The Bouquet Toss, And Other Gender Weird Traditions

by Meg Keene, CEO & Editor-In-Chief

We are cutting a lot of traditions from our wedding that we think have weird gender implications. We are not doing a garter toss. Luckily, since its a Jewish wedding I don’t need to decide about how I feel about my Dad walking me down the aisle, since both parents will walk me down the aisle, which I love. We’ve reworded our invitation in a less traditional way that makes me feel more comfortable. No one is giving me away “to” someone else, thanks!

That said, I’m thinking of tossing my bouquet. Why? Because I am a professional on the bouquet catch circuit. I’ve been catching bouquets or wrestling other people to the ground while trying to since I was at least five or six. I love it! It’s one of the most fun parts of a wedding, as far as I’m concerned. However, I really don’t love the “woman who catches the bouquet is the next to wed” idea. So, we are thinking of just making it up for grabs for anyone to catch, and make it “good luck.”

I’ve heard a few alternate ideas. I like the idea of doing a ‘bouquet dance’ where you present the idea to the couple who has been married the longest. I suggested that to my parents, and they looked a little panicked. Apparently, they might BE the couple married the longest at the wedding, and didn’t love the idea of being pointed out for being well, older. Which of course I hadn’t thought of. I mentioned this before, but one of the best ideas I’ve heard is Ariel’s method, where she gave it to a recently married gay couple, with a few words about how she hoped soon all couples would get the rights of marriage (and the stress of wedding planning). With California making gay marriages legal, and New York recognizing gay unions, we may well have some recently legally married friends on hand. So that is another possibility.

What about you, dear readers? What are you doing with your bouquet? What wedding traditions are you keeping, which ones are you skipping? Which traditions seem fine to you, and which rub you the wrong way?

Photo via Maggie Mason, of her own wedding.

Meg Keene

Meg is the Founder and EIC of APW. She has written two best selling wedding books: A Practical Wedding and A Practical Wedding Planner. Meg has her BFA in Drama from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. She lives in Oakland, CA with her husband and two children. For more than you ever wanted to know about Meg, you can visit #NASTY

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  • One of my favourite bouquet stories is from a friend’s wedding. Her sister (and maid of honour) had been recently dumped- 6 weeks before her own wedding. The bride was on the balcony at her parents’ house (where the reception was) and everyone gathered on the patio below for the bouquet toss, while her sister watched from another balcony.

    The bride ended up tossing the bouquet to her sister, and told her (privately) how much she appreciated her being there, after all she was going through in her own life, and to keep faith that TRUE love would find her. And I’m happy to say it did. She used the ribbon for her own bouquet, which I caught.

    I saved the ribbon and I plan to use in my own someday, and whoever I pass it onto, whether I throw it randomly or hand it over, I will tell them the story and hope they pass on the ribbon, too.

    Yuck that was sappy.

  • Anne O.

    Here’s my tradition I’m doing away with: the bouquet! Makes no sense in my case since I won’t have an aisle. Heck, we’re starting our cocktail party before we even get there to be married. I’m sort of throwing the standard wedding procedure out the window.

    I really just wanted to let you know I love your blog and have it in my RSS reader. Not sure how I found it, but maybe somewhere on Offbeat Bride? That’s currently my favorite site!

    Look forward to reading more :)

  • Anne O.

    emily, this is a really cute story!

  • Anne O.

    And omg, one more thing, emily are you rainbow brite in your pic? That’s what I was for Halloween–made the costume myself!

  • I HATE the bouquet toss. With a passion. I can’t stand it. I refuse to do it. No way am I going to force all the single girls to catch something because I always hated going to weddings and being that single girl who was forced out onto the dance floor to try and catch the thing.

    The other tradition I refuse to do is the unity candle. I’m not lighting one.

    Love the blog!

  • In Spain, you usually give it to your dearest friend or relative that is engaged. It’s a way of wishing good luck. I’m going to give it to the friend who introduced us, as a way of thanking him.

  • Desaray

    We are having a ceremony and reception in the morning and then a drag show/fundraiser/community reception in the evening at a local bar. Anyway, it’s not a gay party without a raffle, I’m raffling off my bouquet :)

  • Mary

    Love the blog! I just had to comment on the giving-bouquet-to-longest-married trend. It seems like a good idea on paper, but the one time I saw it in practice, it was a little horrifying. Couples were “weeded out” on the dance floor according to length of relationship… but it wasn’t so much that, but how it felt to those not in relationships. The best man, who was single, turned to us after the bandleader called up “couples only” and said “Wow, are single people supposed to be losers?” The poor guy genuinely felt bad… not everyone will feel that way, of course, but no guest should be made to feel bad at a wedding.

    Granted, it’s all about execution, so a DJ or MC who does it well can make it fun.

    • Kat

      at a cousin’s wedding last year the couple just went over to the longest married couple and gave it to them… no one was dragged out on the floor.

  • I’m not sure about tossing my beautiful bouquet, nor do I like the idea of spending money on another one just of the toss. So, I’ll probably give it to one of my sisters. Hmmm, not sure who to choose there, so that might get difficult…

    One tradition that rubs me up the wrong way is the garter toss. Luckily that hasn’t become popular in UK (yet) anyway – yuck! I hate anything sexual at weddings – get out of my face! Ha ha…

    Also the cake smash – just feels disrespectful to me. But again not something I’ve actually seen at a wedding.

    Hmmm, I’m starting to sound like one very reserved Brit, eh?

  • Meg

    Oh, Guilty Secret. I’ve seen the garter toss and the cake smash, and I think they are both worse/weirder then you would imagine. So feel lucky to be a reserved Brit. :)

  • I think Mary hit the nail on the head with her comment: traditions like the bouquet toss make single people feel like “losers” and imply, not that you two are happy, but that human beings can only be happy in couples. As for the garter–what a nightmare! I caught the bouquet at my aunt’s wedding when I was nine and they made me do the whole garter thing with this old old old guy (now that I think of it, he was probably 35 but he seemed ancient), which felt like pedophilia and was traumatizing. I ran crying from the room… and now I’m a lesbian. : )

  • I’m keeping my bouquet and not tossing it at all. I’m also not doing the garter toss.

    I considered handing the bouquet to my little sister (and MOH) as a thank you, but in the end I think I’ll just keep it as a memory.

  • Aimee

    Hi, Meg! Good discussion questions! We are skipping the garter toss for sure. Both parents are walking each of us down the isle, and we’re not having cake at all, so the cake-in-the-face thing is a non-issue (thank goodness because it has always really bothered me!).

    The big question now is the first dance — I know everyone loves it, but I am just not a dancer, and having everyone watching us and only us, sort of freaks me out. We’re thinking of ways to make it shorter, like inviting our parents and/or grandparents out, too.

    The one tradition I can’t wait to have at our wedding is the hora!

  • First off, as others said – I love this blog! It has been a breath of fresh air to read.

    I am not sure if I’m carrying a bouquet or not; it’s not high on the list of priorities. (I’m a food writer, so food is at the TOP.)

    But one sweet idea from a friend’s recent wedding: She did throw a bouquet, but it only looked like a bouquet. She was holding a bundle of flowers together, and when she threw it a whole shower of roses came down. It was a surprise, and meant flowers for everyone!

    It was the first idea that made me think about doing a bouquet toss.

    • Kels

      Wow, I just had that thought moments before I scrolled down to your comment. Of course, it requires a balcony…

  • Nikki- As a recent victim of having a garter put on me, I have to say that it is really awkward at 25, too. Maybe not pedophillic, but uncomfortable, for sure.

    Faith- I love that idea! Charming and involving!

  • I love what vestirdeblanco said about giving it to the maid of honor.
    (and mine is not single)

    that way no one feels weird, and the bouquet doesn’t get ruined.

    • Laura

      I went to a recent wedding and they gave the bridal bouquet to the longest-married couple. It was a nice way to honor someone’s elderly relatives and it spared us all the awkward moment of having to drag ourselves up for the bouquet toss.

  • I love all the comments on here. As for us… We did not do a garter toss, and I gave my bouquet to my new sister in law, saying something about having a new sister.
    I like the idea of it coming apart when you throw it. You could make it be several and write silly sayings on them. (If a duck crosses your path during a full moon you will stop liking chedder cheese.) You could throw it for every woman in the room, not just single ones. I also think the raffle idea is fun. It is another way to come up with honeymoon money.

  • I’m not wearing white.
    I’m going to walk myself down the aisle, er, dirt path.
    We aren’t having a cake.
    Neither of us are having a wedding party.
    No toasts, garters or bouquet tossing.

    I think there is always an opportunity to start new traditions and set new standards of what is acceptable. Some of these stories already shared are great examples of unique and thoughtful wedding traditions!

  • I think I am keeping my bouquet. Really, the only traditions that I am a definite on are having my dad walk me down the aisle, our first dance, and the dance with my dad. Oh, and not seeing each other until I am walking down the aisle.

    One thing that I think is rather creepy is the whole garter thing. I don’t want my husband with his hands up my dress, or head, or whatever, in front of my family. That’s just weird!

  • I am also walking myself down the aisle. Father-giving-away-daughter dates back to when she was considered his property. No thanks :P

    Garter and bouquet toss never crossed my mind. But H-town does want to see me in my dress for the first time at the “altar,” so we’re keeping that tradition.

  • Peonies and Polaroids

    Hmmm, wedding traditions we’re ditching –

    Being walked down the aisle – I’m walking myself. I feel like it’s very important to me to walk into marriage by myself, as a grown up. I briefly thought about asking my Grandfather or my Mum to walk be but it just felt completely wrong to be. I’m very independent.

    Speeches – they make me gag. Too formal by far!

    Cake cutting – I just don’t get it.

    First dance – it just seems like the ultimate embarrassment to me!

    Not seeing the groom before the wedding – we’ll be waking up and getting dressed together.

    The garter – I certainly won’t be wearing one. It’s another thing that I just don’t get.

    The bouquet toss – I think I’ll either keep my bouquet and put it in a vase for as long as it lasts or give it to my Mum. No tossing. I don’t get that either!

    As you can see most wedding traditions don’t make a whole lot of sense to me!

    And GS, I’m a reserved brit too! And proud of it in this instance. I can’t think of anything more horrendous than the garter thing and I find cake smashing really upsetting.

  • the vail tradition is irritating (hide the brides face so the groom doesn’t change his mind if she’s not pretty), and the father “giving” the bride away-like she’s chattel.

    i’m not doing a bouquet, so that solves that problem.

  • I love that so many of ya’ll are making your wedding a true reflection of you and what feels right to you rather than what traditional dictates you should do. GS simplynimble, Eastside and Peonies–I love that you all are walking yourself down the isle.

    Meg, what a great post. I enjoyed reading it and am thoroughly enjoying reading everyone’s thoughts on traditions and whatnot. I am tossing the boquet though I hate the idea of the calling only the single ladies—when I come up with something better I will be sure to share!

    The only tradition that truly weirds me out a bit is whole garter belt. I agree completely with GS on this one. Anything sexual at a wedding just seems completely inappropriate to me….which is somewhat odd since EVERYONE knows what you are going to do after the wedding….but that I suppose is neither here nor there

  • Meg

    Oh ladies (I think you are all ladies on this thread, I am not excluding gents!) What lovely ideas you have. I think you’ve inspired a wee series of posts on thinking through traditions. We are keeping some, if they work for us, and ditching ones that don’t… and have interesting reasons in each case, I think.

    And in general, lets hear it for the restrained Brits. I’d like to sign up for that team, please.

  • I’m making a bead bouquet, so I’m not throwing that, because I don’t want to hurt anyone.

    My parents are not walking me down an aisle (I like the symbolism that I’m making my own choice here, and that’s how they have treated it anyway). We’re not doing bouquet tossing, garter catching, excessive First Dance-ing (just me and my dad and him and his mom), speeches (other than a brief thank you for coming).

    We’re also not doing a Head Table where we sit out and look at everyone and our attendants’ dates have to sit with people they don’t really know and that sort of thing. I’m not sure we’ll even have a fancy table. We might be the table that is near the bar.

    I’ve been enjoying the blog, thanks!

  • Jen

    I love the idea of giving the bouquet to my best friend.

    Mt wedding will not have many guests and so not many single guests for the garter bouquet toss. I am against the garter toss anyway because seeing it taken off always creeps me out.
    I am walking down the aisle myself. We are also skipping a formal reception. We are getting married on a cruise ship, having cake and punch and then the rest of the week is one big celebration.

  • We skipped the wedding traditions like unity sand/candle, readings, and songs during the ceremony. We also tried to avoid the bouquet toss and cake cutting, however our band didn’t get the memo and announced those big moments. Once the crowd was gathered, there was no turning back!

  • Brittany, what did you do for a ceremony w/ out readings or songs? I’m just trying to figure mine out…

  • ugh we’re not doing the bouquet or garter toss either. sooo over it.

  • VV

    Bouquet tosses are also abhorred here in the Philippines. Here are some ideas we’re doing here…

  • I feel weird about the bouquet and garter toss as well. A couple years ago my fiance and I went to our friends wedding, and they rigged it so that I would catch the bouquet (aka get backed in a corner and get it shoved in my face haha) and he got the garter. Needless to say, my fiance and I are indeed the next out of our friends to get married, so that worked out kinda cool. I also think it could be a fun idea to give the garter and bouquet to the next most likely couple to get married. I think its super weird to have to do the whole garter thing with someone I didn’t know, or even someone I wasn’t dating….

  • i mean from a non-bride point of view….i totally don’t mind doing the garter thing with my own husband…the other thing that weirds me out though is that you wear the garter on your leg all day…possibly sweating and whatnot, and then it gets taken off and caught by some guy and put on some other girl…thats a little intimate don’t you think? not as bad as sharing underwear, but still…..i guess it would depend how far up the garter was on the leg

  • Izzy

    I also don’t want to be “given away” – ideally I would walk myself down the isle. But I’m worried about hurting my Dad – he gave my sister away at her wedding last year and I know it meant a lot to him. I could maybe compromise and have both my parents walk me, but my Mum is quite traditional and might not go for it. Does anyone have experience with this situation?

    As for the bouquet – my sister gave hers to our grandmother who was unable to travel to the wedding.

    • Danielle

      I plan on having my dad walk me half the way and the right and then I am going to walk the rest on my own since (both because my dad is traditional and I want to represent the fact that he helped to raise me and then that I have become an independent woman and am making the choice to meet my husband-to-be on my own).

  • Eleanor

    Instead of tossing it, I am giving my bouquet to one of my best friends who has been with her boyfriend for 6 years. Following a brief toast to the couple, I will hand her the bouquet and then her boyfriend is going to propose to her!! Hush hush….it’s a surprise!

  • SouthernDaughter

    So I am waaaay late on these comments, but just found you and I’ve been reading APW posts for the past four hours.
    Number one thing that will not happen: garter toss. I would not allow FH to stick his hand up my dress at any family occasion, and I wouldn’t dream of forcing my grandmother to watch while he did. Why wouldn’t you just go ahead and invite the whole gang to witness the consummation?
    We also will not be doing the bouquet toss, cake smashing, or any special dances.

    What we *will* be doing:
    Bury a bottle of bourbon at the wedding site a month before for good weather on the wedding day.
    Walking with Dad down the aisle – I’ve always considered this more him showing a sign of faith in my choice of FH than handing over property.
    Sealing love letters and a bottle of wine into a wine box to be opened and shared on our first anniversary.
    Having a charm pull for the young ladies in attendance – each charm has a specific meaning, kind of like getting a pretty silver fortune cookie that you can wear.
    We will also cut both a wedding cake and a groom’s cake. This is the South. If you deny our people a dessert, you might end up facing pitchforks and torches.

    We have faced some small oppositions on a couple of these, but for the most part loved ones are just happy to be a part of your celebration and ready to give you support in any way they can.

  • Michelle

    I’m doing a hand fasting, so we’re literally tying the knot.

    My father comes from a more tradition orientated up bringing and it’ll be nice to have him involved as I rarely ever see him so I’m having him walk me down the isle just as a throwback to the old traditions.

    we’re also doing the jumping of the broom cause that just sounds like fun.

    skipping bouquet toss as we won’t likely have single ladies. but will likely give to my grandparents or great grandmother if I do have one.

    Garter toss I’m not adverse to but not likely something that will happen.

    we’re doing cupcake tower in place of a tiered cake cause it save on costs and you can accommodate for lactose, or gluten intolerant guests with some creative decorating of said cup cakes.

    as for dancing my other half loathes it so we’ll cut that I do like the idea of speeches from MOD and BM and those who feel the need to do so.