If you’ve ever cringed watching a groom use his teeth to remove a garter from his new wife’s upper thigh, you might have wondered who thought such a sexually charged wedding tradition would be a good idea.
These days, removing the garter is basically the male equivalent to the bride’s bouquet toss. The bride sits on a chair so her new husband can take her garter belt off her leg and toss it to a crowd of bachelors. Supposedly, whoever is lucky enough to catch it will be next to get married.
The tradition got its start the Middle Ages, when a honeymoon wasn’t exactly a private getaway. When the lucky couple rushed away to consummate the marriage, guests would follow them to the bedroom, watching to make sure they really did seal the deal, according to Mental Floss. As if having spectators wasn’t bad enough, rowdy guests would grab at the bride’s dress as she walked by, trying to snatch a piece off for good luck. (Find out the crazy reasons bridesmaids became part of the wedding party.) This was way before elastic was invented, so the garters holding the bride’s stockings up became a go-to prize for handsy guests.
Over time, people began to realize that gawking over the marriage bed was a tad intrusive. Instead, the groom would toss the garter to guests waiting outside as a taste of what he and his wife were up to behind closed doors. Eventually, the tradition became part of the reception—no need for guests to hover outside the hotel room. So if watching the bride show some skin makes you blush, just be thankful that you’ve only seen a little leg.