoe was thought to represent a crescent moon and was therefore a very potent fertility charm!! However, more recently, in Victorian times the tradition was established as a way of bringing good luck to the newlyweds for the duration of their lives together.

DIYing a horseshoe

The giving and receiving of a horseshoe is something that is a little magical and romantic. It is possible to purchase horseshoes but it is very special if the horseshoe is ‘homemade’ especially for the bride. If you are very lucky you may be able to get a real horseshoe that you can clean and decorate. You may be able to buy a plain plastic horseshoe and then decorate it yourself. The horseshoe needs a ribbon loop that attaches to the ends of the horseshoe so that the bride can hold it easily along with her flowers. It is really important that the horseshoe is able to stay upright in the ‘U’ shape so that it is able to catch all the good luck on the day.

When do you give the bride the horseshoe?

Usually young children are the ones chosen to give the horseshoe to the bride. This happens at the end of the ceremony after the couple have been presented as Mr and Mrs and then take their first walk together down the ‘aisle.’ As they stop, the children, with adult help if necessary, can come forward to present the horseshoe to the bride. This is often a great photo opportunity as well.

The horseshoe(s) should be on display with the bride’s flowers at the reception after the ceremony. Guests do appreciate the opportunity to look at, and admire, the flowers and horseshoes.

Thank you Heather for sharing your knowledge on this tradition – I hope guests find it useful and feel a bit more relaxed about keeping this tradition alive at the weddings they attend in the future.

I thought I’d add a little section on where you buy wedding horseshoes to Heather’s advice because I know I’ve personally wanted to do this tradition but haven’t been able to find one to even buy! And lucky for brides-to-be, this is something that your wedding guests need to do, so you don’t have to add “horseshoe” to your to-do list.

Where can you buy a wedding horseshoe?

Many traditional bridal stores and stationery shops carry wedding horseshoes, but it’s a dying tradition and with that, less people are stocking them. I can confirm that Brides by Donna Rae in Invercargill sell them (and they are open on Saturdays if you’re doing an on-the-day dash in).

For a wide range of options, you can check online if you have time to wait for shipping. I’ve popped some of my favourites below – click on the link to be taken directly to the shop that sells them.

From Etsy:

These wooden horseshoes are personalised with the couple’s last name and wedding date for an extra special horseshoes nz

A reconditioned real horseshoe, decorated with blush pink and grey feathers is beautiful.real horseshoe for wedding tradition nz

Another wooden horseshoe gift, this one has a more rustic feel.

rustic wedding horseshoe

A real wedding horseshoe featuring vintage lace, feathers and jewellery.

beautiful wedding horseshoe

I have saved a few of my favourite wedding horseshoes to a collection on Etsy – check them out here.

9 thoughts on “Giving horseshoes to the bride

  1. My Mother gave me a horseshoe when I married almost 56 years ago & I gave all of the brides in our family one My first granddaughter is getting married in February & I will continue the tradition

    1. Hey Melodie – The horseshoes pictured above are what I’d consider a modern take on the wedding horseshoe. The traditional horseshoe is covered in white satin, lace and frills – a more modern take is an actual horseshoe beautifully decorated. The more traditional style is more readily available and much more common at weddings still.

      1. Actually the new tradition is a resurgence of the original Real horseshoe the lacy ruffled one is the Victorian version I make the ruffled ones BTW

  2. I never knew this was a tradition! I am getting married next June under a little arbor. I’ve been trying to figure out how to decorate the arbor and rolled over in bed one night and saw the horseshoe hanging on my wall, the same one that hung in my grandparents house forever. That will be hanging from the top of the arbor in June.

    1. It’s cool aye Meg! It was a nice surprise for me to receive my horseshoes 🙂 I think that is a lovely way to incorporate a personal detail into your wedding day. And when you see it back in your home it has that extra significance from being at your wedding too <3

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