The traditional garter toss

Some sources claim that the fun, slightly risqué and raucous wedding tradition – the garter toss – may be on the decline. Whether or not fewer couples choose to throw the garter once they are married, it remains a popular activity.

The garter toss has not necessarily evolved from a “beautiful” tradition – a long and rather intrusive tradition that eventually became the garter toss has existed for centuries. It was not quite the same thing as taking the bride’s garter and throwing it to a hopeful crowd of men. Instead, as commonly practiced in France and England, it was a ritual to check that the couple had in fact consummated the marriage. Family members sometimes accompanied couples to their rooms/chambers, and the garter might have been taken as proof (as it had some symbolic value as a mark of the bride’s virginity), or the bride’s stockings examined for evidence of “the deed” having been done.

This extended to the belief that getting one’s hands on the bridal couple’s clothing and undergarments would bring the keeper good luck, meaning that people would often rip the bride’s dress to get a piece for him or herself or would often steal the bride and groom’s underthings. This led to brides sometimes throwing pieces, such as a garter, to eager guests.

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Photo: Morlotti Studio

How this ritual came to become a playful tradition at modern weddings may not seem like a straight line, but the theory is that couples finally got tired of the invasive nature of people taking their clothes and undergarments, and the groom began to throw his bride’s garter to offer the good luck to wedding guests – rather than having them sneak around and steal or take the undergarments themselves! This tradition started to happen at the wedding reception, during which the bride generally takes a seat and the groom removes one of the garters she is wearing (and sometimes does so with his teeth in less “formal” settings). She is usually wearing one on each leg – one is for this infamous garter toss activity, one is a keepsake. The groom then tosses the garter to a crowd of waiting single male guests, who are said to enjoy good luck and possibly be next to wed. In some cases, the man who catches the garter will place the garter on the leg of the woman who caught the bride’s bouquet.

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Photo: Morlotti Studio

While not specifically an Italian tradition, the garter toss is popular in Italy.

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Patrizia Saraga

Patrizia Saraga

What a long list of things could summarize my passions: style, details, colours, trends... but also artworks, interior design... If not clear, I'm the stylish and creative part of the…

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