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New Twist on Old Traditions: Tossing the Bouquet & Garter

As our culture changes, so too do wedding traditions. One of those wedding traditions which is being updated is the bride tossing her bouquet to all the single women and the groom tossing the garter to the men not married. Read on to find out what is changing!

A man and woman stand in loving embrace.

Hey, Christie!

Josh and I are getting married in 2024 at Ainsworth House & Gardens. We love your gorgeous mansion and gardens!

Could I get your guidance? I realize it’s traditional but a number of my single, female colleagues feel the traditions unfairly shine a spotlight on them for being single when as career women, they are quite happy to be single. Is there an alternative?

Personally, I’m not thrilled with the garter toss: I’m not sure I want Josh rummaging around under my dress to find a garter and then fling it to his frat buddies. And then there’s the follow-up: The guy who catches the garter is supposed to put it on the woman who catches my bouquet. What if she is my teen aged cousin and he’s Josh’s uncle? Creepy….Is there a new twist on either or both of these old traditions?

Thanks!–Amelia in Ashland, Oregon

Hey, Amelia!

We look forward to helping you have an amazing wedding here!

And yes, there is a new twist on the tradition of the bouquet and garter toss. As our culture changes to be more inclusive, these tradions are changing too.

First, let’s look at the history of how we got here.

During the Ancient Roman Empire (625 B.C.-476 A.D.), a bride would wear or carry flowers to symbolize fidelity, fertility, and new beginnings. 

She might wear a crown of flowers on her head as evidence of her purity and virginity.

Often, herbs such as dill and rosemary were in the bouquet to bring their magical powers to scare off evil spirits. 

Roman bust
The Freelance History French Medieval Wedding Illustration

During the Middle Ages (476 A.D.-1450 A.D. Collapse of the Roman Empire to the start of the Renaissance), bridal bouquets became larger and were packed with flowers, spices, and fragrant herbs.

Since bathing was completely optional and the smells arising could be odiferous, the bouquet was scented with rosewater to counteract any unpleasant odors.

(Image from The Freelance History of a Medieval French Wedding.)


It was in the 1300s that the bouquet toss is first mentioned.

Tossing the bouquet was an indication of good luck and future happiness for the catcher.

At certain weddings, the bride tossed her garter to the single men; the person catching the garter was the next man to get married.

wedding bouquet
sweet pea eucalyptus wedding bouquet

As weddings in the US in the 1800s became more formal and elaborate, the wedding bouquet toss became more popular. By the 1950s, the tradition was so entrenched that it was expected at every wedding.

This could be humorous: At vow renewal of Dennis and Marti in 1989, the only single “man” was Ari, age 7. He folded his arms and refused to catch the garter!

Fast forward to today. Because people live longer, there are more widows and widowers. In addition, since divorce happens, there are people who are single. As a result, the demographics of to whom the bouquet is tossed has changed as well—especially if the DJ calls out, “All the single people come to the bouquet toss!” There may be adults who don’t want to participate for a variety of personal reasons and would feel uncomfortable being part of the bouquet or garter toss.

Male senior citizen holds two thumbs up and smiles
bride tosses her bouquet to single women at Oregon City Wedding Venue

Single people don’t like to be called out for being single even though that was not the DJ’s intent. Women who have chosen to remain single are swept up in this call, whether they wish to be or not. The absolute worst situation is when there is only one single woman at your wedding and she stands alone when you toss your bouquet.

Is there an alternative?

Yes! Ditch the bouquet and garter toss.

Instead, invite all the married couples to dance during one special song at your reception.

At the end of the dance, ask how long each couple has been married. The couple married the longest is given the bride’s bouquet to honor that couple.


older couple dancing cheek to cheek

(Ground rules: the couple has been married to each other the whole time so someone like a much married Hollywood star can’t add up the years of each of his 8 marriages to win the contest!)

Oregon City Wedding on the Front Lawn at Ainsworth House & Gardens!

If you have additional questions, please reach out to me.

Your friend in the wedding business,

Christie Shyne

Images courtesy of, Ainsworth House & Gardens, and

© 2023-2024. Come Rain or Shyne, LLC. All rights reserved.

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