(See introduction and disclaimer to this series here, and other posts in the series here.)
What is the tradition?
During the reception, the groom takes a garter off the bride's leg, has all the single men gather, and tosses it to them for one to catch. Similarly, the bride has all the single women father, and tosses her bouquet to them for one to catch. Superstition has it that the two catchees will be the next people to marry. In some cases, the man who caught the garter also proceeds to put the garter on the leg of the woman who caught the bouquet.
What is the origin of the tradition?
Most likely based on some combination of community involvement in helping make sure the marriage was consummated, and that the bride was considered good luck, at some point it became common for guests to grab at the bride's clothing as the couple left the wedding. To appease them without losing her clothing, brides began throwing the bouquet or small articles - like a garter - to the guests instead.
Why do people still follow it?
Fortunately, I think both tosses are starting to become less popular. The act of singling out the single guests is seen as less than respectful of your loved ones who came to celebrate with you, and the sexual removal of an undergarment from the bride in front of all her relatives has begun to be seen as the tacky event that it is.
Ultimately, I think those who do participate are looking it at simply as good old fun. It can be readily boiled down to as essentially a party game, so what's the harm?
Why is that crap?
Underneath that party game, though, both the underlying tradition (either treating the consummation of a marriage as a matter of public importance, or treating the bride as merely an object that can raided for good luck charms), and the actions who make your guests under go (pointing out marital status in a denigrating manner, acting in an overtly sexual manner with your spouse in front of your guests, or coercing two complete strangers into acting in an overtly sexual manner with each other in front your guests), contain an ickiness that can is not worth ignoring for the sake of fun.
What am I doing with this tradition?
There was no garter or bouquet to toss, and we didn't have a dance floor or similar venue with which to host any sort of little games or activities anyway. If I had had a bouquet, I might have considered using one of the alternatives I've heard of, of ceremonially giving your bouquet to a special guest - perhaps a mother or grandmother, or the longest married couple in the room.
How did/will you handle this tradition?
I would love to have a lively debate and conversation in the comments! Please join in!
Dissenting opinions (from the post itself or other commenters) are welcome, but I reserve the right to delete any comments that personally attack me or any other commenter.