Why Do Brides Wear Garters?

Popular Wedding Tradition Explained

Bride wearing garter on her wedding day

Calling all brides-to-be! As your big day approaches you might be wondering if you should include a garter as part of your wedding attire. And you may find yourself questioning the need for a garter if you're not planning to wear stockings and why just one?

Wedding traditions can often seem peculiar at first glance, but they often carry significant meanings. The bridal garter is no exception and there are various theories surrounding its origins that we'll explore.

In contemporary Western weddings garters are typically worn under the wedding dress on one leg. In America at heterosexual weddings there's an intriguing tradition where the groom removes the garter during the reception, either with his hands or even his teeth, and tosses it to the guests.

However, this "garter toss" element is not as common in the UK and Europe. The decision to wear a garter ultimately depends on your perspective on traditional wedding customs.

Being a renowned Surrey wedding venue, here at Gorse Hill we fully embrace wedding traditions. If you're interested like us about this age-old tradition or perhaps would like to embrace it, keep reading to discover the history behind this piece of bridal lingerie. 

Wedding Garter Tradition Origin

The wedding garter tradition has roots back to the Dark Ages. In Carl Holliday's book "Wedding Customs Then and Now," Holliday describes how in medieval England bridesmaids would accompany the bride to the wedding chamber but suddenly a cry would arise to "Get her garter." 

bride holiding garter at gorse hill in surrey

The bride would usually have loosely fastened her garter to the bottom of her dress making it visible to the eager onlookers. Those who managed to snatch a piece of the dress or garter considered it good luck and the crowd would sometimes become rowdy, following the couple to their marital bed and tearing at their clothes as a form of "encouragement."

To amuse the lively crowd the bride and groom started the tradition of tossing the bouquet and the garters that held up the bride's stockings. This practice served as a way to appease the guests and divert their attention from the couple's intimate moments.

Garter Toss Meaning 

After the groom removes the garter it's a tradition for him to throw it at the unmarried male guests during the "garter toss" moment. But some brides may want to keep their garter especially if it's personalised or holds sentimental value. 

In those cases they have a second less expensive "toss garter" prepared for the groom to throw instead. This way, they can preserve their special garter while still taking part in the fun tradition of the "garter toss."

What is a Garter?

In the world of fashion a garter is a fabric band wrapped around a person's leg serving the important purpose of keeping a sock or stocking in place before elasticated tights were invented. 

In the context of weddings the custom has evolved in Western cultures. Brides often embrace the tradition of wearing a single garter on one leg typically without a stocking. This practice adds a touch of elegance to the bride's ensemble, symbolising a cherished part of the wedding celebration.

garter on bed

Do you wear your garter for the entire wedding?

Some brides choose to wear their wedding garter throughout the entire day, while others may put it on and take it off at different parts of the celebration. 

The most popular times to wear the garter are during the "getting ready" or "bridal" photoshoot before the ceremony. It's up to you how you want to incorporate this tradition into your special day!

Garter Toss Alternatives

There are many creative ways to personalise the wedding garter tradition and make it uniquely yours. You have the freedom to modernise and customise it according to your preferences.

If you're not keen on the traditional garter toss, don't worry! There are great alternatives to consider. Some brides opt to keep the garter as a modern heirloom, and if that's your wish, you can have a separate "toss garter." The groom can take the spare one off your leg and toss while you keep the real garter as a cherished keepsake forever.

Some brides may want to keep the toss but feel uncomfortable with the idea of their groom fishing for the garter beneath their dress while their parents and grandparents watch. If this is the case, you can choose not to wear the garter during the ceremony and hand it to your groom just before the toss. This way you tailor the toss to your comfort level.

Alternatively, you can explore other wedding traditions. For more inspiration check out our blog on "Why Do Brides Throw Their Bouquets?".

Remember, it's your special day and you can adapt and personalise traditions to create beautiful and memorable moments that truly reflect your style and preferences.

bride putting on garter at gorse hill in surrey


Q: What is the tradition of removing the garter?
A: During the wedding reception, it is a tradition for the groom to remove the garter from underneath the bride's gown, either using his hands or teeth, and then toss it into the crowd of guests. The garter toss is quite like the bouquet toss. According to the belief, the unmarried man who catches the garter is said to be the next one to get married.

Q: Do brides wear garters anymore?
A: While not mandatory, many modern brides still choose to wear garters as part of their wedding attire. It has become a popular and cherished accessory for brides, adding a touch of tradition to their special day.

Q: Is garter toss awkward?
A: The garter toss is a wedding tradition that can evoke mixed feelings among brides. Some love the idea, while others prefer to skip it. In recent times many brides are choosing not to include the garter toss in their wedding celebrations, while others find it to be a fun and amusing tradition worth keeping. The decision ultimately depends on each bride's personal preferences and the overall style of the wedding celebration.

Q: Which leg does the garter go on?
A: You can wear the garter on any leg that feels comfortable to you as there is no specific traditional leg for it. 

Q: Why are wedding garters blue?
A: Your wedding garter doesn't have to be blue but it can be a perfect way to include the "something blue" element from the wedding saying: "Something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue." This saying dates back to England in 1898 and represents items a bride needed for good luck on her wedding day.

Q: Is a garter toss necessary?
A: The garter toss is entirely at the discretion of the bride. It's your special day and you can choose what feels right for you and your celebration.

Q: Who buys the garter for the bride?
A: There are no strict rules about who should buy a bride's wedding garter. If you wish to gift one to a friend for her bridal shower, it can be a lovely and considerate gesture. Alternatively, if you want to choose your own bridal garter for your wedding that is perfectly acceptable as well.