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Wedding Traditions: The Garter Toss

The union of couples is one that has sparked more traditions than any other beyond the exchange of wedding rings and festive celebrations full of wine and song. But by today's standards, most of these traditions are tame compared to the period of time when they came to be.

For example, one wedding tradition that is still practiced today is the bride wearing a garter. Today in the United States, instead of one garter, a bride wears two; on the right leg just above the knee. One garter is a keepsake of her wedding day and the other for the groom to throw to the single men in attendance.

The garter toss by the groom can be traced back to the 14th century. According to legend and folklore of this time, the men considered it a sign of good luck for marriage to have a piece of the bride's wedding dress. Unfortunately this sometimes led to the complete destruction of the bride's attire, which of course was extremely embarrassing to the bride. As a means to appease the men, the bride began tossing various items, eventually throwing her garter, which met with great enjoyment.

But as is the course of celebrations, sometimes the men would have a bit too much wine and try to remove the garter ahead of time, which naturally was upsetting to the groom. As a way to preserve the dignity of his new bride and keep the rowdy men at bay, the groom removed the garter with his teeth and threw it to the men and the bride began to toss her bouquet.

At wedding receptions today, both the bouquet and garter toss are highly anticipated events that bring a bit of daring competition into the festivities. Women have been known to go to great lengths to be the lucky one who catches the bride's her bouquet as it's tossed to the single women. But for the groom, it sometimes takes nerves of steel to successfully retrieve the bride's garter.

After the bouquet toss, the bride is seated for the groom to remove the garter with his hands (or his teeth if he wants to be true to the tradition).  Depending on the agreement of the couple, the bride can make this as easy or difficult a task for the groom as possible to heighten the anticipation of the single men who are no less enthusiastic than the single women about being lucky enough to make the catch.

After the groom tosses the garter, the man who catches the garter places it on the leg of the woman who catches the bouquet. Legend holds that these two people will be the next to marry and some believe it will be to each other.