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Why does the Bride Throw the Bouquet at Her Wedding?

Niki Acker
Updated May 16, 2024
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Throughout Europe and North America, it is traditional for the bride to throw her bouquet at the reception and for all single women present to compete in catching it. The woman who catches the bouquet is said to be the next who will marry. But how did this custom originate?

In medieval Europe, a bride typically did not expect to wear her wedding dress again, and the dress was considered good luck for other women, a type of fertility charm. After the wedding, single women chased the bride and ripped pieces off her dress, leaving her in tatters. Over the years, wedding dresses became more expensive and it became traditional for women to keep them, either as a memento or to pass on to a daughter for her wedding day.

To prevent guests from ripping the wedding dress, brides began throwing other objects as a distraction, one of which was the garter. Later, the bouquet became the most traditionally thrown object. The wedding bouquet is particularly suited to this use, as flowers symbolize fertility, and as perishable items, they are not something the bride would wish to keep. The bouquet is also a safer item to toss than the garter, as unruly and impatient wedding guests were sometimes known to try to take the garter from the bride while she was still wearing it.

Some modern brides and grooms do not like the tradition of throwing the bouquet and either modify it or do away with it altogether. Tossing the bouquet can be uncomfortable for unmarried female guests who do not wish to marry or who feel put on the spot by the custom. Also, competition to catch the bouquet can become a violent stampede. Some brides stage the event so that their maid of honor or a friend who is engaged catches the bouquet. Others choose to give a small bouquet to each of their bridesmaids, or to give each woman at the reception a flower from the bridal bouquet.

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Niki Acker
By Niki Acker
"In addition to her role as a WiseGeek editor, Niki Foster is passionate about educating herself on a wide range of interesting and unusual topics to gather ideas for her own articles. A graduate of UCLA with a double major in Linguistics and Anthropology, Niki's diverse academic background and curiosity make her well-suited to create engaging content for WiseGeekreaders. "
Discussion Comments
By anon314618 — On Jan 19, 2013

My bouquet was made in Korea. It was created with small pink silk roses and pink lollipops. At the wedding dinner the bouquet was passed around to the guests and each one took and ate a lollipop. It is considered to be a prosperity rite for all involved and a blessing on the bride and groom. I loved doing this at my wedding.

By anon298639 — On Oct 21, 2012

@Lady M: Great insight. We've opted not to toss the garter or bouquet, and will present each lady married or single a gift, be it a rose or a spa day.

By AZSunset — On Apr 23, 2012

@amypollick: Thank you for that insight. I'm glad I posted my comments, because then I get a different perspective of it. I am there for the bride, not for me. I did make a typo. The bride did turn around, after seeing where all were standing. I did make sure I was standing way in the back, not in the front. But in the end, it's all good.

It's her day and she looked so beautiful. Thanks for your insight.

By amypollick — On Apr 23, 2012

@AZSunset: When I got married, I completely turned my back to the crowd and threw a toss bouquet over my shoulder. My sister (maid of honor) caught it, but it wasn't fixed. I didn't know where anyone was standing and I didn't know who caught it until I turned around. To me, that's the way to do it. The bride's back should be to the onlookers.

Having said that, putting a two-year-old in the mix is for one purpose: to get her in the wedding photos. It's stage mom behavior, in my opinion, but there you are.

I'm 43, and if I were not married, I think my strategy would just be to step back and let the younger girls fight over it. Even if the others try to push you to do it, you could say, "Oh, they can have the fun. I'm just interested in seeing who catches it." That way, you don't look like sour grapes, and neither do you look like the oldest hopeful single out there.

Giving even a small bouquet to each bridesmaid might be an extra expense not every bride could afford, especially if the flowers they carry mimic the ones from the bridal bouquet. And any bride with any etiquette sense at all will give each attendant a nice gift, anyway. I only had two attendants and gave each a pair of pearl stud earrings. They weren't terribly expensive, but each woman had a nice gift for honoring me with her presence and help at my wedding.

By AZSunset — On Apr 23, 2012

I went to a wedding Saturday. I was quite annoyed that the bride fixed her eyes on someone as though she were the one to catch the bouquet. Sure enough, that girl caught it. Not fair. I think the bride should be facing the other way when all the single girls come up, so she can’t see who is where.

I like the suggestion from up top: that each single girl is given a small handmade bouquet, so we all get something. We won’t feel like losers going up there. It's bad enough that I’m 43 and never married, so going up there and all the girls being younger is not a good feeling.

Then another girl put her two year old daughter up there. OK. I don’t agree with that either. I know it’s supposed to be in fun, but two years old? Get so real.

By anon111063 — On Sep 14, 2010

what happens if you catch the bouquet and then later it is seized by the border patrol on the way home from a wedding? Does this mean bad luck? Or tell me what this means?

By TunaLine — On Aug 10, 2010

I've always been a fan of a calla lily bridal bouquet -- I think it is so classic and peaceful looking.

By lightning88 — On Aug 10, 2010

My sister had a really cool idea for her wedding flower bouquet. Because she didn't want to throw it, she got the idea to have a red rose wedding bouquet, and then when it was over gave each bridesmaid a rose.

That way they could take it however they wanted, either as a symbol of being the next to marry, or simply as a symbol of coming romance, since roses are associated with love and devotion in general.

It was the perfect solution -- everyone went home happy.

By closerfan12 — On Aug 10, 2010

I always wondered how that would work with some of the more elaborate wedding bouquet arrangements.

Some of these new wedding bouquet ideas are so over the top that I would think the bridesmaids would be ducking and running instead of trying to catch the thing -- they'd get squished otherwise!

By SauteePan — On Jul 24, 2010

I just want to add that my bouquet was filled with peach roses.

My bridesmaids had lilac hydrangeas which were really stunning. The hydrangeas were imported from Holland. I liked these flowers for the bridesmaids because they were unique, but beautiful flowers.

Niki Acker
Niki Acker
"In addition to her role as a WiseGeek editor, Niki Foster is passionate about educating herself on a wide range of...
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