Although you’ll hear claims that the garter toss is a tradition dating to medieval times, it’s more likely that it originated in the 20th century, about the time your grandparents got married. Aside from the fact that no Victorian maiden would have carried on a tradition that involved showing her bare legs to a crowd, it’s notable that, although every wedding etiquette book of the first half of the 20th century mentions the bouquet toss, none mentions the garter toss – not even as something vulgar to be avoided.
The one merit of the garter stocking toss was that it gave the groom something to do at the reception, other than look dazed with delight (or simply dazed). But there are all sorts of things that he can hurl into an expectant crowd of gentlemen without having to put his hands up his bride’s skirt first. An obvious choice is his boutonniere. Another obvious choice is his bowtie, provided a rental agency doesn’t expect to see it back in the morning. If the groom is an old-fashioned sort, he can take a bit of elastic and ribbon and make himself sleeve garters, which used to be used to adjust the sleeve length on a man’s shirt. With a properly fitted shirt, of course, these don’t have any use-but a bride’s garter isn’t holding up her stockings these days either.
A side benefit of the garter toss was that, by supposedly indicating the next man to marry, it implied that men might look forward to marriage as much as women. If you like this aspect of the garter toss but don’t like the garter toss itself, there are other ways to end your reception by celebrating marriage. An increasingly popular choice is to present the bouquet to the longest married couple present. Either the bride and groom know in advance who this will be…or, more frequently, the DJ announces a couples dance for all married couples. As the couples dance, he asks couples married only five years to sit down, then couples married only 10 years, and so on, until only one elderly but devoted couple remains, surrounded by the applauding multitude.
Just skip it?
Of course, there’s always the alternative of simply omitting the garter toss and adding nothing! Have the bouquet toss… or don’t have it, according to the bride’s preferences. Guests can hardly rush forward, rip the garter from the bride’s leg, and force it into the groom’s resisting hands. If you have a plan for your reception and stick to it (making sure your musicians understand it, too), very few guests will think to question you, much less to rebel.
If you intend to make a Grand Exit toward the end of the reception, simply do so. Thank people, wave goodbye, and make a run for it, surrounded by showers of whatever your reception site will allow thrown. By the time anyone stops to say, “But wait, they didn’t throw anything,” you’ll be in the next county.
Plenty of time
If you intend to stay until the last guest has left and you can turn the lights out behind the musicians, you might want to brief a close friend or family member to start the exodus of guests after a few hours, so that people will feel free to go home. Once guests see other people hugging you and heading out, they’ll do the same. Should any of them wake up in the middle of the night and say, “But he didn’t take off her garter!”-well, by then, all the “taking off” tasks will probably be accomplished, right?