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What is a Bridal Garter?

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  • Written By: Lindsay Kahl
  • Edited By: J.T. Gale
  • Last Modified Date: 01 December 2016
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A bridal garter is an accessory that a bride wears around her thigh under her wedding gown. In the past, garters were used for functional purposes, as they were needed to hold up a woman's stockings. While garters are no longer necessary for function, many women, particularly brides, still wear them for aesthetics and purposes of tradition.

There are many style variations for the modern bridal garter. A standard garter is typically a stretchy cloth band, usually white, and adorned with lace, bows or other decorations. Many brides choose a garter with blue accents because of the adage, "Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue." Some brides may take the opportunity to coordinate the garter color with the dress color of her attendants.

In the United States, the wedding tradition of tossing the garter is fairly standard, with some variations. It is often performed in conjunction with the tossing of the bridal bouquet. Traditionally, the groom removes the bridal garter from the bride's leg and throws it to the single male guests. The bride tosses her bouquet to the single female guests, and the individuals who catch the items will supposedly be the next to marry, though not necessarily to each other. Many brides will choose to wear two garters, so that one may be thrown and one may be saved as a keepsake.

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It is believed that the garter tradition began in England or France during the 14th century. There are several theories as to the development of the tradition that is currently observed. One is that, historically, it was considered good luck to get a piece of a bride's clothing, which led to guests attempting to tear off portions of the wedding gown. Brides then began the practice of tossing personal items, such as the bridal garter, in substitution.

Another theory is that the modern tradition evolved from an old English custom in which guests would follow the newly married couple to the wedding chambers and attempt to steal the stockings belonging to the bride and groom. The guests would throw the stockings over their shoulders, attempting to hit the newlyweds, and would be blessed with good luck if they succeeded. Generally, the modern tradition of tossing the garter is believed to have evolved from these more invasive customs.

The tradition of wearing and tossing a bridal garter continues to be observed and enjoyed by many couples today. There are nearly limitless options for color, style, and personalization of the contemporary garter. Joining storied tradition and modern innovation in design and fashion, new brides are able to add a personal twist to this long-standing wedding ritual.

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SarahGen
Post 5

Those who need a keepsake and a throwaway garter to toss on their big day don't need to buy them separately. They are sold as a set now and cost so much less.

I got a gorgeous white set. The keepsake has lace and additional decor. The throwaway is narrower and more simple but still very beautiful. They were adjustable so they fit perfect on my wedding day.

donasmrs
Post 4

@candyquilt-- Actually, the garter tossing tradition of today is much more tame and classy than what was done in 14th and 15th centuries in Europe. The article already described how the brides started to toss their garters to prevent people from destroying her wedding dress. And I think that after that point, it was supposed to be a matchmaking custom. In some traditions, the single man who gets the garter is supposed to put it on the leg of the single woman who catches the bouquet. This is not done anymore though.

And the garter that is not thrown away is also a sign of the bride's purity and virginity. And as you suggested, that is removed by the groom in privacy during their first night. This tradition has also lost meaning though since virginity is no longer a required trait of single women.

candyquilt
Post 3

I don't come from a tradition where brides wear garters for this purpose. I have been to a wedding where the groom removed the garter but I don't remember him throwing it.

I don't mean disrespect to those who follow the tradition but I do find it a bit distasteful. A bride sitting down in the middle of all those people -- men, women, old and and young-- and he groom putting his hands up her dress to find the garter. And why is the bride's garter thrown to single men? If this tradition of removing the garter has to be done, shouldn't it be done in the privacy of the couple's bedroom?

I just find it strange and I don't equate it with the bride throwing the bouquet at all. Throwing the bouquet is fun and classy, the garter, not so much.

Markerrag
Post 2

@Terrificli -- I am not sure if those mean want to avoid marriage altogether or are just playing around. Regardless, it is fun to watch them scramble when it comes time to toss out that lace bridal garter.

Meanwhile, I am glad to see that some of those earlier customs are no longer followed. Trying to tear a piece of the bride's dress? Following the bride and groom to the honeymoon chamber and trying to steal their stockings? Wow. Just downright primitive.

Oh, and I am not sure what happened to the fellow who caught my first wife's wedding garter. Probably nothing good. That thing was cursed (I am kidding -- partially).

Terrificli
Post 1

Want to see something fun? Watch a wedding reception when the bride throws her bridal garter into a crowd of men. Notice how many of those men either avoid the area where the wedding garter is to be thrown or actively avoid catching it.

Some people, it seems, simply want to avoid marriage.

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