The bouquet toss is a staple at many modern weddings—and many of the weddings that preceded them. Even if you haven’t frequented many receptions, you probably know how this tradition goes down.
In short, the unmarried guests gather on one side of the dance floor, while the bride (or groom) stands several feet across from them. There, they turn to face the opposite direction and quite literally toss their bouquet over their shoulders to be caught by one of the people playing. But what does catching the bouquet at a wedding mean? We take a look at the history of the bouquet toss and its modern symbolism to get a better idea of what it means when someone catches the bouquet.
The tradition of tossing the bouquet originates from an entirely different tradition that began in ancient England, prior to the 1800s (an exact year isn’t known). History tells us that during this time it was considered good luck to touch the bride on her big day so that some of her good luck would rub off on you. After a couple’s wedding ceremony took place, those in attendance—especially single women—would rush the bride in hopes that some of this luck would transfer to them, so that they, too, could get married soon. Oftentimes, this would progress to people trying to rip pieces of fabric off of the bride’s gown. Many even tried to make off with the bridal bouquet or other keepsakes.
While this may come across as shocking, it’s important to keep in mind the purposes and culture surrounding getting married at the time. Back then, marriage was viewed as more of a transaction, oftentimes of wealth or social status. For many women, it was their only hope of rising above their situation or financially supporting themselves and their families. This made marrying the right person, by those standards, a very large responsibility or expectation. Knowing that it isn’t difficult to imagine single women vying for every bit of luck they could get their hands on.
To avoid the sometimes brutal nature of this tradition, brides began tossing their bouquets as a distraction. They’d then run in the opposite direction in an attempt to escape the crowd and leave their wedding night in peace. Over time, this became incredibly common and eventually took the place of the older tradition. It has become a new tradition, has enabled those getting wed to still grant one wedding guest some luck without having to fight too hard for it.
As societies around the world have progressed, the reasons for marriage have changed. In modern society, a person will marry because they love someone—not because they need them to provide financially. Along with this, the bouquet toss has evolved. What was once an aversion tactic is now a fun game of competition and chance, as well as an opportunity to put the spotlight on your unmarried friends. Today, the game goes as follows:
Updates aside, the bouquet is still thought to represent good luck and fortune. It’s said that if you catch the bouquet, then you’ll obtain this luck, with the added superstition that you’ll be the next person within the group to wed. The idea of the bride “passing” this fortune on to the lucky individual is also a relatively new addition. Despite updates to the bouquet toss, it isn’t rare to hear of participating guests getting as ambitious as those of the past while trying to catch it for themselves.
Before the flowers go flying and someone catches the bride’s bouquet, a lot of thought goes into the toss. From selecting a song to deciding if you’re going to throw your bridal bouquet, make sure that you plan the activity ahead of time so that it’s every bit as fun as you envision it being. You may leave fate to decide who ends up with the bundle of flowers that night, but the rest of the activity is in your control.