Bridal Garter

A discussion of the lore and superstitions surrounding the bridal garter.

Superstition:   The lore and customs surrounding bridal garters.

Origins:   The groom’s public removal of his wife’s garter is a traditional way of announcing to all present his undisputed


right by way of marriage to the use of her body. She is his to procreate with, says this custom.

Modern brides who feel embarrassed by the practice of their new husband publicly removing the bridal garter with his teeth should at least feel comforted they weren’t around for the 17th century version of things. In those days, just prior to the bride being popped into the wedding bed by her maids, all the groomsmen would break in and made a play at snatching those garters (one hopes with their hands and not their teeth). The successful ones would trot off with the lady’s frillies pinned to their hats to bring luck.

In the early 19th century, though by then it was the groom and him alone charged with removing the bride’s garter(s), he would then offer up the danties as a prize to the most skilled horseman. Horse races for the garter were seen as part of the wedding festivities. Once again, the prize would be worn pinned to the winner’s


Modern custom now sometimes sees the groom flinging the garter to his groomsmen in a male version of the bride’s bouquet toss. He who catches it will be the next to have his ways, er, altared.

A related bit of archaic merriment made use of the recently-married’s stockings. Bridesmaids and groomsmen would break into the couple’s bed chamber once the happy couple had been bedded and seat themselves on the occupied marital bed. The gals would secure the wife’s stockings, while the guys would get their hands on the husband’s. At a given signal, the stockings were thrown backwards over the intruders’ shoulders at the newlyweds. If one thrown by a bridesmaid hit the groom, or one thrown by a groomsman hit the bride, it was said that person would soon be wed.

Barbara “garter snaked” Mikkelson

Last updated:   27 June 2005


  Sources Sources:

    Hole, Christina.   The Encyclopedia of Superstitions.

    New York: Barnes & Noble, 1996.   ISBN 0-76070-228-4.

    Opie, Iona and Moira Tatem.   A Dictionary of Superstitions.

    Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989.   ISBN 0-19-282-916-5.

    Pickering, David.   Dictionary of Superstitions.

    London: Cassell, 1995.   ISBN 0-304-345350.

    Tuleja, Tad.   Curious Customs.

    New York: Harmony Books, 1987.   ISBN 0-517-56654-0.
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