What’s With The Garter Toss During The Reception?


The Garter Toss event at a wedding reception

“What’s With The Garter Toss (Do We Have To)?”

There are a variety of traditional “events” that take place throughout a wedding. From the receiving line to the farewell, we all anticipate these main points of celebration throughout one’s big day. There’s the cutting of the cake, the bouquet toss, and the garter toss as well. Everyone waits for it, some throw caution to tradition and don’t include it, and others don’t even know what any of it means!

The garter toss takes place during the reception, usually right after the bouquet is thrown to all the single ladies. The single men throughout the guest list line up and take their shot at grabbing the garter – once it’s taken from the bride’s leg by the groom and thrown into the air.

If you want to get really traditional, the man who catches the garter is supposed to place his new piece on the woman who caught the bouquet – and the two wouldn’t be single for much longer according to the tales. It’s a topping of light-hearted fun for everyone to take part in before the party dies down for the night.

But if you’re wondering where the tradition stemmed and evolved from, there is one main “story.” Over the hundreds and hundreds of years that couples have participated in the event of marriage, we know that there was a lot of superstition surrounding it; one of them being that owning a bit of the bride’s dress was considered good luck.

Eventually, guests would attack the white cloth to get a piece to keep for themselves. This “attack” led to the bride’s wearing an easy article to be rid of and hand out on the day of: the garter.

And lastly, you absolutely do not have to partake in these traditions. No one will miss them, but they’re a fun piece of the wedding day puzzle as well if you do decide to add it to the list of festivities. There’s no judgment, there’s no love lost, and it’s your day to do what you wish!

Other Expert Answers

Reader’s Digest

“The tradition got its start the Middle Ages when a honeymoon wasn’t exactly a private getaway. When the lucky couple rushed away to consummate the marriage, guests would follow them to the bedroom, watching to make sure they really did seal the deal, according to Mental Floss.

As if having spectators wasn’t bad enough, rowdy guests would grab at the bride’s dress as she walked by, trying to snatch a piece off for good luck. This was way before elastic was invented, so the garters holding the bride’s stockings up became a go-to prize for handsy guests.

Over time, people began to realize that gawking over the marriage bed was a tad intrusive. Instead, the groom would toss the garter to guests waiting outside as a taste of what he and his wife were up to behind closed doors.

Eventually, the tradition became part of the reception – no need for guests to hover outside the hotel room. So if watching the bride show some skin makes you blush, just be thankful that you’ve only seen a little leg.” – Reader’s Digest

The Knot

“Don’t want to single out your single guests? We feel you. Some traditions are awesome, but others are still around just, kind of, because – while everyone secretly hopes they’ll make a nice, orderly exit from our lives. Enter, the bouquet and garter toss, which held relevant superstitious symbolism back in the day, but often add a layer of awkwardness at modern weddings.

(People once believed stealing a piece of the bride’s wedding clothing or accessories would bestow some of her good fortune upon them – seriously, they would try to tear off pieces of her dress! And removing the garter represented the consummation of marriage.)

These days, although the sentiment is benign and the activity can be fun if everyone’s okay with it, it’s basically a way to gather single or unmarried wedding guests and embarrass them in front of the entire party (yikes!). To be clear, no judgment here if you and your single friends want to partake – that’s your prerogative.” – The Knot

Brides

“A bridal garter is likely the only piece of lingerie you’ll ever have removed by your husband and then flung gleefully into a rapt crowd. Whether this wedding garter tradition makes you laugh or cringe, it’s still going strong. And even brides that don’t embrace the garter toss sometimes wear a garter nonetheless — a bridal garter can still be a sexy addition for your wedding night…

Whether or not you toss your garter is entirely up to you. If you aren’t into the garter toss, don’t do it! If you (or your partner) would rather not toss your bridal garter at your reception, that is perfectly OK.

One common reason for not wanting to actually toss the garter is that many brides want to keep it as a modern heirloom — if that’s the case for you, but you still want to the fun moment of the groom peeling (or biting) it off and then tossing it, consider getting a separate toss garter. A toss garter – just an extra garter (often simpler than the main garter) that the groom can take off your leg and toss, while you get to keep your real garter as a keepsake forever….

Have you ever been to a fairly traditional, modest wedding, where you’re all wearing your Easter best, and all of a sudden the groom is out there doing a sensual little dance in front of the crowd, and you find yourself cheering him on as he ducks under the bride’s skirt? It’s all in good fun nowadays, but, really, what’s the wedding garter tradition origin story?

The wedding garter tradition originated in the Dark Ages. In Wedding Customs Then and Now, published in 1919, Carl Holliday paints the following picture of medieval England:

  • “The brides-maids start with the weary bride to the wedding chamber when suddenly the cry arises, ‘Get her garter!’… If the woman has been thoughtful, she has fastened it loosely to the bottom of her dress so that it drags in plain view of the scrambling ruffians; if she has not been a wise virgin, she may find her clothes in rags after the struggle.” For a guest, having a tatter of the bride’s dress was considered good luck.

Can you imagine getting all dolled up, only to be bum-rushed upon uttering “I do”? Crowds of guests became so bawdy that they’d often follow the couple to their marital bed, ripping at their clothes as a form of “encouragement.” And so, the bride and groom started tossing the bouquet and the garters that held up the bride’s stockings as a way to appease the crowd.” – Brides

Other Resources

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