A sign of good fortune, catching the bridal bouquet or garter predicts that the recipient will be the next person to get married. But have you ever wondered where this tradition comes from? Turns out, they have an incredibly odd origin story…
You know the scene: the emcee calls all the single ladies to the dance floor for the traditional bouquet toss. Bridesmaids and guests jostle each other in preparation of the momentous occasion. The bride turns her back on her guests and hurls the bouquet, causing eager women to leap into a frenzy to catch the floral arrangement. It’s a fun, lighthearted moment during ones big day. However, it wasn’t always that way.
Back in the day – medieval England to be exact – wedding guests were desperate to have a piece of the bride, literally. Wedding dresses were seen as positive signs of fertility and good luck, so obviously everyone wanted to get their hands on one. After the wedding, guests would clamour around the bride and rip pieces of her gown off her body as a keepsake. Guests in those days were pretty intense and would even follow the newlyweds into their bridal chamber and egg them on as they prepared to consummate the marriage. Yes, really. Understandably, newlyweds weren’t really into this. To ward them off, the bride would hurl her bouquet into the crowd as a distraction before she made a quick exit with the groom.
The garter was a popular piece guests aimed to grab from the bride. After the newlyweds consummated the marriage, the groom would toss the garter to the waiting crowd as proof that the deed was done. This piece of lingerie thus came to symbolise fertility and good fortune.
In the 1919 book, “Wedding Customs Then and Now”, Carl Holliday writes, “The bridesmaids start with the weary bride to the wedding chamber when suddenly the cry arises, ‘Get her garter’… If the woman has been thoughtful, she has fastened it loosely to the bottom of her dress so that it drags in plain view of the scrambling ruffians; if she has not been a wise virgin, she may find her clothes in rags after the struggle.”
Luckily, times have changed. Although I don’t know if a groom lunging underneath a skirt to retrieve the garter with his teeth makes this tradition any better. Think of the children…