The bouquet toss. Or not?

One of the traditions I’ve never quite got the hang of is the bouquet toss. The few I’ve seen have been anticipated with the same level of excitement as a 5-year-old approaches a lolly scramble, but end with all the anticlimax of discovering there’s just one sweetie in the bag.

In these modern and enlightened times, there’s also the awkward question of who is eligible for the toss – traditionally, it’s supposed to be for maidens [implied, virgins]. Well, indeedy. That question aside, there is just so much awkwardness about the way that any unmarried woman is pressured into joining the lineup – whether she’s been with her partner for 10 years already, or happily single, or quietly gay – and it’s just not the time or place to argue the toss. Of course, you presumably know your guests well enough to make the call, but if TV and movies are anything to go by [yeah, right] I don’t think we’re missing much by skipping it. [Just don’t get me started on the whole Garter Toss thing!]

Interestingly enough, the tradition of tossing a bridal bouquet comes from 14th century England, way back in the day, when weddings were much bawdier affairs. It was thought to be good luck to own a piece of the bride’s wedding gown. So, throughout the festivities, guests might try to snip off pieces of the bride’s gown to keep for luck. Even if guests restrained themselves during the celebrations, when the time came for the couple to leave, single women would make a bit of a mad dash to tear off pieces of the gown!

To prevent themselves from ending up in rags on their wedding day, brides started tossing other things to the guests. Flowers were a logical choice, being plentiful and having lots of symbolic meanings as well. It’s hard to be sure, but you have to suspect that this is where the tradition of carrying a bouquet originates from. And maybe is part of the thinking that makes us feel the need to give favors and bombonierre to guests, too?

Meh. Chalk it up to a tradition that doesn’t have any great reasons for including in your celebrations – UNLESS you and all your girlfriends think it would be a hoot, in which case, make sure you get pictures!

But then, if you’re not tossing the bouquet, what ARE you supposed to do with that very expensive bunch of flowers? It’s possible to have your bouquet freeze-dried and mounted for display [though I feel I should warn you that they’re a devil to dust], or at least make potpourri from the petals. I kept a bouquet in the freezer for some time. I’m not entirely certain why – it’s not like I could get it out for special occasions afterwards. My actual, actual wedding bouquet was made of artificial flowers, and I have to admit to getting many years of happy use out of them in various arrangements. If I recall correctly, the roses from my bouquet finished their life wound through an otherwise unremarkable green vine outside our kitchen window, many years later.

I read somewhere in an etiquette book that the “proper” thing to do with your bouquet is to give it to someone as a gift. Compared to the scrums I’ve seen happen at the few bouquet tosses I’ve witnessed, there’s a lot to be said for the quiet dignity of this idea. I’ve heard of bouquets being designed to separate into smaller tied bunches for the toss, so it must be possible to do something similar to have a smaller posy which could be given to your mother and mother in law, favourite aunt, grandmother, etc.

In the end, as with all traditions, it’s a great idea to think through whether or not there’s a place for this one at your ceremony, and create a celebration that fits you perfectly!


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