Weddings are a time for love, laughter, and tradition. When it comes to the big day, there are so many small details that can make a world of difference in creating a memorable experience. One of these small but significant details is the garter. This little piece of fabric can hold a lot of meaning and symbolism in a wedding ceremony.
For those not in the know, a garter is a decorative band worn around the thigh, typically by a bride. During the reception, the groom will remove the garter and toss it into a crowd of unmarried men, who will then fight to catch it. This tradition is similar to the bouquet toss, in which the bride throws her bouquet to a crowd of unmarried women. But what does the garter symbolize in a wedding? Is it just another silly tradition, or is there more to it than meets the eye? Let’s delve into the history and meaning behind the garter at weddings.
The garter has a long and interesting history, dating back to the Middle Ages. It was originally worn as a functional piece of clothing to hold up stockings, but later became a symbol of femininity and modesty. In medieval times, the garter was often given as a gift by royalty. It was considered a great honor to receive a garter, as it was a symbol of loyalty and fidelity. In modern times, the garter has taken on a slightly different meaning. It has become a playful tradition, a symbol of the bride’s femininity and sensuality. For some, it may even represent a rite of passage into married life. Whatever its meaning, the garter remains a beloved tradition in many weddings today.
History of the garter tradition at weddings
The garter tradition has been a part of weddings since the 14th century. It was believed to have originated from a medieval superstition that owning a piece of the bride’s clothing would bring good luck. The garter was chosen because it was easily accessible and removable. During the tossing of the garter, it was customary for the groom to remove it from the bride’s leg and toss it to the male guests. The man who caught the garter was believed to be the next to get married.
- The garter was worn close to the skin to prevent it from slipping down the bride’s leg.
- Originally, the garter was just a practical item of clothing, but it later became more ornate and was made from silk or velvet.
- The Queen of England is said to have popularized the tradition of wearing a garter during her wedding, and it has been a part of British royal weddings ever since.
Today, the tradition of wearing a garter has become more of a symbolic gesture than a superstitious belief. It is still tossed during the reception, but it is now tossed to all the single male guests instead of just one. The bride can also choose to keep it as a souvenir of her special day.
Origins of the garter tradition in English royalty
The use of garters as a wedding tradition dates back to the medieval times. However, the tradition of a bride wearing a garter on her wedding day and tossing it to the groom’s male friends only became popular during the reign of King Edward III in England.
- According to the legend, during a ball held at Calais, King Edward III picked up the garter of his mistress that had accidentally fallen to the floor. The guests laughed at the king’s embarrassment, to which he replied, “Honi soit qui mal y pense,” a French phrase meaning “Shame on him who thinks evil of it.”
- The phrase was later adopted as the motto of the Order of the Garter, an exclusive group of knights that King Edward III founded in 1348.
- The order was created to honor those who demonstrated loyalty to the crown and exemplary conduct. The members of the order were required to wear a dark blue velvet garter, which symbolized the chivalric virtues of courage, honor, and loyalty.
Over time, the tradition of wearing and tossing a garter at a wedding became widespread. However, the original meaning behind the garter as a symbol of honor and loyalty was largely forgotten. Today, the garter is mostly considered a fun and playful accessory that adds an element of excitement and tradition to the wedding celebration.
Despite its modern association with revelry and playfulness, the garter remains a treasured symbol of chivalry and noble conduct.
|Symbolism of the garter in the Order of the Garter||Meaning|
|The garter||Symbolizes the chivalric virtues of courage, honor, and loyalty.|
|The buckle||Symbolizes the binding oath to uphold the virtues of the order.|
|The motto||“Honi soit qui mal y pense” is translated to “Shame on him who thinks evil of it.”|
The Order of the Garter remains one of the most prestigious and exclusive orders of knighthood in the world, with only 24 members at any given time. As for the garter tradition in weddings, it has evolved into a playful and lighthearted tradition that adds to the enjoyment of the occasion.
Significance of the Color of the Garter
The garter is a traditional accessory worn by brides during weddings. It is worn on the bride’s leg, just above the knee, and is usually removed by the groom during the wedding reception. The color of the garter can hold significant meaning and symbolism for the bride and groom.
- White: This is a traditional color for garters and symbolizes purity, innocence, and new beginnings. It is a popular choice for brides who want to channel a classic and timeless look.
- Blue: Blue is often associated with fidelity, loyalty, and something borrowed. The “something blue” tradition is said to bring good luck to the bride and groom, and wearing a blue garter can be a subtle nod to this tradition while also adding a pop of color to the overall look.
- Pink: Pink is a romantic and feminine color that symbolizes love, affection, and grace. It can be a great choice for brides who want to incorporate a fun and playful element into their wedding day attire.
- Red: Red is a bold and passionate color that symbolizes desire, strength, and power. It can be a great choice for brides who want to make a statement and add a touch of drama to their bridal look.
Ultimately, the color of the garter is a personal choice and can be selected based on the bride and groom’s personal preferences and the overall theme and tone of the wedding. It can be a fun and playful way to add a special touch to the wedding day and create a lasting, meaningful memory.
The difference between the bride’s garter and the toss garter
While both garters add a touch of tradition and elegance to a wedding, there are some key differences to consider.
- Appearance: The bride’s garter is typically designed to match her wedding dress and is often more ornate or decorative, while the toss garter can be simpler and more playful in design.
- Purpose: The bride’s garter is worn as a sentimental keepsake for the bride to cherish and potentially pass down to future generations. The toss garter, on the other hand, is meant to be removed and thrown to single male guests as a fun tradition during the reception.
- Placement: The bride’s garter is traditionally worn on the thigh, while the toss garter is typically worn lower on the leg for ease of removal.
It’s important to note that not all brides choose to wear a garter, and the toss garter is optional depending on the couple’s preferences.
Alternative garter traditions around the world
While the garter toss tradition is familiar to those in the Western world, different cultures have their traditions when it comes to wedding symbolism, including the garter.
- China: In China, it’s common for the bride to wear a red garter belt with a small bell, which is believed to bring good luck and ward off evil spirits. The groom will then remove the garter and toss it to the groomsmen.
- Ireland: The Irish have a tradition where the bride wears a lace ankle bracelet, called a Croagh Patrick, which is then removed and given to a special guest or the couple’s first-born child for them to wear on their wedding day.
- India: In Indian weddings, the groom will remove the garter worn by the bride and replace it with a charm, which is then tied to a necklace and worn by the bride as a symbol of their union.
These alternative traditions showcase the diversity of wedding symbolism and highlight the importance of cultural heritage in marriage.
How to Properly Wear and Remove the Garter
The garter is a traditional part of a bride’s wedding ensemble and has long been associated with good luck, fertility, and faithfulness. Wearing a garter is an opportunity for the bride to add a personal touch to her wedding attire and to include something unique and symbolic in her bridal look.
- Wearing the Garter: The garter is typically worn on the right leg, just above the knee. To properly wear the garter, the bride should slip it onto her leg before putting on her wedding dress. This will ensure that the garter is comfortably positioned and that it won’t be disturbed when she begins to move around or dance.
- Choosing the Right Garter: There are many different styles of garters available, ranging from simple and traditional to more elaborate designs. When choosing a garter, the bride should consider the overall style of her wedding dress and the theme of her wedding. She may also want to think about any special embellishments, such as lace or beading, that will complement her dress.
- Removing the Garter: The removal of the garter is often a playful and memorable part of the wedding reception. To properly remove the garter, the groom should lift the bride’s dress slightly and locate the garter with his hand. He should then slowly and carefully remove the garter, making sure not to accidentally rip or snag the fabric. Once the garter is removed, the groom can toss it to the single male guests in attendance.
While the garter is a small and often overlooked detail of a bride’s wedding attire, it is steeped in tradition and symbolism. By properly wearing and removing the garter, a bride can honor the meaning behind this classic wedding accessory and add a personal touch to her special day.
|Tips for Wearing and Removing the Garter|
|Choose a garter that complements your wedding dress and fits comfortably above your knee.|
|Have your groom practice removing the garter before the wedding to ensure a smooth and seamless removal.|
|Consider incorporating a special token or charm into your garter design to add a personal touch and extra symbolism.|
With these tips in mind, any bride can confidently wear and remove the garter on her wedding day, knowing that she is paying homage to a cherished tradition and adding a unique element to her bridal look.
Garter designs and materials
Wedding garters come in various designs and materials that represent the bride’s personality, style, and preferences. There are satin, lace, silk, velvet, and even cotton garters. Some are simple and elegant, while others are embellished with intricate designs and decorations such as beads, pearls, crystals, and ribbons. The colors of wedding garters also vary, with white and ivory being the most common, but some brides like to incorporate their wedding theme colors into their garter design.
- Satin Garters: Satin garters are shiny, smooth, and soft, making them a popular choice for a sensual, feminine look.
- Lace Garters: Lace garters are delicate, lightweight, and elegant, adding a touch of vintage charm to the bride’s attire.
- Silk Garters: Silk garters have a luxurious, silky feel and drape, perfect for brides who want to feel glamorous and sophisticated.
Some brides also prefer to have more than one garter. They wear one garter for the traditional garter toss, and another garter as a keepsake or to surprise their spouse during their wedding night. There are even garter sets available for those who want both.
One interesting fact about wedding garters is that it’s customary to wear it on the right leg, just above the knee. This tradition originated from the medieval times, where it was believed that owning a piece of the bride’s clothing would bring good luck. The garter symbolized the bride’s virtue, and the groom would remove it as proof that they consummated the marriage. The number of garters worn during the wedding also varies, with the number 7 being the most popular.
|1||Unity with the spouse|
|2||Harmony and balance in the relationship|
|3||Good luck, happiness, and prosperity|
|4||Stability, security, and foundation of the relationship|
|5||Health, wellness, and spiritual purity|
|6||Love, compassion, and understanding|
|7||Completeness and perfection|
The number 7 is considered significant in many cultures and religions, from the seven wonders of the world to the seven chakras. It represents wholeness, harmony, and divine perfection. Therefore, wearing 7 wedding garters can bring luck, happiness, and completeness to the newlyweds’ lives.
Popular Garter Toss Songs and Customs
Perhaps one of the most playful and amusing traditions during a wedding reception is the garter toss. The groom removes the garter from his bride’s leg and throws it to a group of bachelors, much like the tossing of the bouquet. It is believed that the bachelor who catches the garter will be the next one to get married. The garter toss is often accompanied by laughter, cheers and good-natured teasing among the guests.
- “The Stripper” by David Rose
- “Mission Impossible Theme Song” by Lalo Schifrin
- “SexyBack” by Justin Timberlake
Choosing the right song for the garter toss can make it even more fun and memorable for everyone involved. Here are some popular garter toss songs:
Some couples prefer to skip the garter toss altogether, especially if they find it too risqué or prefer a more low-key reception. In this case, they might opt for other customs such as having the bride and groom dance with their parents or having everyone in attendance do a group dance.
It is also important to remember that while the garter toss is a fun tradition, it also has origins in a more serious historical context. Back in the medieval period, wedding guests believed that owning a piece of the bride’s clothing would bring them good luck. In order to protect the bride from being stripped by her guests, a brave groom would toss her garter to them instead. This act symbolized his protection and honor towards his bride, as well as his willingness to share her luck with his friends.
|Country/Region||Garter Toss Tradition|
|United States||The groom removes the bride’s garter and tosses it to the bachelors. The bachelor who catches it is believed to be the next one to get married.|
|United Kingdom||The couple cuts the wedding cake, and the groom hides a small fabric satchel inside. The man who finds the satchel is believed to be the next one to get married.|
|Italy||The groom removes the bride’s garter and tosses it to the bachelors. However, in some parts of Italy, the garter toss is replaced by the “money dance”, where guests pin money onto the bride’s dress as a symbol of their good wishes.|
Garter Etiquette for Guests and Bridal Party Members
As one of the oldest wedding traditions, the garter toss is a playful and often humorous moment in the reception festivities. But what does the garter actually symbolize, and how should guests and bridal party members approach this custom? Here are some tips:
- Guests: If you’re attending a wedding and the couple decides to include the garter toss, it’s important to respect their wishes and participate in a respectful way. When the groom removes the garter from the bride’s leg, it’s typically tossed toward a group of unmarried male guests. If you catch the garter, it’s customary to place it on the leg of the woman who catches the bouquet. However, if you prefer not to participate in the garter toss, it’s perfectly acceptable to simply sit it out and enjoy the moment as an observer.
- Bridal Party Members: If you’re a bridesmaid or groomsman and you’re responsible for handling the garter during the reception, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, make sure the garter is easy to remove and won’t cause any discomfort for the bride when it’s taken off. Second, coordinate with the other wedding party members to make sure the garter toss goes smoothly and doesn’t disrupt the flow of the reception. Lastly, be mindful of the guests and make sure they feel comfortable participating in the toss.
- The Number 9: One lesser-known aspect of the garter toss is the significance of the number 9. In some traditions, the groom will remove the garter and count backwards from 9 before tossing it to the male guests. The idea here is that the groom is counting down the remaining single years of his life. However, this tradition is not widely practiced and can be skipped altogether if the couple prefers.
In summary, the garter toss can be a fun and lighthearted moment in a wedding celebration, but it’s important to approach it with respect and understanding. By following these etiquette guidelines, guests and bridal party members can participate in the tradition in a way that adds to the joy and celebration of the day.
Creative ways to incorporate the garter into wedding décor.
Aside from being a traditional fashion piece, garters can also be used as a unique element in wedding décor. Below are some creative ways to incorporate garters into your big day:
- Use garters as napkin rings. Ditch the traditional napkin rings and opt for garters that match your color scheme to add a playful touch to your tablescape.
- Hang garters on chairs. Add a fun detail to your reception chairs by attaching garters to the backs of them.
- Use garters as a cake topper. For a vintage-inspired cake, use a garter to wrap around the base of the cake or place a small garter on top of the cake as a topper.
If you’re feeling crafty, consider creating your own garter-inspired decor:
- Make a garter garland. Attach a string to each end of several garters and hang them up to create a playful garland.
- Create a garter photo booth backdrop. Use safety pins to attach garters to a sheet or wall and use it as a fun backdrop for your guests to take photos in front of.
If you’re looking to add an elegant touch to your wedding, consider incorporating a garter-inspired table setting:
|Garter Place Cards||Use garters to hold small cards with guests’ names to mark their place at the table.`,|
|Garter Accented Table Runner||Use a garter as an accent on a table runner for a subtle nod to tradition.|
|Garter Wrapped Flowers/Vases||Wrap a garter around flower arrangements or vases for a touch of elegance.|