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Wedding Garter Traditions Old & New: Everything You Need to Know

A bridal garter is likely the only piece of lingerie you'll ever have removed by your husband and then flung gleefully into a rapt crowd. Whether this wedding garter tradition makes you laugh or cringe, it's still going strong. And even brides that don't embrace the garter toss sometimes wear a garter nonetheless — a bridal garter can still be a sexy addition for your wedding night. As you shop for a garter, questions will start to arise — which leg do you wear it on? How much should it cost? How far up the leg is it supposed to? Where does this tradition come from, anyway? Read on for answers to every wedding garter question you can think of!

What Leg is the Bride Supposed to Wear the Bridal Garter on?

There is no particular leg that a 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 Exactly Do You Place the Garter on Your Leg?

Place your bridal garter wherever you like, but just make sure to try your garter on before the morning of your wedding. 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 is an ideal location for your garter. You can, of course, adjust it and put it higher if that feels more comfortable for you.

Do I Have to Toss My 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 OK. 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 to the fun moment of the groom peeling (or biting) it off and then tossing it, consider getting a separate toss garter. A toss garter 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.

On the other hand, 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!

Where Does the Wedding Garter Tradition Come From?

Have you ever been to a fairly traditional, modest wedding, where you’re all wearing your Easter best, and all of a sudden the groom is out there doing a sensual little dance in front of the crowd, and you find yourself cheering him on as he ducks under the bride's skirt? It's all in good fun nowadays, but, really, what's the wedding garter tradition origin story?

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 brides-maids 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.

Can you imagine getting all dolled up, only to be bum-rushed upon uttering “I do”? 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.

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 simple white, use the garter for their something blue, or, really, choose any color of the rainbow. Some garters feature delicate bows, appliques, beading, rhinestones and/or crystals. The more ornate the style, the heavier (and more expensive) it tends to get. If you're dead set on a rhinestone-encrusted bridal garter, it might start to get too heavy to even stay on your leg all night — in that case, just slip it on as it gets closer to the toss (or the wedding night!).

How Much Does a Wedding Garter Cost?

A wedding garter can cost anywhere from $15 to $125 (for extremely ornate garters). The average price is around $20-35.

Who Buys the Garter?

Many of the who-pays-for-what guidelines are falling out of favor as more and more engaged couples are opting to do their wedding their way. 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 really thoughtful gift. If you want to pick out your own bridal garter for your own wedding, that is perfectly acceptable too.

When Should I Order My Wedding Garter?

You can order your wedding garter as early as you want, or if you find one that you love, you can pick it up at a bridal salon closer to your wedding day. 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. This goes for all of your wedding day accessories. You don’t want to find out just before you walk down the aisle that something doesn’t fit or is uncomfortable!


Getting Creative with the Wedding Garter Toss: Alternatives Worth Considering

There are plenty of ways to get creative with the wedding garter tradition and make it your own. Alison of Ohio says, “My husband turned the garter into a magic trick and had one of those never-ending ribbons magicians use, which made it way less awkward.” Shainna of West Virginia shares that her dad surprised her mom by also wearing a garter for her to comically toss, as well. Or how about it if you're not wearing the garter but simply tossing it? In that case, you can sweeten the deal by attaching a Starbucks gift card to the frilly lace.

Chloe Jackman, a wedding photographer in San Francisco, explains, “There are so many things that we say and do in our everyday lives that are rooted in history, and sometimes that history is unsavory. The garter comes from a time when women were property and controlled, but now it's a fun part of a wedding. We did it because we wanted to, because it can be hilarious, and I know I am not property—that's for damn sure!” In other words, you can modernize the wedding garter toss in any way you want to.


Julianne Smith, The Garter Girl, and Liz Susong
Published on April 14, 2018


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