Wedding Traditions

Garter and bouquet tossing as tradition

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Brides and grooms started tossing bouquets and garters in self-defense

When you decide to take the plunge and get married, it is your wedding ceremony and reception so you can choose to do what you want, however you want.

You can opt to incorporate ancient traditions and customs into your wedding or you can abandon them altogether. Some brides and grooms decide to be inventive and put a new twist on old traditions or even adopt new customs.

Although we have seen garters and bouquets tossed time and time again at wedding receptions, has it occurred to you why it is done? It seems sort of silly, and maybe even a little bit indelicate, for the groom to grope underneath the bridal gown in an effort to retrieve her garter, which he then flings into a group of single males.

The garter toss tradition has been around for centuries. A version of this practice first started in the 1500s when the guests would sneak into the boudoir, where the bride and groom retired after the ceremony, to make certain that the marriage was consummated. The guests would snatch items from the boudoir, such as the garter that the bride wore earlier. These items were supposed to bring the guests good luck.

The thieving of items from the boudoir gradually transitioned into tossing the garter during the wedding after-party or reception. This way, the newlyweds could keep the guests out of their bedroom.

Another early version of the garter toss involved the guests sitting on the foot of the bridal bed with their backs to the sleeping couple and tossing the discarded clothing of the bride and the groom, including their underwear, over their shoulders and onto the bride and groom. If the stockings landed on the bride or groom, whoever threw the stocking would be the next in line to get married.

Legend is that the man who catches the garter is supposed to put it on the leg of the woman who caught the bridal bouquet and these two will end up getting married.

Many contemporary couples follow the tradition of garter tossing with good humor, amidst cheers and much laughter. The garter - and the bouquet - are seen as one of many wedding favors. Some brides opt not to engage in the garter toss, however, because they feel it is too racy or because it has sexist overtones.

Bouquet tossing is another staple of the wedding reception. The bride tosses her bouquet over her shoulder into a group of single women. Whoever catches the bouquet will be the next to tie the knot, or so the legend goes. The tossing of the bouquet, like the tossing of the garter, is planned into the wedding program with a nod to tradition.

Some single female guests really hate this practice, because it makes them seem desperate to get married, while others enjoy it tremendously, so much so that they will go to battle over the bouquet. There have been more than one knock down wrestle over the coveted bridal bouquet.

The bridal bouquet, like the garter, is considered lucky. This belief goes back as far as the 14th century in Europe. In fact, the wedding guests used to chase the bride in an effort to tear off parts of her wedding apparel because they believed it would bring them good luck. That is one reason, and a good one, why the bride and groom began tossing items at the guests.

It is interesting to learn that the bouquet toss originated from the fear that the bride would be trampled by her guests. In reality, the bouquet and garter toss were implemented in self-defense.

Today, tossing the bouquet is a nice way to give a female guests a beautiful souvenir of the wedding. Brides will often try to throw the bouquet to a favored single bridesmaid, as a special personal memory of the wedding. Many brides have a duplicate bouquet made so that they can preserve their wedding flowers and throw a bouquet.

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