Garter Toss: Weird History, Alternatives, And Symbolism

Garter Toss

Traditions are part of every wedding ceremony. While some couples tend to follow them as dictated, others mold a version that’s more comfortable to them, and a few others omit them completely. Now, weddings are more about picking and sorting events which the couple feel happiest about; after all, it’s their special day. Among all these traditions is one that has stood the test of time: Garter Toss. Recently, a picture of Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas performing this tradition also went viral. Clearly, even celebrities are indulging in the norm of traditions on their big day. If you’re thinking about incorporating garter toss in your own wedding, chances are you’re wondering more things about this custom which was once just a fleeting thought. Read on to learn in-depth about garter toss history, tradition, and symbolism. 

Further Read: Ring Fingers: History, Significance, & General FAQ’s

The Disturbing History Of Garter Toss Tradition:

There are many superstitions and beliefs around wearing a wedding garter and its tossing, all weird and disturbing in their own ways. Three have been traced back the most. First says garter was invented to help the bride keep her wedding dress intact. Let us explain. Earlier, it was considered lucky to have a piece of bride’s gown in the hopes that it will bring luck and happiness in that person’s love life. Essentially leading to guests running to rip off the wedding gown. To prevent this, the bride kept a part of the wedding dress – garter – to specifically toss to the wedding guests and hence, preventing her precious attire from getting destroyed.

Another belief is that wedding garters were worn by both bride and groom to hold their stockings in place. After the wedding celebrations, all wedding guests would go to the bridal chamber and take part in a fun game called “Fling The Stocking”. Unmarried guests will then remove the garter off bride and groom and toss them over their shoulder in hopes that it would land on a married couple. If it did, it meant the married pair will be blessed with a happy marital life. 

In yet another tradition traced back, the garter is considered to be the proof of the consummation of the marriage. Back then, it was considered customary for the bride and groom to consummate the marriage right after the ceremony. So a few close family members would accompany the couple (in some pieces of history it’s also mentioned they would try to see the deed, no kidding!) and wait outside for the groom to present them the garter as a sign that the bride has been *deflowered*. In some cultures, the groom used to present the garter to his family members in the morning. It’s not like it makes it any less awkward though, but still a better option than people waiting outside your room. Talk about performance pressure. 

There’s one more accounted *garter toss* custom, which isn’t as popular as others though. It involved groomsmen racing from the Church to the bridal home, and whoever won would get the garter, which was tossed by the bride to him. 

With time, although, the garter toss tradition has become the male equivalent of the bouquet toss. The groom removes the garter from the bride’s legs and throws it to the unmarried men in the crowd. Whoever catches it is believed to be getting married next and experience tonnes of luck in his life. 

Symbolism Of Garter Toss

No matter from where or how the garter toss tradition came, in most beliefs, it was meant to impart good luck, except in one where the symbolism of barter is the consummation of marriage. Winners of both garter and bouquet toss are said to find happiness in their love life pretty soon – hopefully by being the next in line to tie the knot. Nowadays, couples hold garter toss ceremonies to honor the tradition and some also consider the custom as a fun part of their wedding day. Others can be completely grossed out by the idea, or choose to honor it in some alternative form. A few can also consider the tradition gender-biased (which it really is because same-sex marriages generally can’t perform this tradition) and imply that marriage is the end goal for everyone. 

7 Alternatives To Garter Toss Tradition:

Wear The Garter, Skip The Toss

Just because you’re wearing a garter at your wedding doesn’t mean you have to give it away. You can keep the garter to yourself and skip the entire tossing shenanigans at your reception. 

Alternatively, you can also gift the garter to someone who has been a huge helper through wedding planning. Gift it your BFF or sibling who you want to see get married next. Or, keep it preserved and pass on to your kids as their “something old” and if it has hints of blue, also as their “something blue”. 

Keep A Separate One For Garter Toss, Not The One You’re Wearing

The uncomfortable part of the garter toss tradition isn’t the toss itself, but the removal of the garter. Save yourself the awkwardness. Remove the garter in private and have your man toss it to the crowd. You don’t even necessarily have to wear the garter you want to toss. Just buy another one for the toss only. 

Make The Bouquet Toss Coed

If you’re scheduling a bouquet toss, but not a garter toss, the men can feel left out. Instead, make the bouquet toss for both men and women, so each gender can enjoy the tradition of catching something any one of the bride or groom tosses. Since both mean the same thing, this can turn out to be a great bouquet toss alternative. 

To make everyone feel inclusive, you can also do a breakaway bouquet, which separates the floral arrangements and more than one person can catch the flowers and feel like the winner.  

Throw Something Else

Instead of a garter, you can throw something else: like a boutonniere, a gift card, a box of candies, a stuffed toy, or anything for that matter. Keep it simple, interesting, and tonnes of fun. You can even turn it into a game like a dance-off and a winner wins the special prize.  

Boutonniere Toss

Instead of tossing the garter, have the groom toss his boutonniere to the crowd of men. A boutonniere is basically a small flower or bud worn on the lapel of the coat. They are a symbol of love and beauty and are considered to keep bad spirits at bay. Has the toss done at the same time as the bouquet toss to make it even more fun for the guests? Ask the groom to remove the pins though, so no one gets hurt during the catching. 

Skip It Completely

More and more couples are opting out of garter toss completely. There’s absolutely no saying that you have to give out something at your reception. Make the reception party more fun with other games, wedding traditions, and a playful DJ. Your guests won’t even notice that the fun (and awkward) garter toss tradition hasn’t been incorporated into the wedding. 

What Are Some Unique Garter Toss Ideas? (Make It More Fun)

Have The Groom Work For It

Instead of just simply letting your groom remove the toss. Have him work for it. You can inform the same to him before and he can come prepared with some power-packed performances. When the dance is over, the bride has to give thumbs up or thumbs down. Only when the bride gives a thumbs up can the groom go ahead and remove the garter from her legs. Here are two videos to take inspiration for the garter toss. 

Attach It To A Ball

Make it a little sporty and guys will automatically be attracted to the tradition and also have a little fun. Put the garter on a football and throw it to the guys. You can also have a superhero action figure instead of a ball. 

Garter Toss Alternatives

Courtesy: Pinterest

Pass The Garter, Skip The Toss

Blindfold the DJ (after he has played the song, of course) and let the men pass the garter to each other. You can even involve women in this game if you’re not having a bouquet toss, or just for the fun of it. Ask the DJ to stop the song for a few minutes and whoever has the garter in his hands is the one who has been bestowed by the luck and happiness a garter symbolizes. 

Balloon Surprise 

What you need for this wonderful garter toss idea is a few opaque balloons and stuffing them up with different things, one of those things being the garter. Guests can have fun popping the balloons and the one who gets the garter gets to keep it. This DIY idea can be amazing fun and unforgettable activity. You can actually stuff the balloons with some thank you notes, fortune cookies, gift cards, imported chocolates, and other thoughtful gifts to make the chaos of finding the garter worth it for everyone. 

Trivia About The Couple

Instead of making it a garter toss, play a game where the guests answer questions about the couple. Some sample questions can be – where did they meet for the first time?, who said I love you first? what are their childhood nicknames? what’s their ideal city to settle down in the future? etc. You can assign points to each question; some challenging questions can even carry higher points than others. In the end, whoever has the highest number of points, wins the garter. 

When Is Garter Toss Scheduled During Reception?

The Garter Toss is usually scheduled right around the time when other traditions are taking place like cutting the cake, first dance, and the toasts. There’s no set order when the garter toss should take place. Depending on your reception timing and how the coordination happens with the wedding planner, you can schedule the garter toss anytime during the wedding reception. 

What Are Some Songs To Play During Garter Toss?

If you’re including the garter toss in your wedding reception, you’d want to set the mood right by having the DJ play a lively tune to have you and your guests enjoy the tradition. Below, we have listed 7 songs perfect for the garter toss tradition. 

  • Pretty Woman by Roy Orbison

  • Another One Bites The Dust – Queen

  • Sexy And I Know It – LMFAO

  • Drunk In Love by Beyonce, featuring Jay Z

  • Baby Got Back by Sir Mix-A-Lot

  • Beautiful by Snoop Dogg featuring Pharrell Williams And Uncle Charlie Wilson

  • Shape Of You by Ed Sheeran 

Is Garter Toss or Bouquet A Necessary Tradition Of Weddings?

No, both of them are not a necessary tradition at weddings. In fact, nothing is “necessary” if you feel uncomfortable or don’t appreciate the idea behind the tradition. You can opt to completely omit out any of the traditions, or change the few specifics. For example, alternating the bouquet toss with a breakaway bouquet or a girls-only dance, or an anniversary dance. And in the case of the garter toss, only keeping the tossing and removing the garter in private. 

On Which Leg Do I Wear The Wedding Garter?

Garters were invented to hold women’s stockings in place. Nowadays, it’s often a part of sexy lingerie and wedding ensemble. It hardly matters on what leg you choose to wear the garter on. You can wear one on your left leg or the right leg, the most important thing is that your partner should know which leg it’s on so he can retrieve it easily when the time comes. 

You also want to make sure you don’t wear the garter too high or too low. If you wear it below the knees, there are chances it will slip down to the heels. If you wear it too high, it can chafe against the other thigh and cause you discomfort. The perfect balance is to tie the garter just a few inches above the knee. You can also try different locations to see what’s most comfortable for you. If you’re planning to get photos of the garter, it’s best you tie it a little below so you don’t accidentally flash the photographer. Also, when your partner removes the garter, all the guests will be watching, having it a little lower makes performing the tradition comfortable too. 

Why Do Some Brides Wear Two Garters?

A bride’s wedding ensemble is very close to her heart. Giving away even a part of it, be it a bouquet or a garter, does upset you a bit. Of course, if your bouquet is made of real flowers, it will eventually wilt, but there are ways to preserve a few flowers to commemorate the special day. Similarly, if you have spent hours picking out the perfect garter, the one which resonates with your style and personality, it’s obvious that you will want to have it as a keepsake. Of course, it’s weird to ask for the garter back once it’s been tossed, especially if the person believes in the superstition surrounding the tradition.  

The only solution: Have two garters. One embellished and close to your heart, and the other a bit thinner and doesn’t have any emotional attachment to it. Do let your partner know which leg is the garter you want to give away is tied, otherwise, there’s no point in all the extra hard work. 

Garter Toss Ideas

Courtesy: Mark Kendrick

Who Removes The Garter? 

Your partner removes the garter off your legs during the reception. He can use his hands, but sometimes grooms are seen going under the bride’s gown and removing the garter using their teeth. No matter how it’s performed, this intimate act can make the couple uncomfortable, so it’s advised to make sure you’re both okay with the tradition before it’s performed. 

Who Buys The Garter?

There’s no such rule as to who buys the garter. None has been also passed down from any beliefs or customs. A garter can be a thoughtful gift for a friend or a daughter. It can also be gifted by the groom. If the bride wants to pick her own wedding garter, that is perfectly acceptable as well.  

How To Make Garter Toss Less Awkward?

The garter toss is, well for a lack of a better word, awkward. When the groom puts his hands under a bride’s dress or in some cases, uses teeth – thanks to the groomsmen shouting at the back “no hands”, the couple or even some guests do tend to feel uncomfortable. To prevent the awkwardness, we’d suggest, first, stick to your hands or if you don’t even want to have the groom remove the garter, just remove it in private and have the groom toss it later at the reception. It’s garter toss tradition, not garter removal. Alternatively, have a garter on hand which was never on you and kept specifically for the toss. 

Another reason why garter toss can be awkward is it can unnecessarily bring attention to your unmarried friends, which they probably don’t want. Marriage can also be a sensitive subject for some and the tradition can emotionally trouble them. If you’re doing the garter toss, it’s better to take everyone’s emotions into account. You can also have the toss for all your guests and consider it just as a token of good luck than to do with anything with marriage. 

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