A long time ago, in order to ward off evil spirits and to hope for prosperity, brides used to carry with themselves things like aromatic bunches of garlic, fruit blossoms, and herbs. Gradually, these were replaced by flowers, which represented fertility and eternal love. As time passed by, another tradition emerged, one which would obviously not be liked by any bride. In this, the guests would try and get a piece or part of the bride’s outfit, since they believed this represented good fortune, and would bring them the same luck as the bride. They would literally tear away at the dress before the bride left the celebration.

There was an old custom in Northern England, where male guests would rush the bride to the later once the ceremony was deemed complete, and remove the garter from her leg. A garter consists of narrow bands of clothe that is fastened about the leg, in order to keep stockings pulled up. It was believed that the person who first removed the garter would be bestowed with consummation, fulfillment, and progeny. Since there were so many guests at the occasion, there was a substantial risk of the bride getting knocked over or trampled on. The garter would then be worn around the hat of the guy who got it first.

Another twist to this custom in the 19th century was for the local youths to run all the way from the church to the house of the bride. The person who first reached the house had the honor of removing the bride’s left garter. He was then able to place it on his own true love’s knee as a symbol of remaining faithful to her.

So the brides thought of an ingenious way that would satisfy the guest and distract them and at the same time prevent them from ripping her dress to shreds and defending herself from physical harm. The same applied to the groom. The bride would toss her bouquet to the unmarried ladies. At the same time, the groom would also throw his garter to the gentlemen that were not yet married and were eagerly waiting at the reception. This would mean that whosoever caught the garter or the bouquet would be the next in line to marry. This tradition still exists today, and has even expanded in many parts of the world. The extended version entails the gentleman putting the caught garter onto the lady who had caught the bouquet. Another way to keep their dress intact is to for the bride to have a second keepsake garter that they can keep with their wedding dress.

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