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Tossing the Bouquet and the Garter – My Two Cents

'26 Pegs wedding throwing the bouquet' photo (c) 2009, Ed - license:

Thanks to all who participated in the survey on the bouquet and garter tosses. The results were actually really close between all three options, so obviously there are lots of opinions out there on this topic.

I am just going to be honest here and say the bouquet and garter toss are probably my least favorite things about weddings. I know, sometimes they can be really fun, but sometimes they can also be awkward for all parties involved.

The Bouquet

First, let’s look at the bouquet toss. It used to be somewhat customary for overly enthusiastic guests to rush at the bride in order to grab parts of her dress and accessories, including the herbs or flowers she might carry. So in order to preempt this, she would throw her flowers to the crowd to keep them at bay.

Now the bride throws her bouquet behind her back to a group of single ladies who are supposed to clamor for the honor of catching it, and the superstition that goes along with it—that the recipient will be the next to marry. In talking with several of my single friends, many of them have said the bouquet toss is the hardest thing about attending weddings. Once the emcee announces the bride will be throwing the bouquet, often a single woman is pushed and prodded by well-meaning friends and family out to the center of the floor, where she is expected to make a spectacle of herself in desperation for future marriage.

Now, maybe you’re thinking, “Come on, lighten up, Parks. It’s just a bouquet toss.” True, and in your circumstances this may not be a problem, but I would encourage brides to ask their single friends and family members how they feel about it. It is difficult enough to attend a wedding when you are wondering if you will one day be celebrating your own marriage or when you have perhaps had a previous marriage that failed.

This is one area where I believe it is best to err on the side of caution out of respect for others. Singleness is not something that makes a person less-than, but rather a reflection of a sovereign God’s plan for someone’s life. The Church would benefit from honoring and celebrating the single believers in our lives who are actively serving and loving Him, rather than suggesting they should be sitting on the sidelines waiting for something else—something “better.”

The Garter

The garter toss comes from an old tradition called “bedding.” In this custom a crowd of people would follow the bride and groom from the wedding to the bridal chamber and would then remove the couple’s shoes, stockings and outer garments and tuck them into bed. After giving the bride and groom a cup of spiced wine and cheering loudly as they drank, the crowd would leave. Tradition has it the bride would choose to remove her garters before someone else could get to them and would then throw them to keep the crowd from getting too close. While (thankfully) the bedding custom died out in the eighteenth century, we now have the garter toss as a souvenir of the horrors of this old tradition.

In modern times the garter toss is an opportunity for grown men to fight over another man’s wife’s undergarment. I knew a guy who went to several weddings and made it his goal to collect the garter at each. He then hung them on his rearview mirror (classy), driving around with married women’s lacy underthings hanging in his car. Seeing that made me feel even more strongly about this subject.

Grooms, do not subject your wife to this, please. Whether you engage in some sensual de-gartering dance at the reception or just throw a garter your new wife hands you, you are, in essence, giving another man a piece of your wife’s intimate clothing. No honoring of tradition should mandate this.

Often it isn’t the grooms who care about it, but rather the brides who think it is traditional and should therefore be part of the reception program. My friend Amy said her husband did not want to do the garter toss, but since their photographer was encouraging it they went ahead. Her husband was, in Amy’s words, “mortified” when a toddler caught her garter. Of course the wedding guests laughed about it, but personally I think a picture of a groom and a toddler holding the bride’s lingerie is a little uncomfortable, and in retrospect she wished they had not done it.

So what do you think? Am I being overly critical of harmless traditions? 

Next week I will share some alternative ideas to the bouquet and garter tosses. If you have any to share, please let me know! I’ve really enjoyed the comments so far on this topic.

3 responses »

  1. I did both at my wedding and really the only reason being was I considered them to be fun traditions and good photo-ops. I didn’t really view a garter as some intimate thing between my new husband and I. I honestly don’t think a garter is like lingerie. I get your points tho and maybe if I had looked closer I may have gone against the traditions, but then I viewed them as harmless fun. Some may actually view the catching the bouquet/garter as a superstitious “now i’m next thing” but most I think just have fun with it. :) I love how thoughtful you are and have really enjoyed reading your posts. You are a fantastic writer. Can’t wait to have the finished copy.

    • Catherine Parks

      Erin, seriously, thanks for your comment. It’s so helpful to have other people share their opinions to help me think through all sides. I think there’s definitely merit to saying garters aren’t like lingerie, but I appreciate that perspective. It’s hard to discern how exactly to write about things like this, so thanks for your encouragement!

  2. This is exactly why I am not planning to have a garter toss or bouquet toss. I have never seen a garter toss that didn’t make me uncomfortable somehow. It’s a sexual thing- a man under a woman’s skirt! and I believe that a proper expression of sexuality is between husband and wife, not husband, wife, and all their wedding reception guests. Besides, all my friends are still single (some have never even had a s/o), so why would I subject them to the bouquet toss?


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