Wedding Traditions Explained: The Garter

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What Is A Garter?

Garters have been around for hundreds of years. Before the invention of elastic, they were used to hold up stockings. The top of each stocking would be made in ‘garter stitch’ allowing a piece of ribbon to be passed through and tied around the leg. When elastic became available to the public garters no longer needed to be passed through the stockings themselves, although they were still used to help hold them up.

As time has gone on garters have (thankfully) become nothing more than an accessory. They’re worn by brides around the world, and are now often made of lace, satin, elastic and ribbon.

Bridesmaids helping bride get into her garter and wedding dress

How To Wear A Garter

There’s no right or wrong way to wear a garter on your wedding day. Traditionally two garters would be worn to hold up both stockings. As most brides opt for one ornate garter, they choose whichever leg feels comfiest. It’s generally said that placing the garter just above the knee is the most practical place. It’s the thinnest part of the leg, so won’t rub the opposite even when sitting, and won’t create a bump if you have a tight fitted dress it also won’t cut off any circulation. If it does start to slip at all, your knee will stop it coming all the way down. However, being comfortable is the key. Wear it however feels best for you.

Why do we wear a garter

Garter Toss

The garter toss is a tradition that has been around for hundreds of years, but has mainly died off in the UK. Similar to throwing the bouquet, the bride will sit on a chair surrounded by her guests while the groom removes her garter. The groom them throws the garter to the single men at the wedding reception – whoever catches it will be married next.

This tradition stems from the belief that having a piece of the bride or grooms wedding outfit was lucky. In the 1800’s guests would follow the newlyweds to their marital bedroom and try to grab a piece of fabric. This could result in a bit of a brawl, and of course a ruined bridal gown. To stop the fight occurring, couples started to remove the garter in front of their guests and throw it to them. This also offered them a little more privacy when they went to bed too!

In the UK the garter is seen more as an accessory and keepsake. Not every bride chooses to wear one, and those that do don’t always throw it to their guests. Do whatever feels comfortable to you.

Next up we’re talking about the tradition of The Wedding Train.