Everything You Need to Know About the Wedding Garter Tradition

Wedding Garter

Photo by Red October Photography

Whether the wedding garter tradition makes you laugh or cringe, it's one that has stood the test of time. Even brides that don't embrace the garter toss sometimes wear a garter as a sexy addition to the wedding night.

What Is the Wedding Garter?

The wedding garter is a piece of bridal lingerie worn under the wedding dress. During the reception, the groom will remove the garter from underneath the bride's gown (with his hands or teeth) and toss it into the crowd.

The garter toss is very similar to the bouquet toss. The bachelor that catches the garter is believed to be married next. Today, couples are observing this tradition in new and modernized ways, which we'll go into a bit later.

As you consider integrating the garter toss into your wedding, questions will likely arise: Which leg do you wear it on? How much will it cost? How far up the leg is it supposed to go? Where did the tradition begin, anyway? Read on to learn more about this storied tradition and for answers to every wedding garter question you can think of.

Tradition Behind Wedding Garter
Emily Roberts/Brides

The History and Meaning of the Garter Toss

The wedding garter tradition originated in the Dark Ages. In "Wedding Customs Then and Now", published in 1919, Carl Holliday paints the following picture of medieval England: “The bridesmaids start with the weary bride to the wedding chamber when suddenly the cry arises, ‘Get her garter’... If the woman has been thoughtful, she has fastened it loosely to the bottom of her dress so that it drags in plain view of the scrambling ruffians; if she has not been a wise virgin, she may find her clothes in rags after the struggle.”

For a guest, having a tatter of the bride’s dress was considered good luck. Crowds of guests became so bawdy that they’d often follow the couple to their marital bed, ripping at their clothes as a form of “encouragement.” And so, the bride and groom started tossing the bouquet and the garters that held up the bride’s stockings as a way to appease the crowd.

Wedding Garter FAQs

Who buys the garter?

There is no set rule for who typically buys a bride’s wedding garter. If you want to buy one for a friend for her bridal shower, it can be a thoughtful gift. If you want to pick out your own bridal garter for your own wedding, that is perfectly acceptable, too.

How much does a garter cost?

A wedding garter can cost anywhere from $15 to $125 (for extremely ornate garters). The average price is around $20 to $35. The more ornate the style, the more expensive they tend to get.

What are the different styles of wedding garters?

Wedding garters typically come in a ruched, satin style or a lace band. They can come in any color. Brides can keep it simple with traditional white, use the garter for their something blue, or, really, choose any color of the rainbow. Some garters feature delicate bows, appliqués, beading, rhinestones, or crystals.

When should you order your garter?

You can order your wedding garter as early as you want. As with all things, if you want a custom garter design, you’ll need to check with the designer on their production time frame.

The biggest thing to remember is to try on your wedding garter before the morning of your wedding. Problems with fit are much easier to solve in advance. You don’t want to find out just before you walk down the aisle that something doesn’t fit or is uncomfortable.

What leg is the garter worn on?

There is no particular leg that you should wear your wedding garter. You can put the garter on whatever leg feels comfortable and natural to you. There is no good or bad luck involved with either leg.

Where do you place the garter on your leg?

It's generally recommended that you wear your wedding garter just above your knee. This is usually the narrowest part of your leg and your garter won’t rub your other leg when you walk or dance. Also, if you are wearing a mermaid or tighter fitting wedding dress, around your knee is where your dress will flare out, making this an ideal location for your garter. You can, of course, adjust it and put it higher if that feels more comfortable.

Do you have to wear your garter for the entire wedding?

You've got a few different options when it comes to wearing a garter on your wedding day. The first is to wear the garter all day, whether or not your partner will be removing it and throwing it into a crowd later in the evening. Look for a style that's made of soft stretch lace that will lay flat against your skin instead of one made of gathered fabric. If you've got your eye on something more ornate, you can always keep it in your purse until a few moments before the throw. Once it's time, head to the bathroom, slip it on, and head for the dance floor.

You can also decide to treat your garter as part of your wedding night lingerie. In that case, pick one that matches the set you've purchased for your first night as newlyweds and stash it away until you've gotten back to the suite.

Do you have to toss your garter?

Whether or not you toss your garter is entirely up to you. If you aren’t into the garter toss, don’t do it. If you (or your partner) would rather not toss your bridal garter at your reception, that is perfectly okay.

Garter Toss Alternatives

There are plenty of ways to get creative with the wedding garter tradition to make it your own, and you can modernize it in any way you want to.

One common reason for not wanting to actually toss the garter is that many brides want to keep it as a modern heirloom—if that's the case for you, but you still want the fun moment of the groom peeling it off and then tossing it, consider getting a separate toss garter. A tossing garter is just an extra garter (often simpler than the main garter) that the groom can take off your leg and toss, while you get to keep your real garter as a keepsake forever.

Some brides may want to toss the garter but are uncomfortable with the idea of their groom fishing around for the garter beneath their dress as their parents and grandparents look on. If this is you, you can opt not to wear the garter and you can hand it to your groom just before the toss. Tailor the toss to suit you.

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