The Wedding Bouquet Toss and Tossing the Garter

The Bride's Bouquet

Early records of wedding traditions show that a Ancient Greek ceremonies used laurel crowns to adorn the bride's head.  Laurel, symbolizing Aprodite, the Goddess of Love, was also used by the ancient Romans in the form of wreaths which were worn around the bride's neck.

What are orange blossoms?  Well, they're just what they sound like - they're flowers produced by orange trees.  They are a bright white colour, with five thin petals. As well as being daintily attractive, orange blossoms have a strong pleasant fragrance. Over time they have become synonymous with good luck.  They are also, incidentally, Florida's state flower - Florida, after all, being the largest producer of oranges in the USA, and only second biggest producer of oranges in the world behind Brazil.

Back in the Middle Ages, it was initially only the richer members of the populace were able to afford the luxury of orange blossom bouquets. Brides who were not so well-off would wear wild flowers such as fragrant myrtle in a crown, and would carry bouquets of herbs like dill, rosemary, garlic and spices.  These herbs would perform two purposes - in addition to being  decorative items for the bride to carry, they would be diced and scattered over the food at the wedding meal.  

The custom of using herbs in the bridal bouquet continued in Elizabethan times in England, with rosemary being added to signify joy.  In Scotland, heather was used to indicate good fortune, ivy for married love and thistles for austerity.

As the cost of orange blossoms began to reduce, over time their general use increased  becoming quite prevalent by the 19th century in weddings in the USA.     

The tradition of only-white bouquets in England is said to have been started by queen Victoria. Her bouquet was made up of snowdrops, which was the favorite flower of her groom, Prince Albert.

Today it is customary for the bride's bouquet to be bought by the groom, and for the bride's future father-in-law to bring the bouquet to her home before the marriage ceremony. The type of flowers are more varied than the ancient style of only having orange blossoms, and can include roses, lilies and orchids amongst other flowers.

The Wedding Bouquet Toss

Tossing the wedding bouquet is a widely used custom in the USA, where the bride throws the bouquet into a gathering of her unmarried female friends and relatives. It is believed that the person who catches the bouquet will become the next one to be married in the future.

Originally it wasn't actually the bouquet that the bride would toss, but a shoe. Over time the custom evolved toward throwing flowers instead, which is quite fortunate if you're unlucky enough to be accidentally hit on the head by the object being tosssed!

In Spain, the wedding bouquet is usually given to someone previously decided upon by the bride and groom.

There is also a similar custom involving the little bride and groom figurines which are often found standing atop the wedding cake. These figures may be given to a couple, amongst the guests, who are soon to be married.

The Garter Toss

Many people think that the tradition of the garter toss stared in 14th century France. Guests, probably in an over-enthusiastic state of celebratory drunkenness, would run behind the bride and attempt to snatch her garter as it was believed that it would bring good luck. To prevent the bride from ending up with all of the guests under her skirt, the custom of voluntarily tossing the garter began.

Whereas the bride tosses the bridal bouquet to the single female guests, it is the groom who tosses the garter to the single males. In older times the groom would remove the garter with his teeth but this is considerd to be a bit vulgar and uncouth these days. The garter should simply be removed discretely to avoid any embarassment to the bride. Often the removal is performed whilst the bride and groom are seated at the meal table.

In a similar fashion to the bouquet toss, it is belived that the man who catches the garter will be the next one to become married. Some versions of the custom say that the man who catches the garter will marry the woman who catches the bride's bouquet.

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