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Friday, November 13, 2009

Exhaustive History of the Wedding Garter Tradition

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Hello class... Everyone please take your seats.  Today we'll be discussing the history of the wedding garter.   I have done some MAJOR EXTENSIVE  research on the subject of  "The History of the Wedding Garter".  The information dates back to newspaper and other articles from the late 1800's!  I came up with many interesting facts and tidbits to make you go "Hmmm", and some to make you go "What?" and others to make you go "Why?".  These are things I didn't know, or wasn't quite clear on, when I first started making garters.

This may be more than you ever wanted to know about the history of the wedding garter, so you may want to skim on through.  But I wanted to include the interesting and trivial factoids that I came across because it seems that there are so many "history's" out there, but none are really complete. So I researched and organized the data I found,  into ONE complete article.     I sure hope that this won't turn many of you off to the point of not wanting to even wear a pretty little garter on your wedding.  After all,  you make your wedding what you want it to be.  You don't have to show anyone your garter but your groom.

The History Of the Wedding Garter Tradition

The wedding garter tradition that we are familiar with today is very different from what it started out as... It has morphed so much through the centuries that it is (in my opinion) nearly 100% different than how it started out. Not only are the items being flung around different but the location, reason and people involved, are all different.   Why do you think it's changed so much ?  I'll tell you, because guys and gals got the guts up to change the traditions to be the way THEY wanted them to be.   And here in the Millennium of the 2000's we are in the midst of the very same thing happening with the garter tradition.  It's being re-thought, re-done and sometimes undone all together.  But one thing's for certain there will always be beautiful wedding garters to adorn the lovely legs of the brides who choose to wear them

The one little thing that has survived but IS dying out - is the use of the color blue for the garter It's said to represent fidelity, purity, love and good fortune, so this is why traditionally it was the color of choice.    Some believed the garter as representing the virginal girdle. When the groom removed the garter, he was in essence demonstrating publicly, that the bride was relinquishing her virginal status to him...

Flinging The Stocking
Garter-throwing gets it's roots from an old 14th / 15th century English ceremony called "flinging the stocking." Guests would playfully invade the bridal bed-chamber (along with the bridal party) and grab the bride's stockings, particularly her left one, along with other "pretty sorceries"  (which were things used to control or protect from evil spirits) - yes some strange superstitions were floating about.

1736 - Frederick Prince of Wales was married . The males of the royal family undressed the prince and the princesses undressed the bride (some pretty kinky stuff here I'd say) The brides Father-in-law would visit her, after which the bridegroom would come in... then the rest of the court would be admitted into the bed-chamber to see the bride and groom sitting up in bed surrounded by the royal family. It would be at this point that the flinging the stocking and scrambling for garters would commence.

Believe it or not... the stocking flinging was not only be for the bride but also for the groom. The girls would take the grooms stocking and the guys would take the brides stocking and then  they would stand or sit at the foot of the bed facing away and take turns tossing or "Flinging" the stocking  backward, over their left shoulder, trying to get it on the bride or her spouse. The gal who successfully flung the grooms stocking on his head (and sometimes more exactly his NOSE) was thought to have good luck and be married within the following 12 months. The same was true of the guy who flung the brides stocking onto the bride.

You can get some stockings to fling at your groom here - Leg Avenue Light Pink Thigh High Sheer Ruffle Stockings (Google Affiliate Ad)

Dividing of the Brides Garters
Dividing the brides wedding garter - sounds strange and it is... apparently some of the people a few hundred years ago had ribbons on their garters (that held up their stockings).  These ribbon streamers were many feet long - they would then cut the ribbons into small pieces and pass them out to the guests.  This is where the whole tradition of "wedding favors" originated  (bet you didn't know that!)  Isn't this wedding stuff weird?

Back in the early 1900's a German royal wedding incorporated passing out pieces of small ribbons to the guests. This was in remembrance of the custom of "the Dividing of the Brides Garters"

Dividing of the Garters - Used to be in Vogue with the Prussians back in the day. It was a time honored tradition where the Mistress of the house would go in to the brides quarters on the night of her wedding and remove her royal garters... Then the garters would be cut up and distributed to all the gentlemen of the household.

This is no longer done... the bride now keeps her garters but small pieces of ribbon are prepared ahead of time embroidered with the brides first initial and then given out to the household members.  (boy oh boy if you have 100's of guests thats a LOT of embroidering) 

Good Luck of the Garter Lead to the Toss
As time passed it became a tradition for the groom to present his guests gifts of Scraves, Gloves and Garters of his favorite colors.   In return he received gifts of plates,  and other household items.  The garters were ment to represent those worn by the bride. They were then placed on the hats of the Gallants (young men of fashion) who attended the ceremony..  The real "Order of the Garter" probably had something to do with this custom.  You can find out more about it here - History of the Most Noble Order of the Garter and the Several Orders of Knighthood in Europe (Google Affiliate Ad)  Prevalent in the Northern England area, sometimes the way they went about getting the garters resulted in quite a bit of horsing around (even in the church).  This could be traumatic to the bride; she would scream and sometimes even faint!

Greed took over the tradition and it was common for guests to stampede toward the bride at the alter to get the garter. Throwing the garter to the mob saved the bride from being trampled. The guest who received the garter would then wear it on his hat until he gave it to a woman for luck.   It was considered lucky to get a fragment of the bride's clothing.  Guests would rip at her wedding dress in order to tear off pieces. Many brides were treated poorly, and although they didn't believe they'd be wearing their wedding gowns again, they objected to its violent destruction. They looked for an alternative and, instead began the custom of throwing personal articles, such as the garter, to the guests.

When a couple decides to participate in the garter toss tradition, the groom removes the garter then tosses it to an unmarried man.  The man who catches the garter must place it on the leg of the unmarried woman who catches the bouquet. They will be the next to marry (not each other but in general) 
More than half of today’s weddings include garter and bouquet traditions.  There are some pros and cons to participating in the toss traditions exactly like described above... I'll give you one of each.
Pro:  It's a tradition... Many guests will look forward to it and enjoy the fun time... Older generations would expect to see it.  Since, both older and younger wedding guests are somewhat familiar with the toss tradition, it may help bridge generation gaps and everyone can have fun.

Con - For what ever reason, some guests just don't want to get involved.  They may think it's childish or others may be embarrassed they are single  (why they would be is a mystery to me - it's hardly a thing to be embarrassed  about)

But if you are not comfortable with any specific tradition you can easily create your own unique way of doing things.   Instead of feeling bound by any tradition, take matters into your own hands like the brides and grooms have over the centuries.    They didn't get rid of the entire ceremony nor obliterate the tradition they just tweaked, changed and morphed it into something THEY wanted and could live with. 

Why not do the same with your wedding.  Maybe having your new husband go digging under your dress isn't your thing (this is understandable)  So instead you could either wear your garter for YOU and HE only - and never remove it in front of any guests.  Or if you do want to do the toss but don't want to flaunt your undies to the crowd, you could have your garter positioned below your knee for easy and discrete removal by your groom. 

You could simply wear a very special luxury wedding garter that is meant as a keepsake of your day.  Have it embroidered with your names and wedding date or maybe have a monogram sewn onto your wedding garter.   It can be worn but not tossed.  The main thing is to enjoy your day... embrace all the traditions as much or as little as you like.  After all, in the end, the wedding day is only one day of your life...  Make it something you would cherish and look back on with happiness. 

Victoria Joanne

Credits and References

1892 ! Otago Witness , Issue 1988, 31 March 1892, Page 39

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