The garter toss, where a groom removes a bride’s garter and throws it to a clamoring pack of single male guests, is a time-honored wedding tradition. But some today may not feel completely comfortable with the custom, and it’s no surprise given its medieval, somewhat uncivil roots. Never fear, we’ve rounded up some ways to make the practice feel fresh and fun for all. Here are some ideas to consider for garter toss alternatives.
The part of the garter toss that makes some squirm is likely the performance of the groom taking it off of the bride—some just don’t feel comfortable with that level of suggestion and intimacy (even if simulated) in front of their family and friends. Leave all that for the honeymoon, and instead go directly to the groom throwing out a garter you have on hand. The bride doesn’t even need to have ever worn it. Or, you can substitute the garter for any other easily throwable memento that you’ve bought especially for the occasion (a soft football or other light ball, or a bouquet of dollar bills or lottery ticket, for example)—all without the bride having to show even an ankle. Alternately, the groom can throw his boutonniere out to the single male guests, in a move similar to the bouquet toss.
Skip the garter removal entirely, but keep the fun of watching your friends duke it out. Ask the single folks of all genders to gather when it’s time to throw the bouquet. The groom can even get in on the fun and help with the toss.
Put a garter or another prize in a balloon. Drop it along with a bunch of other balloons on the dance floor, and have wedding guests (single ones or anyone who wants to participate) pop them to find the prize. Make it harder by putting something in each balloon.
Leave out the tossing entirely, and use the time and opportunity to salute someone meaningful by giving them the bridal bouquet: for example, an older relative or someone who was especially helpful during the wedding planning. Or, present the bride’s bouquet to the couple in attendance who has been married the longest: Gather up all the married couples for a special dance, and then have them exit the dance floor based on how long they’ve been married. Start with less than a day (meaning you), then a year, five, 10, and so on until there’s only one couple left. They can receive the bridal bouquet and start off the next dance.
Let the youngest guests join in on the fun. Toss a stuffed toy, perhaps with a $20 bill attached. It’ll be a kick for the kids and the adults watching the melee.
Fill a bowl, vase, or basket with candy, and throw it out to anyone who wants to participate. This fun alternative is a way for everyone to walk away with part of the prize.
Don’t feel pressure to include a toss of any kind at your reception. Weddings should be a reflection of you as a couple, and that means that you’re welcome to pick and choose which wedding tradition you want to participate in on your big day. Guests are unlikely to miss any custom you skip, and many attendees would rather not be spotlighted for being single, anyway. Display the bouquet in a nice vase on the cake table or the couple’s table, and leave undisturbed all the fun people are having. And, by all means, wear a garter if you like—how and when it’s removed is totally up to you.
Remember, weddings are full of traditions that ebb and flow over time. Some are in full effect (placing wedding rings on the fourth finger of the left hand), others are fading (brides wearing white gowns), and some, such as the garter toss, just aren’t as popular as they once were. But many couples today are throwing out the rule book when it comes to wedding customs—or putting their own twist on them—to make their wedding ceremony it as personalized as possible. Keep in mind that it’s your wedding, and you and your partner should feel free to tailor your special day as you wish.