A wedding garter is a ruched band of fabric that fastens above the bride’s knee beneath her dress. While a functional garter holds up a lady’s stockings with the help of garter belts, the wedding variety sits on its own for easy removal before the toss.
Modern brides see the garter as an opportunity to add a bit of style to the tradition—such as making it their “something new, old, borrowed, or blue,” or choosing a garter with elaborate bows, embroidery, or lace.
The history of the wedding garter has—thankfully—adapted over time. According to Brides, an early 20th-century wedding historian explained that the tradition dates back all the way to Medieval England. Before she and her groom would run off at the end of the celebration, guests would vie for the bride’s garter as a good-luck souvenir.
Quite frightfully, if the bride did not offer the guests something easy to grab like the garter, the guests could sprint after the bride and rip off any piece of the dress they could get a hold of.
Luckily for us, the garter is now simply tossed to the enthusiastic crowd to mark the old tradition.
Nowadays, the garter tradition mirrors the bouquet toss with a few extra steps. First, the groom removes the bride’s garter in front of the crowd—typically to music—and tosses it into a group of single guests.
While this next step is losing popularity, the receiving guest will then slide it onto the leg of the person who caught the bouquet.
Tossing the wedding into a crowd is much like the bouquet—in modern tradition, whoever catches it is said to be the next person to get married.
On the other hand, you may be asking: why does the groom remove the garter with his teeth? Or, why does he go under the bride’s dress? The garter toss used to mark the moment before the couple ran off to consummate the marriage. These suggestive rituals date back to when what happened right after the wedding was just as important as the wedding itself.
There’s no reason to lose a meaningful accessory to a tradition. Some brides choose to toss a different garter to the crowd and hold onto their own for safekeeping.
What about if the tradition isn’t right for you? Do you have to wear a garter to the wedding? Absolutely not. Some brides find them uncomfortable, especially if they're covered in rhinestones and lace.
Garter styles range from the traditional satin and lace to playful materials and colors. Beaded appliques are a popular choice as are personalized garters with monograms or the wedding date.
Unlike many wedding traditions, there is no ritual behind gifting a garter. The groom, a bridesmaid, the mother of the bride, or the bride herself can purchase this accessory if they choose.
Bridal boutiques typically offer matching garters with their dresses, or even include them as a free gift. For handmade garters and unique options, Etsy is a popular choice, as are lingerie companies that sell them in sets with other intimates.
Since a garter sits under your dress, you can buy it before or after you find your gown. Just be sure to leave plenty of time for shipping so it arrives on time.
On average, garters range anywhere from $10-$100, depending on its extent of beading, the material, and whether it is handmade.
The majority of wedding garters are secured with elastic, but its exact range will vary from piece to piece. Measure the circumference of your thigh about four to five inches above your knee with a tape measure or string. Check the specific measuring instructions from your designer to choose a size that will fit snugly and comfortably.
Since we no longer wear garters to hold up our everyday stockings, where do you place the garter on your leg? And on what leg do you even wear the garter?
As we mentioned above, the garter typically sits about five inches above the knee, or wherever it falls more comfortably for you. Place it up far enough so that it doesn’t slip but it's still easy to grab for the toss.
There is no specific tradition dictating on which leg to wear the wedding garter. Choose the side that feels most comfortable for you.
Luckily, you no longer have to flee from your guests at the end of your wedding reception—tossing the garter into the crowd will suffice. At the end of the day, choose a wedding garter that shows off your unique sense of style and ties together your stunning wedding day look.