The history of how the garter toss came to be is, well, gross. During the Dark Ages, wedding guests would get wild, and by the end of the wedding, they’d rip off the bride’s clothing as a way to ‘encourage’ the couple to ‘consummate’ their marriage. Even worse, it was considered good luck to have a piece of the bride’s ripped dress. “Bedding ceremony” rituals varied by culture, but were extremely prevalent throughout Europe. They all included a public element (either by actively watching or waiting immediately outside) to prove the couple had completed the legally binding ritual of intercourse. This was also used as a way to prove a bride was still a virgin (insert eye roll).
Kim Forrest, Senior Editor for WeddingWire, explained to Refinery29, “Back in olden times, newly-married couples were expected to consummate their union pretty much immediately after the wedding. And family members and friends would wait outside of their room to make sure that this happened.” Forrest also elaborated that, as a way to try and save the couple’s clothing from destruction, the garter became a way to appease the wedding crowd, “After the marriage was consummated, the groom would give the bride’s garter to the waiting crowd to prove that the deed was done.” This tradition continued to change as the concept of bedding ceremony rituals grew less popular, and has morphed into the spectacle seen today (which not so subtly happens towards the end of a wedding reception).