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Bouquet and Garter Traditions (With Modern Alternatives)

Karen Frazier
Bride Tossing Bouquet

Traditional wedding festivities in the West often include two long-standing traditions: the garter and bouquet tosses. Whether you want to have a completely traditional wedding celebration or you want to add your own unique spin, you can incorporate these two traditions - or variations on them - into your marriage festivities.

Tossing the Bride's Bouquet

Tossing the bride's bouquet - or a part of the bride's bouquet - is a wedding tradition that dates back to Medieval times. Today, the bouquet toss takes place during the wedding reception when the bride gathers the single female wedding guests and tosses her bouquet to them. It is said that the person who catches the bouquet will be the next to get married. Alternatively in some cases, it's simply considered good luck.

How to Toss the Bouquet

Some bouquets are made with a smaller, removable nosegay bouquet used for tossing during the reception. In other cases, the bride may toss her entire bouquet.

  1. Gather the single female guests on the dance floor or in a large, clear area.
  2. The bride stands in front of the gathered guests with her back to them.
  3. She tosses the bouquet over either shoulder to the gathered guests.
  4. The guests try to catch the bouquet, with the catcher believed to either be the next to get married or to have good luck.

Wedding Tradition of the Bride's Garter

Garters exist to hold up stockings; however, in a world with bare legs, tights, and one-piece nylons, chances are garters aren't really necessary as useful fashion any longer. However, many brides still choose to wear a garter during the ceremony under her wedding attire so that at the reception, the groom can remove it in front of guests and toss it to all the single men in attendance.

Garter Belt

How to Wear a Garter

If you decide you want this to be part of the wedding, you can select any garter you feel suits you.

  • Wear the garter on either leg, just above the knee under your dress so the groom can easily remove it before the garter toss. Slide it up to just above your knee so it sits comfortably and doesn't cut off circulation.
  • You can also choose to wear two garters - one to toss and one to keep. Wear the garter you choose to toss lower on the leg or on the opposite leg of the one you choose to keep.
  • Make sure the groom knows before he removes the garter which one you plan to keep and which you plan to toss.

How to Perform a Garter Toss

The groom tosses the garters to all the single men in the audience. Usually, the wedding DJ or master of ceremonies announces it is time for the bouquet and garter toss.

  1. Gather the wedding guests via announcement.
  2. Seat the bride in a chair.
  3. The bride pulls her dress to just above her knee and extends her leg, exposing the garter for the groom. If possible, the bride can discreetly slip her foot from her shoe so it's easy for the groom to remove the garter.
  4. The groom can then kneel or sit in front of the bride and remove the garter. Doing this with his hands is traditional, but some grooms like the challenge of biting the garter off the bride. Go with what makes you the most comfortable.
  5. Have the single men gather on the dance floor with the groom standing in front of them with his back to them.
  6. The groom tosses the garter over either shoulder to the crowd, and the men then try to catch the garter.

Timing of the Garter and Bouquet Toss

If you choose to engage in these traditions, it's best to do them towards the end of your wedding reception according to The Knot. Experts suggest you do the bouquet toss followed by the garter toss in the last hour of the reception.

What Happens With the Garter and Bouquet?

After both of these rituals, tradition says that the man who caught the garter is supposed to place it on the woman who caught the bouquet. Many people leave out this tradition due to its potential for awkwardness among guests. Therefore, while you can add this part to your reception of you wish, typically the bachelorette who caught the bouquet keeps it and the bachelor who caught the garter keeps it.

Origins of the Bridal Bouquet and Garter Toss

According to Brides, the bride's garter originated during the Middle Ages when wedding guests were a bit rowdier than today's more well-behaved guests. Apparently, it was considered good luck to get a piece of the bridal gown, so guests would try to rip pieces from the bride's dress both for luck and to encourage the bride and groom to consummate the marriage. The garter was created as a way to offer an easily removable item of the bride's clothing appease the guests and keep the bride fully dressed with her gown intact, and tossing the garter was a way of imparting the luck of the bridal gown on the person who caught it after the toss. Removing the garter also signified the consummation of the marriage. The bouquet toss arises from the same origins. The bride would toss the bouquet over to her shoulder as she ran away to keep her guests from ripping off her dress.

Alternatives to the Bouquet and Garter Toss

If you are a traditionalist, then you're certainly welcome to engage in these rituals during your wedding reception. However, these rituals aren't necessary, and in some cases they may even be unwelcome. You can simply skip them, or you can create something less traditional that is meaningful to you.

Allow Everyone to Try to Catch the Bouquet and/or Garter

Instead of only gathering single men and women for each of these traditions, allow everyone to gather and let your guests know that you are tossing the items for luck instead of possible marriage. This allows for everyone of all martial or partnership statuses and gender identities to participate in a fun tradition without the potential for awkwardness.

Toss Stuffed Animals for the Children

If you have children at your wedding, you can gather the kids and toss small stuffed animals to them. Make sure there's one for every child and try to choose stuffed animals that are substantially similar so there won't be disagreements.

Share Flowers With Special People

The bride can either remove flowers from her bouquet or have single flowers available and make a ceremony of handing them out to special people in the bride's and groom's lives during the time where they would normally toss the bouquet and garter.

Draw Names for Bouquet and Centerpieces

You can also have a prize drawing, awarding floral centerpieces and the bouquet as prizes to people who might wish to take them home.

Share the Garter and Bouquet With a Special Couple

Create a ceremony of wishing luck to a couple who has a major event coming up, whether it's a commitment ceremony, wedding, or anniversary. The bride and groom can share the bouquet and garter with the couple, making a short speech to wish them luck, health, and happiness.

Toss an Item to Everyone and Offer a Prize to the Winner

You can also gather everyone and toss something symbolic, such as a stuffed animal, a small bouquet, or something else meaningful. The person who catches the item receives a prize, such as a gift card.

Create an Alternative Bouquet

Make a bouquet out of something else, such as scratch lottery tickets, gift certificates for a night out, or something else, and toss it to the entire crowd. The person catching it also receives the gifts it contains.

Time-Honored and Modern Wedding Traditions

While the bouquet and garter toss are time-honored wedding traditions that many couples still incorporate into their wedding receptions, if the idea doesn't resonate with you, you don't need to include them. There are many ways to give a nod to the tradition while creating a modern twist on the classic that is more inclusive and personalized.

Bouquet and Garter Traditions (With Modern Alternatives)