How Did the Wedding Bouquet Toss Tradition Get Started Anyway?

The reason behind this time-honored wedding tradition might surprise you.

Anyone who has been at a wedding has seen the sometimes cringe-worthy moment: The emcee informs all single ladies to get into position on the dance floor for the tossing of the bride’s bouquet. Ladies try to get their angle just right behind the bride to assure when they reach out their hands, the beautiful array of flowers lands in their possession. But why all this nonsense over a few pretty petals?

There are a lot of weird traditions at weddings, like not being able to see the bride before the wedding, wearing a veil, and the bride standing to the left of her groom at the altar. Throwing the bouquet is one of the frivolous ones that has gone from serious to merely jovial to now possibly outdated as time has gone on. The bride flinging the bouquet over her head to all the single ladies—bridesmaids and guests alike—is a sign of good fortune…but only for the one who catches it!

Where Did the Garter Tradition Come From? - MSNTatiana Ayazo/Rd.com, Shutterstock

How did the tradition start?

Hundreds of years ago, it was thought to be very good luck to touch the bride. This often caused discomfort and invasion of privacy to the bride, since guests would typically stand around her in an attempt to rip the gown off! (Uh, no thanks!) In order to deter guests, the bride began tossing their bouquets into the crowds to distract people, then making a break for it with her husband to the bridal chamber. The groom would open the door and toss out the garter once the couple was inside.

People just wanted pieces of the bride’s accessories because she was married. So guests were naturally thrilled to grab the flowers, since they, too, were thought to bring romantic luck for the future.

Over the years, this act of distraction has turned into a tradition meant for the bride to pass on her good fortune to one single lady. Whoever catches the bouquet at a wedding is thought to be the next lady in line to wed. Unlike medieval times, however, today the bride doesn’t scamper away, but relishes the moment for her ability to unknowingly choose who will follow in her footsteps next, while the guests now respect the beauty of the bride and her gown, as opposed to ripping it off of her.

While obtaining the bouquet is only meant to bring good luck to women, the garter offers the same tradition for the men. And some forward-thinking brides are including men in the bouquet toss or foregoing it altogether.

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