Symbolism of the Garter Toss

Wondering what the garter toss at weddings means? Learn about the symbolism with this complete guide.

By Maggie Mahoney

what is a garter toss
Photo by Zola

The First Look ✨

  • The garter toss involves the groom removing the garter from the brides’ leg and throwing for a single male wedding guests to catch.
  • In medieval times, wedding guests would tear the bride’s clothes off, so brides began wearing garters they could throw into the crowd.
  • Today, the garter toss also symbolizes the passage from single to married life for the bride and groom.

Have you ever wondered what certain wedding traditions symbolize? Today we will be exploring the symbolism of the garter toss and how its meaning has evolved over time.

What is a Garter Toss?

The wedding garter toss is like the male version of the bridal bouquet toss. More specifically, during the garter toss, the groom removes the garter from the bride’s leg (often with his teeth or hands) while wedding guests look on. He then tosses the garter into a crowd of single male wedding guests on the dance floor. In some cases, the man who catches the garter will later put it on the woman who catches the bridal bouquet.

Bridal garter tosses are not for everyone and have been the source of some controversy over the years. Whether you’re for or against the garter toss tradition, the ritual itself holds interesting historical significance. Below are a few of the varied meanings that the garter toss embodies and symbolizes.

Symbolism of the Garter Toss Photo Credit // Shutterstock

What is the Wedding Garter Tradition?

The wedding garter toss is thought to be one of the oldest wedding traditions still practiced today. In Medieval times, wedding guests would try to tear off pieces of a brides’ clothing, because they were thought to be tokens of good luck. Brides began wearing garters to toss as a way to appease the crowd and prevent onlookers from grabbing at them. The bridal bouquet was also used in a similar manner as a distraction so the bride could get away.

One of the earliest iterations of the modern day garter toss was thought to have emerged in early 1500s France. Back then, it was customary for friends and family of the newlyweds to ensure that the marriage was consummated immediately following the wedding ceremony. That often meant that close friends and family would accompany the bride and groom back to the bedroom to observe or wait just outside the door.

Once the deed had been done, the garter was presented as a form of proof. At the time, consummation also often denoted deflowering or a loss of innocence, because sex before marriage was not as commonplace as it is in modern times.

What Does the Garter Symbolize?

Good Luck and Fertility

In the late Renaissance period, the garter began to symbolize good luck and sometimes even fertility. During these years and for hundreds of years after, the garter remained a lucky symbol for whoever held or wore it. Undoubtedly, the suggestion of fertility and luck most likely arose from the early origins of the garter toss that centered around consummation and the idea that having children was a sign of good fortune.

In 18th century England, the “flinging the stocking” game involved guests tossing garters at the bride and groom on their wedding day. If the garters landed on the wedding couple’s heads, it was thought to be a token of good luck in love.

The way the garter’s significance harkens back to its early history reveals how deeply this ritual is rooted in superstition.

Symbolism of the Garter Toss Photo Credit // Hales Studio Photography

Next to Wed

In modern times, the groom removes the garter, rather than boisterous wedding guests. Today, the garter toss itself is more of an intentional passing of the torch to the wedding couple’s single friends and family. Akin to the bouquet toss for women, the garter toss is thought to determine who will get married next. The man who catches the garter and the woman who catches the bouquet are jokingly assumed to be next to walk down the aisle.

Moving on From Single Life

The garter toss also symbolizes a sort of transition for the wedding couple from their single lives to their married lives. In some ways, throwing the garter symbolizes the couple discarding their single lives in favor of a new journey together.

The history of the garter toss and the meanings it takes on are varied and interesting. It has evolved from a ritual with slightly dark, somewhat intrusive, boisterous origins to a more playful tradition perfect for photo opportunities and engaging wedding guests during the wedding reception.

Whether you choose to include the garter toss into your wedding festivities, modify it for a more modern approach, or forgo the toss altogether, knowing its roots allows you to discover the deeper meaning behind this age-old custom.

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