Wedding receptions are often built around a specific schedule of activities, including the first dance and the cutting of the cake. Some of those activities are a little bit more risque than others. The garter toss would definitely be one of them.
Tossing the garter is a very old wedding tradition that started in the 1300’s in Europe, probably in France. At the time, a commonly held belief was that the bride’s clothing was good luck so her guests would actually chase her down to pull pieces off of her dress so they could claim some of the good luck for themselves. As a result, many brides had their dresses ruined before they started to get smart and become pro-active.
Instead of allowing guests to rip apart their dresses, the brides began tossing pieces of their clothing to the guests, including her garter. While this solution fixed part of the problem, it didn’t solve everything. Not all of the guests, particularly the men who’d had a little too much to drink, wanted to wait until the bride was ready to throw her garter. Sometimes that meant they would try to rip it off of her leg on their own. Eventually though, grooms got smart, decided to remove the garter themselves, and toss it to the men.
Today, couples still include this garter toss in their reception, although the meaning of catching the garter has changed. The lucky recipient will be the next to get married, possibly to whoever catches the bridal bouquet.
Remember that the garter toss is optional. Do discuss whether you both feel comfortable including this activity in your events, especially if you’re having a very formal and serious reception.
If you decide to have a garter toss, DO wear two garters – one to throw and one to keep. DO wear both garters on your right leg but wear the tossable one just above your knee and the other one in its normal position on your upper thigh. DO make sure you bring along an extra pair of hosiery in case you get a run or tear in the ones you are wearing before the garter toss. Remember that when you buy your hosiery, people will be seeing it during the garter toss. DO allow the bride to sit down in a comfortable chair at the center of the floor while you remove the garter.
DON’T let the groom remove the garter with anything but his hands. Sometimes the groom’s are supposed to use their teeth instead and this just isn’t pleasant to watch – it usually makes your guests a little uncomfortable. DON’T remove both garters during the reception either. Only the garter meant for tossing should be removed at the reception. The other garter is only removed during the honeymoon night. DON’T have anyone but the groom remove the garter. In some versions of the tradition, the best man – not the groom – was supposed to remove the garter. Again, that’s a bit uncomfortable for everyone involved and everyone watching so make sure the groom handles this responsibility.
While the garter toss has been part of weddings for centuries, you don’t have to include it in your reception if it makes you uncomfortable. If you include it, be sure to follow the advice above so everyone will enjoy this part of your party, too.