OK, here it is folks! This is the sequel to the stupid boquet throwing. But this one's for men. Laugh away, gentlemen - there's no way anyone's removing MY undergarments during MY wedding!
by Todd Hertz
August 10, 2005
I'm no historian, but I've developed a theory about the origin of wedding traditions. My hypothesis is simple: It all started in a dark, seedy cave where the United Association of Married People (UAMP) gathered in secret with a nefarious plot. Sure, they started their meeting not-so-nefariously by voting on wedding reception traditions such as eating cake and doing the chicken dance. But things turned ugly when they began discussing the single guests at wedding receptions.
"It's not enough to have big parties where we get cake, presents, and chocolate fountains because we're married," the Grand Poobah of UAMP announced. "But let us completely humiliate those who aren't married and don't get parties with chocolate fountains. We'll gather them in a herd in front of everyone and throw stuff at them!"
Like I said, I'm no historian. But let's face it: The whole garter/bouquet toss thing does feel pretty nefarious. For us singles, these dreaded few minutes can either be a humiliating reminder of what we're missing out on or just a big annoying waste of time. So, when Camerin discussed the female view of these wedding traditions last week, I decided to take a look at the real history behind them. And you know, it's not any less shady than my theory.
It turns out that during the 14th century in Europe, it was good luck to have a piece of the bride's dress. Well, this belief took a dark turn when it led to many incidents of crazed guests literally ripping off the bride's dress (which I always assumed was the groom's job).
To keep cake-drunk luck hunters off her, the bride would throw various items to them (or at them), including that fancy monogrammed cake knife and her garter belt. Soon, the garter became the favorite item of guys in the crowd—because it was less sharp than the knife. Over time, grooms attempted to protect their poor wives by removing the garter themselves and handling its distribution. To give equal excitement to both genders, the bride began throwing the bouquet to single ladies. Yes, this is where the treasured wedding tradition came from: As a security measure to stop people from accosting brides. Beautiful.
Now, I don't know for sure that single people were primarily the ones doing the accosting back in the 14th century, but we singles are the ones still paying the price. And it must be punishment, because I see no other reason this tradition is still practiced.
Let me give you a guy's view of the garter toss. First of all, no guy wants to catch the garter. Ever. I personally think it's kinda creepy to compete for a piece of clothing from another man's wife that, honestly, is too dangerously close to being underwear for me. And what on earth am I supposed to do with the Airborne Under-Thing if I catch it?
But mainly the issue is that guys don't want anyone to know we do hope to be married someday. That's not cool. We laugh at all the girls out there fighting to get their chance to be a wife. But not us macho dudes—we're confident and well adjusted in our bachelorhood!
With that said, there are three main role players in the crowd of the garter toss:
1) The Not-Interested. This role is played by 70 to 80 percent of guys involved. They're the too-cool-for-school guys stationed at the back of the Garter Crowd. Some show their disinterest by holding a drink in one hand, or as I've done, standing back there and eating a piece of cake. Their disinterest is meant to give the message: I don't need that garter. I got all the ladies I can handle.
2) The Competitors. These guys go after the garter as pure contest. Of course, just like The Not-Interested, some of The Competitors very well could want to be married next, but their guise of throwing elbows and spiking the garter like a football is meant to cover that desire.
3) The Poor Shlubs. This is typically a friend of the groom or a member of the groom's family in his 30s or 40s. He's the guy who's still single, would like to marry, and everyone knows it. You can identify him because as he joins the Garter Crowd, all the family members shout things such as, "This might be your last shot, Jerry!"
Lately, I've been conveniently exiting for the bathroom when the garter toss is approaching. At the weddings of close family or friends, where I know a great deal of people, I don't mind standing in the Garter Crowd and taking part. But as an almost-30 who really desires to marry one day, I don't need to be singled out if I don't know many people at the wedding, because then I'm that Unknown Pathetic Guy.
Not long ago, my Dad caught me hiding in the lobby during a garter toss. I kept slipping in and out of the bathroom. I think he thought I'd had too much of that chocolate fountain. But in a moment of honesty—and perhaps insanity—I told him I was actually hiding from the tradition because I didn't want to feel pointed out for still being single. I didn't know how Dad would respond. We've never discussed my singleness. His answer? He just nodded, looked at me, and said, "OK." That acceptance actually said a lot.
The exchange also taught me something. We can react to the garter/bouquet toss with awkwardness and hiding, or it can give us a chance to be honest with our loved ones about how we're feeling. In fact, it could even be—as it has been with me—a discussion starter about singleness with family members. During another hiding incident at a wedding reception, my little sister—who's also single—and I started talking about how I view my current place in life. I said I was uncomfortable with assumptions I should have a wife by now. "Sure, I want to marry someday, but God is using me in my single state right now," I explained. "And I'm OK with it. But sometimes it feels bad to have it displayed and pointed out." My sister told me she prays about my singleness and that I'll find the right girl. It was a valuable conversation.
So, while I don't advocate the garter toss tradition or accosting brides, I've also seen that good things can come out of even the most awkward and shady circumstances—including those dating back to nefarious, dark caves.
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