The origin of the tradition of the wedding garter toss began in the Dark Ages as a proof of consummation. In order to prove a wedding consummation, you would actually have family and other guests present during the act! The garter (or other undergarment) would be taken by the witnesses as proof. (How awkward.) In England, this was known as “fingering the stocking”.
As the tradition continued through the years, it got even more uncomfortable. It became the job of the witnesses to actually take the undergarments off the bride themselves – often with quite a bit of wrestling. During the skirmish, the garter would get thrown, and it became good luck to anyone who caught it.
Thankfully, wedding guests no longer follow the newlyweds to their bedroom. A much tamer version of the practice persists in the form of the garter toss. Let’s have a look at photographs of this wedding tradition from mid-century through the 1980s…
Bachelors desperately clamor for the garter in this photograph from 1963
While the tradition of garter removal is nowhere near as intrusive as the borderline assault of centuries past, it still often inspires a degree of awkwardness.
One of the bridesmaids shields a man’s eyes to preserve the bride’s modesty as the garter is removed. The tradition held an uncomfortable spot in the wedding rituals in the sexually repressed 1950s.
Two totally different weddings in different years (1968 and 1969), yet so much alike.
Just look at his tux – the 1970s weren’t kind to wedding attire.
Nice platform shoes. This garter removal photo wins on cool points alone.
I’ll bet the guy in the front caught it – clearly he wants it the most.
Evidently it was a common practice to photograph the bride and her garter prior to the removal (probably before the wedding or reception).
More bachelors desperate for the precious garter…. a definite improvement over the Medieval practice of turning the bride upside down and having the men strip it (and other undergarments) off her.
A bride has garter adjusted in this photograph from 1966.
One of my favorite photos of them all – a bride covers the groom’s eyes as he prepares to flick her garter.
It’s the 1970s – the classic white wedding dress is replaced with gingham, but the garter tradition remains.
“Memories in Motion 1988” – you can almost taste the awkwardness.
You simply have to love this groom’s crushed velvet wedding tux.
A couple military grooms and their gartered brides.
It looks like this bride had to drink down some liquid courage in preparation for the garter removal; she looks positively hammered.
Below, another bride busy liquoring-up to steel herself for the garter removal.
One wonders how they did the garter tradition back when brides wore mini-dresses. I presume they just put them on right before the ceremonial removal?
I love how the guy on the left in the grey suit is so far from the garter… yet still he has hope.
Garter removal in 1968. Below, twenty years later…
This is what you call a wedding reception done on the cheap. Good for them! This backyard garter removal is a beautiful thing.
In the couple photos above, we have the garter being put on by the bridesmaid in preparation for the wedding. Below, I guess we have daddy doing the job?
Well, that’s enough garter removing and tossing for one article. I hope all these couples are still as happy as they appear in these photographs. Cheers!
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