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Who gives bride a horseshoe?

The tradition of the bride carrying a horseshoe on her wedding day for good luck dates back hundreds of years and remains a common practice today. But where did this peculiar custom originate and who is responsible for giving the bride her lucky horseshoe? In this article, we will explore the history and meaning behind the bridal horseshoe and look at the different people who may bestow it upon the bride for her big day. Though its exact origins are debated, this enduring ritual is rife with symbolism and provides an intriguing glimpse into matrimonial traditions of the past.

History and Meaning of the Bridal Horseshoe

The practice of the bride carrying a horseshoe is commonly believed to have originated in England sometime in the 1800s, though some sources date it back even earlier to the 1500s. The horseshoe’s long-standing association with good fortune can be traced to the story of Saint Dunstan, a blacksmith who later became the Archbishop of Canterbury in 959 AD. The legend goes that when the devil asked Dunstan to shoe his hoof, Dunstan playfully nailed a horseshoe to the devil’s foot causing him great pain. After that, the devil is said to have promised to avoid any house where a horseshoe hung over the door.

Thus, the horseshoe became a powerful lucky charm against evil, including the evil eye. By the Victorian era, with a mix of traditions and superstitions around marriage, it was considered good luck for a bride to carry a horseshoe on her wedding day. The U shape of the horseshoe represented how the couple would come together in marriage to form a protective unit. The open ends pointing up were also meant to collect any luck that might be floating around on the special day.

Even in modern times, this sentiment endures with many brides choosing to incorporate a horseshoe into their attire or bouquet for its enduring message of good fortune and protection. It is often seen as a meaningful heirloom when passed down to new generations.

The Giver of the Bridal Horseshoe

When it comes to who gives the bride her symbolic horseshoe, there are a few key people who may take on this responsibility.

The Bride’s Mother

One of the most common givers of the bridal horseshoe is the mother of the bride. As one of the hostesses of the wedding, she helps prepare her daughter for her big day. Presenting her with a horseshoe taps into the maternal protection and luck she wishes to impart to her child as she embarks on her marriage. The mother’s blessing and well wishes accompany the heirloom horseshoe she has selected for the occasion.

The Bride’s Father

Fathers also commonly take part in the horseshoe tradition, positioning the shoe delivery within the sequence of rituals where he is giving his daughter away to her new husband. His blessings and hopes for good fortune are symbolically bestowed upon her as he presents the horseshoe, either during getting ready preparations or right before walking down the aisle. This can be an especially touching moment between father and daughter.

The Groom

Sometimes the groom himself wishes to be the one to provide his bride with her horseshoe as a token of his love and commitment to bringing her luck and happiness throughout their marriage. He may opt to give it to her in a private moment before the ceremony or have it integrated into the processional through the seating of special family members or the officiant.

The Bridesmaids

As members of the bridal party, bridesmaids may collaborate to find a meaningful horseshoe for the bride, especially if it is intended to be attached to the bridal bouquet. The bridal attendants come together to pick out a shoe that matches the wedding’s theme and aesthetics. Gifting it to the bride is part of their duties to help prepare and support the bride for a joyful, fortunate wedding day.

The Best Man

Though less common, the best man may also choose to procure a horseshoe for the bride on behalf of the groom and the groomsmen. This gift demonstrates their shared blessing and well wishes as she marries into their friend’s family. The best man presenting this thoughtful gift reflects his support of the couple’s union.

The Officiant

For religious or spiritual ceremonies, the officiant guiding the wedding may integrate the giving of a horseshoe into the marriage rites. This act ties the luck and protection of the horseshoe into the blessings and marriage promises occurring. Especially for those incorporating Celtic handfasting rituals, the horseshoe exchange may hold special meaning.

Honoring Deceased Family

A very special variation on the horseshoe gift is when it is given in memory of a deceased loved one who would have attended the bride’s wedding. This may be an heirloom from her grandmother or passed down from other lost relatives. Honoring their spirits through this longtime bridal tradition gives comfort and a sense they are still blessing the marriage.

New In-Laws

On occasion, brand new in-laws of the bride wish to present a horseshoe as a symbolic gift from her husband’s family. This thoughtfully initiates her into the family and conveys their feelings of good fortune in her joining them through the marriage. It may be given at the rehearsal dinner or wedding reception as a welcoming gesture.

When is the Horseshoe Typically Presented to the Bride?

The timing of the horseshoe gifting depends on who is giving it and the bride’s preferences. Here are some typical occasions when the bride may receive her token of matrimonial luck:

During Wedding Preparations

Often the horseshoe is gifted early on the wedding day while the bride is getting ready and dressed. This may be a special mother-daughter moment or involve bridesmaids. It sets the tone of blessing and good fortune from the start.

Right Before Walking Down the Aisle

For maximum impact, the bride’s father may opt to discreetly palm her the horseshoe right before taking that pivotal first walk down the aisle. This imbues her entire processional with the horseshoe’s protective aura.

During the Ceremony

Some couples choose to exchange horseshoes or have them blessed during their ceremony as part of their vows. This seamlessly incorporates the symbolism into their marital rites.

At the Reception

Another option is to present the bride with the horseshoe at the reception following the ceremony. This may work well for in-laws or as a surprise gift from the bridal party.

At the Rehearsal Dinner

For a low-pressure occasion, the groom or family members may opt to give the bride her horseshoe at the rehearsal dinner as a special gesture in front of their closest loved ones.

Unique Horseshoe Ideas for Modern Brides

While classic metal horseshoes are always a safe bet, contemporary brides may appreciate creative adaptations that better match their style:

Jeweled or beaded horseshoes

For elegant embellishment, horseshoes can be decorated with pearls, crystals, or beads for a glamorous look.

Jeweled horseshoe Horseshoe with pearls and crystals
Beaded horseshoe Horseshoe accented with beads

DIY projects

Crafty brides may enjoy DIY projects making horseshoes out of flowers, fabric, lace, or wood. Get creative!

Fabric horseshoe Stitched cloth horseshoe
Flower horseshoe Horseshoe made of flowers

Engraved or stenciled

Etching the bride and groom’s names, wedding date, or well wishes personalizes a metal horseshoe. Painted designs also individualize the look.

Engraved horseshoe Horseshoe engraved with names/dates
Stenciled horseshoe Horseshoe with painted design

Incorporated into jewelry

From necklaces to bracelets, brides can wear horseshoe motifs as part of their bridal jewelry for a subtle lucky touch.

Horseshoe necklace Necklace with small horseshoe charm
Horseshoe bracelet Charm bracelet with horseshoe

Attached to bouquet

Mini horseshoes can adorn the bouquet’s stems or ribbons. Choose metallic shoes that match other bouquet accents.

Made from alternative materials

Get creative with painted wood, ceramics, or polymer clay for more unique horseshoe designs. Or go for natural materials like driftwood.

Wood horseshoe Mini horseshoe made of wood
Ceramic horseshoe Horseshoe shaped ceramic charm

Presenting the Bridal Horseshoe with Style

How you present and package the horseshoe can make the moment even more special for the bride. Here are some nice presentation ideas:

Gift box or bag

For a festive touch, place the horseshoe inside a decorative gift box or jewelry bag tied with ribbons. Include a personalized note or good luck message.

On a pillow

For royal treatment, display the horseshoe atop a ring pillow or jewelry box pillow.

With flowers

Incorporate floral accents into the presentation, like a mini nosegay or bed of rose petals.

With other bridal accessories

Offer the horseshoe alongside complementary items like a garter, jewelry or perfume for a pretty presentation.

At a special location

Maximize the reveal by setting up the wrapped horseshoe at the bride’s place setting or beside her mirror/throne.

Horseshoe Meaning and Symbolism

No matter your cultural background or level of superstition, the horseshoe endures as a prevalent bridal tradition representing these common symbolic meanings:

Good luck and fortune

This overarching meaning stems from the horseshoe’s longstanding history as a protective amulet used to ward off evil and invite luck across many cultures.

Strength and security

The horseshoe’s durable U shape and impenetrable iron material represent the strength and safety within the newly unified marriage.

Bound together

The sides of the U represent the bride and groom coming together, bound in matrimony.


The upward-facing opening is thought to help “catch” any promising opportunities that may come the couple’s way, like children.

New beginnings

For the bride, the horseshoe signals the start of an exciting new chapter filled with promise.


When gifted by family or friends, the horseshoe signifies their blessings and goodwill for the couple.


Some view the horseshoe shape as symbolic of an endless embrace, like hugging arms.

Selecting an Heirloom Bridal Horseshoe

The giver of the horseshoe should take care to pick out something meaningful that will become a lasting keepsake for the bride. Here are some tips:

Consider size and weight

Pick a horseshoe that is portable enough for the bride to carry but still substantial, at least 2-3 inches long. Engraved shoes are often lightweight while cast iron is heavier.

Look for personalization

Etching the bride’s new name or monogram makes it special. Including wedding details connects it to the occasion.

Find an heirloom

Look amongst family heirlooms for a vintage horseshoe the bride can continue passing down. Or customize something new she can one day give to her own daughter.

Match her style

Select a horseshoe design that fits the bride’s personality and wedding style – classic, rustic, glamorous, etc.

Tie in something “blue”

For something old, new, borrowed AND blue – decorate the horseshoe with baby blue accents.

Get help from bridal consultants

Bridal salons often sell customized horseshoes and can help integrate it into the bride’s overall look.

Should the Groom Get a Horseshoe Too?

Traditionally the bridal horseshoe was centered around blessing the bride alone. But modern grooms are free to get in on the equine good fortune as well. Couples can exchange horseshoes during their ceremony or reception as a mutual token. His horseshoe may be simpler without embellishment – the bride’s is usually the focal point.

Another option is to find a “his and hers” double horseshoe design engraved with both their names. If designed well, this paired set can make for a particularly thoughtful gift.

Horseshoe Toss Wedding Game

A fun way to incorporate the horseshoe theme into a wedding celebration is by setting up a horseshoe toss game. This lawn game typically involves tossing or pitching horseshoes at a target stake in the ground and can be casual entertainment and friendly competition for guests.

Supplies needed include:

  • Metal horseshoes, often 1-2 pounds each
  • Metal or PVC target stakes about 3 feet tall
  • Box or clay for anchoring target stakes
  • Measuring tape to ensure equal distance

The stakes are traditionally 40 feet apart but can be adjusted as needed. Guests take turns pitching 4 horseshoes each toward the opposite stake from behind a line. Points are scored based on how close each shoe lands to the stake. The bride and groom can offer a small prize for winners.

This classic game makes a great addition to any backyard wedding reception. Just be sure to take safety precautions and consider playing inside if space is limited.


An enduring wedding tradition passed lovingly from generation to generation, the bridal horseshoe has represented good fortune and protection for blushing brides for centuries. With such deep roots, rich history and abundant symbolic meaning, it’s clear this sacred matrimonial ritual still holds relevance and significance, even in our modern era. Whether presented by mothers, fathers, bridegrooms or friends, the horseshoe is a cherished gift of luck warmly received by brides around the world across cultures. For all its humble simplicity and charm, this ancient custom remains a staple in wedding celebrations today.