A good friend of mine, who also happens to be in the wedding industry, and I were chatting the other day about wedding traditions. As a wedding planner, I typically know the history behind wedding traditions. Where they came from, what the original intent was and why we continue to do it however many years later. However, YOU may not know. So, this min-series will consist of several well known traditions and the history behind them.
Why do you have to wait until the ceremony starts to see your groom or your bride?
Why do you toss the garter or the bouquet?
Why do we threaten the groom with Bridezilla-esque zeal that if he dares smash cake into your perfectly made up face, it will mark the first married fight?
Well. Here’s why! Thanks, Gregory, for the inspiration! (By the way, Gregory is one of my top fave photographers. You should check him out here!).
History of the Bridal Garter
Bridal garters are one of the oldest wedding traditions and remain a significant part of bridal attire. Originally they were thought to bring luck and fortune. There are several histories and theories.
1. Attire + Luck
The Constitution of the Order of the Garter
Dates back to England in the 14th Century. It was believed to bring good luck to anyone who could obtain a piece of the bridal attire worn by the bride on her wedding day. The brides dress was literally torn away (I would think to the displeasure of both the bride and groom…).
To keep themselves and their garments intact the bride and groom began to throw the bridal garter at the guests. As the new attempt at discretion became ever more popular, occasionally the male guests would become quite aggressive and roudy and would attempt to remove the garter themselves (and you thought your fiancés friends were bad!). This is when is became customary for the groom to remove the garter from the bride’s leg himself and then toss it to the bachelors.
2. The Proof is in the Garter
The bride and groom needed to consummate their marriage in front of witnesses. Eyewitnesses would obtain the garter as proof. Onlookers waited in anticipation to snatch at the newly weds and try for the brides garments. I’m sure the couple did not appreciate this, so it became a tradition that the groom would throw the garter at the crowd so they did not try to obtain it themselves. This tradition became popular and has somewhat been modified from the bedroom to the wedding reception.
3. Garter Games
Tossing the garter at the groom’s nose in the wedding couple’s bedroom after the ceremony was a common activity of the bridal party in the Dark Ages. Whichever bridesmaid successfully landed the garter on his nose, would be deemed the next to marry.
The tradition now, of course, is for the bride to wear two garters if she engages in this ritual. A special garter to enjoy as a keepsake and another to be tossed by the groom (although I will say most of my brides simply wear one and call it a day).
The groom removes the garter from the bride’s leg, then tosses it over one shoulder to the bachelors. And everyone knows the man who captures the garter is the next to marry. In some customs, he then slips it on the leg of the unmarried woman who caught the bridal bouquet(!).
If you choose to wear two, one is kept as a family heirloom, then borrowed from other newly weds to bring goodluck to their marriage. An old Victorian rhyme announces that brides must wear “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue” on their wedding day. The borrowed item signifies the transfer of happiness from a happily married woman to a new bride, while the blue item symbolizes purity and fidelity.
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