Why It Might Be Time to Nix the Bouquet and Garter Toss

Why force it if it makes everyone uncomfortable?
by Maggie Seaver
Brie holding bouquet with yellow, peach and magenta flowers
Tifani Lyn Photography

Don't want to single out your single guests? We feel you. Some traditions are awesome, but others are still around just, kind of, because—while everyone secretly hopes they’ll make a nice, orderly exit from our lives. Enter, the bouquet and garter toss, which held relevant superstitious symbolism back in the day, but often add a layer of awkwardness at modern weddings. (People once believed stealing a piece of the bride’s wedding clothing or accessories would bestow some of her good fortune upon them—seriously, they would try to tear off pieces of her dress! And removing the garter represented the consummation of marriage.)

These days, although the sentiment is benign and the activity can be fun if everyone’s okay with it, it’s basically a way to gather single or unmarried wedding guests and embarrass them in front of the entire party (yikes!). To be clear, no judgment here if you and your single friends want to partake—that’s your prerogative. But we also won’t judge if you decide to, ahem, toss these rituals out the window. Here are a few reasons you might consider nixing them or replacing them with a more subtle alternative.

It’s Awkward for Everyone

You know what single people don’t like? Being called out for being single—especially at the romantic celebration of two professed soul mates. The bouquet toss, although harmless in its intent, shines a spotlight on anyone who isn’t married and promotes the assumption that marriage is what everyone should strive toward. Not everyone feels that way, of course, but it’s important to keep your guests’ comfort levels in mind, just in case. And what if there’s only one single or unmarried woman at your wedding? (It happens.) Is she going to stand alone in front of the entire reception to catch your bouquet? No thank you.

The garter toss can be even more uncomfortable—for the bride, the groom and everyone watching—in addition to singletons participating. The groom digs around under his bride’s dress to remove a lacy piece of lingerie, then flings it into a crowd of cheering single men—all witnessed by their family and friends. And to make things more awkward, the “lucky” bachelor who catches the garter is supposed to place it on the bachelorette who catches the bouquet. What if they’re brother and sister? What if they don’t want to be put on the spot with a stranger? What if your divorced uncle snags the garter and your 14-year-old cousin finds herself with the bouquet? It’s pretty cringe worthy when you think about it, so we don’t blame you if it’s not a priority on your reception timeline. If everyone’s down for it, that’s awesome, but if you’re feeling wary, skip it.

It’s Potentially Dangerous

Okay, this sounds silly (and we know, it can make for some prime GIFs), but you’ve probably heard a horror story or two about someone getting elbowed in the eye or crashing into the beautiful cake while trying to poach a fly-ball bouquet. Even if it’s an accident, it’s still no fun for anyone. Have two very competitive friends who might actually fight each other for it? Might be a sign to avoid the situation altogether.

There Are Other Fun Things to Try Instead

First of all, you don’t need to replace the sequence with something else, but if you feel like something would be missing without it, here are a few fun, inclusive activities to try. Separate the flowers of your bouquet and hand out individual stems to your loved ones. You could also set up a bouquet and boutonniere station where guests can assemble their own personalized blooms. Or take it to the dance floor: Have a special anniversary dance to celebrate all the married couples at your wedding. The band or DJ plays a song and eliminates each couple depending on the amount of time they've been married. The last couple remaining (the couple married for the longest) is presented with the bouquet as a gift. True, this is only celebrating couples, but at least it's not singling any singles out.

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