Updated: Sep 23, 2018
Wedding garters are widely available in a variety of styles, however, as the colour blue traditionally symbolises fidelity, loyalty and constancy and because of the custom of a bride wearing something blue on her wedding day, she will often choose to buy a bridal garter that includes a blue ribbon or bow in its design.
A wedding garter is sometimes tossed to the single male wedding guests and the one to catch the garter is said to receive good luck and may be the next to marry; but this is often a special ‘tossing garter’ and not the actual garter worn by the bride.
The custom of tossing the wedding garter is similar to the custom of the bride, who with her back turned to the single female wedding guests, throws her bouquet over her shoulder; tradition says that the girl who catches the bride’s bouquet will be the next to marry.
The origin of the garter toss ritual dates back in history as a well known tradition that differs somewhat today in its practices, meanings and sentimental notions.
Both the garter itself and the garter toss ritual have been deep-rooted as a pivotal element within wedding festivities for centuries. Although changes and improvements have been made over time, the basics of the bride wearing a garter and it being tossed to single men has remained the same and stood the test of time.
The Origin of the Wedding Garter Toss Ritual
The garter toss is one of the oldest customs surviving wedding rituals. The garter toss became common at weddings in the 1500s in France. Originally, it was related to the concept of consummation of the marriage. The bridal party would approach the bride and groom’s bedroom for proof that the deed was accomplished.
They would then take an item of the bride’s clothing for good luck. This was often the garter used to hold up the bride’s stockings. The groomsman who retrieved the garter would then wear it in his hat for the remainder of the wedding celebration.
During the nineteenth century, as brides and grooms became uncomfortable with visitors in their chambers, the tradition evolved to that of the bride tossing her garter to the groomsmen before the end of the reception.
However, the men would often become violent competing for the garter and would sometimes tear at the bride’s dress or even flip her upside down to take the garter off before she had a chance.
Finally, the ritual changed to include the groom gaining full rights to the garter removal. This protected the bride from potential injury and put the onus on the groom to declare consummation of the marriage.
The Modern Wedding Garter Toss
Today, the garter toss ritual has evolved once again. It has been modified from the original wedding tradition that dates back for centuries. Currently, the bride wears an elastic garter, usually lace, around one of her thighs.
The groom reaches under the brides dress and removes the garter during the reception. He tosses it over his shoulder to the waiting unmarried men. The man who catches it takes the garter and slides it up the leg of the woman who caught the bride’s bouquet. It is said that the recipients of the garter and bouquet will be the next to marry (not necessarily to each other).
The Evolution of the Wedding Garter
The wedding garter itself has also changed over time. In the past, the typical garter was white lace. However, garters are now available in a variety of colours and styles, especially for the bride who wants even their garter to complement the décor of the wedding.
Most brides chose to wear a blue garter, in order to include the tradition of wearing “something blue” symbolising good luck, fidelity and loyalty; symbolism originating from biblical times.
Garters have also evolved in that they are now available in two piece sets. These sets allow a bride to wear both garters on her thigh. The groom removes the less decorative garter to toss and the other, more elaborate garter stays on the bride’s thigh.
The remaining garter, also known as the keepsake garter can be saved and boxed with the wedding gown for sentimental purposes.
Even though the wedding garter toss ritual has changed somewhat over time, for some couples the tradition of wearing and tossing the garter is still one of the most anticipated events at a wedding. Conversely, for others who feel this tradition has become outdated, there are other alternatives available.