A bridal garter is an accessory that a bride wears around her thigh under her wedding gown. In the past, garters were used for functional purposes, as they were needed to hold up a woman's stockings. While garters are no longer necessary for function, many women, particularly brides, still wear them for aesthetics and purposes of tradition.
There are many style variations for the modern bridal garter. A standard garter is typically a stretchy cloth band, usually white, and adorned with lace, bows or other decorations. Many brides choose a garter with blue accents because of the adage, "Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue." Some brides may take the opportunity to coordinate the garter color with the dress color of her attendants.
In the United States, the wedding tradition of tossing the garter is fairly standard, with some variations. It is often performed in conjunction with the tossing of the bridal bouquet. Traditionally, the groom removes the bridal garter from the bride's leg and throws it to the single male guests. The bride tosses her bouquet to the single female guests, and the individuals who catch the items will supposedly be the next to marry, though not necessarily to each other. Many brides will choose to wear two garters, so that one may be thrown and one may be saved as a keepsake.
It is believed that the garter tradition began in England or France during the 14th century. There are several theories as to the development of the tradition that is currently observed. One is that, historically, it was considered good luck to get a piece of a bride's clothing, which led to guests attempting to tear off portions of the wedding gown. Brides then began the practice of tossing personal items, such as the bridal garter, in substitution.
Another theory is that the modern tradition evolved from an old English custom in which guests would follow the newly married couple to the wedding chambers and attempt to steal the stockings belonging to the bride and groom. The guests would throw the stockings over their shoulders, attempting to hit the newlyweds, and would be blessed with good luck if they succeeded. Generally, the modern tradition of tossing the garter is believed to have evolved from these more invasive customs.
The tradition of wearing and tossing a bridal garter continues to be observed and enjoyed by many couples today. There are nearly limitless options for color, style, and personalization of the contemporary garter. Joining storied tradition and modern innovation in design and fashion, new brides are able to add a personal twist to this long-standing wedding ritual.