Origin of the Bouquet and Garter Toss

by Isaac Sunu

The year is 1308. Outside the little chapel in London England everything seems to be going perfectly. The weather is tame, the crowd is excited, and the wedding ceremony is coming to a close with no interruption.  The dozens and dozens of people outside the church whisper fervently to each other. Suddenly, the doors open and the bride and groom stand there, smiles stretching wide across their faces, the brides eyes twinkle through bunched up cheeks. As the two begin to walk down the stairs, many well dressed men press their way through the crowd and up to the happy couple. The bride feels a tug on her side. She looks down to see a hand tearing at her beautiful white dress. Then another, and another. Hands continue grabbing at the material, stretching and pulling at the fabric until the dress is completely tattered and torn. This is a typical wedding in this particular day and age.

Just as many traditions have their peculiar births, so do the bouquet and garter toss.  So in England during the 14th century it was considered good luck for a man to get a piece of the bride's dress.  As one can imagine, many brides could be easily disappointed if they were to have any attachment to the dress that they wore on their wedding days.  Something had to be done.  So there came a new tradition where instead of tugging at the dress for luck, the men would need the garter.  However, this attempt also did not prove well as men would try to take the garter by force during the ceremony, startling and embarrassing the bride in front of all of her friends and family. Often times, the bride would need to throw her garter in one direction and then run the other to avoid being overwhelmed by the crowds.

Wedding traditions kept evolving and not long after the lucky garter was instated, the garter toss came into practice to the relief of engaged women everywhere. With the groom throwing the garter, the bride's chances of being trampled decreased dramatically. While still maintaing the tradition of getting some of the bride's attire, the toss fixed the cumbersome issues that rowdy men would cause on the big day.

Shortly after, the tradition of the bouquet toss was implemented so that the women at the ceremony could have something to catch as the garter toss was specifically for men.  During the 14th century, women would hold bunches of garlic, grains and herbs in the belief that they would ward off demonic spirits.  This practice being only popular amongst ladies, these bouquets soon became a symbol of a bride's good fortune and whoever would catch the bouquet was said to be married next.

There's a little tradition from seven hundred years ago that has come a long way. If you are catch yourself asking why something is the way it is, just remember that the bouquet toss was implemented to keep brides from having to flee their own wedding.