The bridal bouquet toss: Movies have dramatized the event, and tradition has glorified it. Today's modern bride usually has her own opinion of it.
To understand how this became an accepted tradition, let's look at the long history behind tossing a bouquet. As early as the 1400s, brides wore fancy and colorful dresses to their nuptials, a ceremony where their ownership was passed from father to husband. It was considered lucky for bawdy guests to grab a piece of the bride's outfit, and many fine dresses were often ripped as the bridegroom and his bride tried to make their escape.
One solution was to surrender, or toss, items to the guests as a distraction. Bunches of herbs, carried to ward off evil spirits, were thrown while the newly wedded couple exited the festivities. Eventually, flowers replaced the herbs; flowers were selected for their color and style meanings.
The Knot, a popular online wedding planning site, calls the rose "the quintessential wedding flower," which symbolizes beauty and love. According to The Knot, the most popular wedding flowers after the rose include tulips, calla lily, lily of the valley, hydrangea, peony, ranunculus (relative of the buttercup), stephanotis blossoms, sweet pea and gardenia. Red is considered the color of romance and passion, whereas white symbolizes innocence; yellow means friendship, and blue is for longevity.
As weddings became more controlled, brides began tossing the bouquet to the women who attended, usually the single girls, and grooms would toss the garter to the single men hoping to transfer some of their luck. It was believed that the recipients of the bouquet and the garter would be the next to marry -- but not necessarily each other.
While the custom of tossing the bouquet is still practiced in many weddings, more and more couples today are finding variations or even eliminating it altogether. Especially when the bride and her friends are older, there is sensitivity about singling out the unattached girls and having them vying and leaping over each other to catch the bouquet. There are also brides who want to keep their bouquet as a keepsake.
There are common alternatives to the traditional custom. Tossing the actual bouquet or substituting some other tradition is up to the bride and her groom.
If the bride decides she wants to throw a bouquet, she could select a "toss bouquet," a smaller bunch of flowers, or silk flowers, which complements the colors of the actual bouquet. The "toss bouquet" could be a piece of the larger bunch of flowers or a separate piece altogether.
Instead of the single girls being called up, all the ladies attending can be invited to the floor to catch the bouquet, and it simply becomes a symbol of fun and perhaps general luck to catch it. Several florists are offering breakaway bouquets -- where the bouquet, when thrown, will break apart into multiple pieces, maybe four to six, and these become fun souvenirs for each of the lucky recipients.
Another custom that is becoming more popular nowadays is where the bride presents her bouquet to a special woman who has been there for her. This may be the way that a sister or special friend is acknowledged by the bride. The bride can choose to have a song dedicated to the recipient, which helps to express some of what she means to the bride and groom.
Like some other traditions that may have been rooted in superstition or chauvinism, tossing the bouquet is quickly losing favor with modern couples. Many newlywed couples are celebrating marriage by recognizing the longevity of other couples attending their wedding. A special song may be selected, and all married couples are invited to the dance floor; the emcee uses a gentle process of elimination until only one couple remains on the floor -- the couple who have been married the longest. The bride and groom can present the bridal bouquet to the couple in honor of their enduring love.
There are no longer any set rules dictating the traditions that a couple incorporate into their wedding. The wedding and customs should reflect the bridal couple and the things that mean the most to them.