Wedding Traditions: Throwing the Bouquet and Garter

The tradition of throwing the bride’s bouquet and garter, like many other wedding traditions, is shrouded in superstition.  The bouquet was first of all, a superstition in its own ranks.  The bouquet was made of strong herbs such as thyme or even garlic and was meant to ward off evil spirits!

When the bride throws the bouquet into a group of assembled single women, it is supposed to predict the marriage of the lucky single girl who catches it, (much to the chagrin of the boyfriend watching this whole event!)

The garter also thought to bestow good luck if caught.  In 14th century Europe and particularly France, it was considered lucky to have a piece of fabric from the bride’s dress.  In fact, people actually ripped the wedding dress to shreds in order to access this good luck!  Eventually this tradition became such a problem that brides came up with alternatives, especially when wedding attire became something that the brides wished to keep.  Eventually, guests accepted the garter as the lucky piece and saved many a bride an embarrassing moment!

Like the bouquet, the young man who catches the garter is supposed to be the next one in the group to be married.  Also, it was thought to bestow good luck on the man’s relationship with his chosen lady.  In the 17th century the “garter” was actually a silk scarf-like piece of material tied below the bride’s knee.  The groomsman who caught the scarf would wear it around his hat as a trophy!  Today, many young men are asked to place it on the leg of the young lady who caught the bouquet… sometimes causing considerable embarrassment.

Although not an accurate measure of a future wedding, the act of actually taking the garter off the bride has become a form of entertainment for the married couple and guests.  Couples should discuss this prior to the event so the bride retains some of her dignity!

There are many brides who are abandoning this tradition as it may offend young women who are not married.  One alternative is to award the bouquet to the lady who has been married the longest.  Another is to have a bouquet that can be “dismantled” into individual flowers that are given to each of the single ladies in the audience.

Whatever your choice for these traditions, they are a fun part of the wedding celebration and have stood the test of centuries!

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