Weddings are a melting pot of traditions, both old and new. The bouquet toss tradition is one that has existed for hundreds of years and evolved over time. In this tradition, brides toss their bouquet over their shoulders and into a group of single women. Whoever catches the bouquet is supposedly “next” to walk down the aisle. It usually happens towards the end of the night at the reception, and it can get quite competitive—even dangerous—with elbows and stiletto heels flying around trying to catch the coveted bouquet.
For brides, it’s a way to celebrate their single friends and wish them luck in love. For the lucky lady that catches the bouquet, if she doesn’t meet the partner of her dreams at her friend’s wedding, at least she’ll go home with a gorgeous floral centerpiece. To find out more about the history and meaning of the bouquet toss tradition, we spoke to expert Eddie Zaratsian.
Meet the Expert
Eddie Zaratsian is the owner of Eddie Zaratsian Lifestyle & Design and has over two decades of experience in the wedding and event industry.
Below, we dive deep into this classic wedding tradition and share advice for updating it to more modern approaches.
The History and Meaning of the Bouquet Toss
The tradition of the bouquet toss as we know it today started in England in the 1800s, but the origin of this tradition is even older. Prior to the 1800s, it was considered good luck to simply touch the bride on her wedding day. Hopeful single girls would often rush the bride—crowding her, touching her—in the hopes that a little bit of the bride’s wedding-day good fortune would rub off on them and they would soon be married.
As legend has it, some single women would even go as far as to try and take home keepsakes of the bride’s wedding dress as she walked by. To escape, the bride would often toss the bouquet and run. “In addition to simply being an invasion of privacy, there were concerns that guests would try to rip parts of her dress off,” says Zaratsian. “The bouquet toss tradition was created, in part, to bestow luck on guests without going to such extreme measures.”
While ripping off pieces of someone’s wedding dress might seem over the top today, back then, marriage was really a woman’s only form of upward mobility. Marriage could uplift a woman (and her family) out from poverty, and it was often more so a political and economic move than a romantic one. Single women were quite literally desperate to change their circumstances by marrying a man that could provide for her and her family.
The Modern Bouquet Toss
As society has progressed, marriage has become more of a choice for women, so they don’t necessarily need luck. The bouquet toss tradition has endured over the years and evolved into a fun way for a bride to share the spotlight with her single friends and work some friendly competition into the wedding itinerary.
To implement the custom into your own wedding day, let your DJ or band know of your intent in advance so a complementary tune can be lined up. When the time comes, the wedding toss will be announced, and all participants will come to the dance floor and stand across from the bride. At this point, the bride will turn away from them and toss the bouquet over her shoulder in the direction of the participants. A single winner will catch the bouquet and claim their luck in being the next to wed.
Bouquet Toss FAQs
Who participates in the bouquet toss?
According to tradition, all unmarried women can participate in the bouquet toss. However, if your single friends don’t want to participate in the tradition, don’t force them. They might be freshly single or feeling especially lonely at that moment, so let them sit this one out. This is a frivolous tradition, not meant to shame or guilt anyone into participating!
When should you order your bouquet?
Whether you’re tossing your actual wedding bouquet or ordering a second bouquet just for the bouquet toss, you should order your wedding flowers six to nine months before the wedding.
How much does a bouquet cost?
This depends on your total floral budget, but if you’re ordering a second bouquet, it should be less than your normal wedding bouquet. Ask your florist if they have a package deal for the two.
When does the bouquet toss typically occur?
There's no strict rule for when the bouquet toss should occur, but it usually happens during the reception once the toasts, dinner, and dances have come to a close. Oftentimes, the bride will choose to toss the bouquet after the cake has been cut.
How long is the bouquet toss?
The bouquet toss should be about the length of a song. Plan what song will play ahead of time with your DJ and make sure your most excited friends aren’t taking a bathroom break when the DJ calls for all the ladies to head down to the dance floor!
What happens after the bouquet toss?
“The bouquet toss is one of the last things to happen during a wedding reception, as it's more of a playful tradition,” says Zaratsian. “The remainder of the reception and dancing will resume until it comes time for the couple to make their exit from the wedding.”
Does the bride have to toss her wedding bouquet?
If you know early on that this is a tradition that you want to incorporate into your wedding, then you might want to consider opting for a second, smaller bouquet. “Most couples today will choose to keep the original bouquet as a keepsake, so we do receive requests to craft a special arrangement that's designated specifically for tossing,” says Zaratsian. “Smaller bouquets also ensure that they can be caught with ease!”
Does the person who catches the bouquet keep it?
This is entirely up to preference. If the person who catches the bouquet wants to keep it (and the bride wants to give it up), they totally can. If not, many newlyweds opt to either give their arrangements to guests as favors or donate the flowers to a charity the next day.
What if a man catches the bouquet?
While tradition dictates that only unmarried women can partake in the bouquet toss, we're all for gender equality and leaving modern interpretations of the custom to the hosts. Anyone that wishes to partake in the bouquet toss and make a play for the winner's luck should be allowed to. And, if a male guest happens to be standing in the bouquet's trajectory and is unwittingly hit, we'd say fate has made the recipient of its fortune known.
Popular Bouquet Toss Songs
If you're planning on tossing the bouquet, you'll need a melody to match the momentous event. While there are tons of tunes to choose from, here are some of our favorites for getting everyone in on the catch:
- "Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)," by Beyoncé
- "Man! I Feel Like a Woman!," by Shania Twain
- "Let's Get Loud," by Jennifer Lopez
- "Eye of the Tiger," by Survivor
- "Girls Just Want to Have Fun," by Cyndi Lauper
- "Hit Me With Your Best Shot," by Pat Benatar
- "Another One Bites the Dust," by Queen
Bouquet Toss Alternatives
Some brides fear that the bouquet toss unfairly singles out their unmarried friends. Being single at a wedding is hard enough without broadcasting your relationship status by participating in the bouquet toss. It can also be quite dangerous, with a horde of women jumping up and down in their heels and wrestling on the floor to get the bouquet.
Brides who want to avoid hurt feelings and potential injury on behalf of their single friends might want to consider “tossing” the bouquet toss tradition and trading it in for something more modern and unexpected, like an anniversary dance. “With this, you invite all married couples to the dance floor and then have the MC start asking couples to leave the dance floor if they’ve been married one year, then five, then ten, until the last couple remaining wins the bouquet,” says Zaratsian. “This typically delights the last couple, many of whom have not had the chance to 'win' a bouquet in 50 or 60 years.”
The bouquet toss has been around for centuries, which is great for brides who want to incorporate these classics into their wedding. Brides who want their wedding to be more modern can still incorporate the tradition into their reception with a fun twist. Tailor the custom to you and your guests. If you know your single girlfriends are looking forward to the bouquet toss and are excited about the potential friendly competition, do it! Wedding traditions are only as traditional as you make them!