From the moment bridal couples broke the mold and started writing their own wedding vows, all rules went out the window: You have an absolute right to include whatever customs you like — and leave out the ones that you don’t. (You can also make up some new ones, so long as your guests are comfortable!) One last thing deserves to be mentioned: You have “absolute rule” if you and your fiancé are paying for your wedding. But if there are purse strings attached to those who are financing your event, you should check with the nice people who are writing the check to see if there’s anything in their visions that you can accommodate.
Camilla asks: “Where does the custom of tossing the bouquet and garter come from? Do I have to have those at my wedding?”
Dear Camilla: The practice of the bride tossing her garter before she leaves on her wedding trip started in the 14th century, when getting a piece of the bride’s clothing was considered good luck. In those days, the bride was treated poorly. Guests would grab at her wedding dress in order to tear off pieces of it. Although brides knew they wouldn’t be wearing their wedding gowns again, they objected to its wanton destruction. So they found an alternative instead — and started to throw personal items, such as the garter. Today, the groom removes and tosses the garter, while the bride tosses her bouquet. The unmarried man who catches the garter is asked to put it on the leg of the unmarried woman who catches the bouquet. It’s said that they will be the next to marry (not necessarily to each other).
Another version tells us that the garter had a very practical beginning in old England, where silk stockings were standard garb. Young men took snatching the garter quite seriously, as it was considered very good luck to “win the prize.” To avoid embarrassing the bride, the custom evolved from stealing it to throwing it.
Nowadays, you can totally remove the custom. If that’s too harsh, try reinventing it; have the emcee ask all the married couples to come to the dance floor. Then “eliminate” the couples who’ve been married 10 years, or more, until the couple who’s been married the longest remains dancing. Present that couple with your bouquet. Or, use the bouquet as a special thank you. Have your florist prepare it so it can be easily divided into two smaller bouquets. Call your and your husband’s mom to the floor and give half to each. Along the same lines, if there’s someone else you would like to honor, present it to them.
One bride told me that, because her bouquet was a bunch of flowers held by a ribbon, she could “open” it quite easily. All the single women were called to the floor and she handed each a flower. She explained that in that way, there would be no losers, only winners. Sweet, huh?
Find more alternatives and history of the practices in HudsonValleyWeddings.com’s article “Tossing the Bridal Bouquet and the Garter: Customs, Origins and Alternatives.”
Got a question for the Wedding Guru? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or write your comments in the box below.