Wedding Traditions: A History Lesson

Weddings are filled with traditions and superstitions, and there’s some very interesting history behind many of them. What to keep? What to skip? It can be overwhelming for a bride to decide which to follow and which to ignore, and how to explain their decisions to a family expecting such things to be followed. It’s your wedding, your traditions to take, leave or create anew, and knowing a little bit about them can help you figure out what you’d like to include in your special day. Hopefully we can make it easier to decide and discuss with more conventional family members how you came to your decision.  In this blog series, we shine a spotlight on certain things you may want to include (or choose not to include!) in your big day.

Tradition: The Garter

Admission: I’m always on alert during the garter ceremony. It’s one of the few areas of the wedding where things can quickly turn from traditional and fun to embarrassing, depending on the crowd and their alcohol consumption. The last thing anyone wants on the wedding day is a humiliated, angry or tearful bride, so this is one tradition to discuss leaving out if you’re easily flustered or bashful. All that said, let’s learn some history!

The garter tradition dates back to the Dark Ages, when it was considered lucky to take home a piece of the bride’s clothing. The guests used to escort the bride and groom back to the marital bedroom,  where they would rush to her and start tearing at her clothes, both to secure themselves some good luck and ‘help’ the bride and groom along to the next part of their wedding night. The garter was considered the luckiest piece of her outfit, and whoever grabbed the garter was the next to get married.

As you can imagine, this may not have been too comfortable for the bride, so the tradition evolved –  first to the groom tossing it out the bedroom door to the waiting guests, preventing her from being tackled and having her clothes ripped off (still intrusive and awkward!). Then it turned into the bride throwing her bouquet and the groom would throw the garter while leaving the wedding, to distract the crowd away from following them, allowing them time to make their escape!

Now brides have it removed in the middle of the dance floor during the reception, as the crowd cheers and a fun or sexy song plays. The groom will investigate under the brides dress, removing the garter with hands (or stick his head under her skirt and remove it with his teeth, as is often the case).

This is one of those wedding traditions has been fading out – the modern trend of the groom using his teeth to remove the garter from the bride’s leg has really upped the naughty factor, and many couples aren’t comfortable doing this in front of the whole family. If you want to have the garter toss at your reception, do it! The rules are only dictated by your comfort level! Brides will typically have a simple ‘throw’ garter used for actually throwing to the eligible men after the real garter is removed, while saving her real garter as a special heirloom. Some brides also use the garter as a way to incorporate their ‘something blue’ tradition!

If you’re not sure, maybe it’s time for a sit-down with your fiance to talk about compromise – does he have his heart set on removing your garter with his teeth? Talk about it. Maybe he can just take it off your ankle, saving you from flashing too much leg. Maybe you’re only comfortable with him using his hands, not putting his whole head under the dress. Maybe you want to wear some  stockings along with the garter if you’re not into showing skin. Maybe you’re not really into any of this? Are you worried about the crowd ripping your clothes off as you attempt to leave? if not, it’s a tradition you can skip with zero regrets if you don’t want to include it in your nuptials.


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