Today, the tradition of tossing wedding garters out into the crowd of single men at a wedding is a fun and lighthearted activity that this practiced at most modern weddings. However, this centuries old tradition was once a bit brutal and even dangerous for the bride. In the Middle Ages, superstitions were rampant and commonly practiced by people of all classes. Life was difficult back then, so any bit of luck was thought to be a precious commodity that people would aggressively pursue. One of these superstitions had to do with the newly married bride.
Brides of those days were considered pure because of their virginal status and a symbol of fertility because marriage was most commonly followed by the birth of new babies shortly thereafter. Brides were considered to be very lucky because they had found a mate and would soon transition from virgin to woman and eventually to mother. As a result, everyone wanted a piece of this luck and it became common practice for the wedding guests or townsfolk to tear off pieces of the wedding dress for good luck.
Wedding garters also were associated with virginity and fertility. The act of the groom removing the chastity belt from the bride symbolized the transition from girl to woman or child to wife. The desire to hold these wedding garters was considered the ultimate in good luck, so wedding guests would often attack brides in order to possess the most luck. Brides would often be trampled during these attacks of drunken wedding guests, so the tradition transformed into the groom removing the wedding garter first and then throwing it into the crowd before they got out of control.
Single men wanted these wedding garters because it was thought that it would bring them good luck in finding a bride of their own. The lucky man who caught the wedding garter would place it in his hat and wear it until he found a woman he wanted to marry and would give it to her to show his intentions. Other times the man who caught the wedding garter would then place the garter upon the leg of a girl he was interested in at the wedding.
The female guests of the wedding wanted a little bit of luck as well and soon the bride began throwing her wedding bouquet into the crowd of single women. It was thought that whoever caught the bridal bouquet would be the next one to find a husband. Other cultures believed that the girl who caught the bouquet and the man who caught the wedding garter would end up marrying each other.