The Symbolic Meaning of the Wedding Garter

Written by andrea hamilton
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The Symbolic Meaning of the Wedding Garter
Incorporate this time-tested tradition into your wedding reception. (Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images)

The wedding garter symbolises the good marital luck passed from the groom to the groomsman who catches it. Since Medieval times, bridal attire has been thought to hold good luck, which led to some guests sneaking into the bridal chamber and stealing the bride's stockings or garters. Since then, the wedding garter has carried a symbolic meaning, and it is said that the man who catches it will marry within a year.

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As times grew rowdier during the Middle Ages, it was customary for the wedding guests to rip pieces off the bride's gown as good-luck tokens, as it was thought that she would never wear her dress again. Additionally, they thought that pieces of her attire would bring them good luck when it came time for them to marry. However, brides didn't take very kindly to this custom, so they began throwing items, such as their bouquets and garters, at the guests in an attempt to get away.

Evolution of the Tradition

After the tradition of shredding the bride's gown went by the wayside, the garter became an alternative good-luck charm. However, the male guests would still frequently drink too much and force the garter off the bride before she was ready to relinquish it. Needless to say, this made many newly married couples unhappy, so grooms started taking the matter into their own hands and setting aside a specific time for the garter toss at the reception.

Bridal Garters Today

Today, brides usually wear two garters on their right thigh, one to be used at the garter toss and a nicer one to keep. Sometimes the keepsake garter is handed down as an heirloom in her family. Blue is the most traditional choice, as an old English rhyme states that women who are "married in blue will have lovers true." The garter toss occurs towards the end of the wedding reception, after the bouquet toss.

What to Do if You Catch the Garter

If you are lucky enough to catch the bride's garter at a wedding reception, tradition encourages one of two scenarios. You may either place the garter on the leg of your girlfriend or on the leg of the girl who caught the wedding bouquet. Both methods have historical precedent. However, if you do not know the girl who caught the bouquet very well, she may feel uncomfortable with this idea. Either way, the man who catches the garter is said to marry within 12 months.

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