Tossing the garter has been a wedding tradition since at least the 16th century.  Originally a means of proving that the wedding had been consummated, it has changed in modern times to be a bit of light-hearted naughtiness near the end of the wedding reception.

The groom removes the garter from the bride’s thigh and tosses it to the waiting groomsmen.  It is not unusual for the groomsmen to encourage the groom to remove the garter with his teeth.  If you don’t mind some cat-calls and rowdy behavior, the garter throw can be fun and entertaining.

But if this does not appeal to you for any reason, there is nothing to stop you from saying no to the toss.

If you decide not to do a garter toss, make sure the groom is agreeable to your decision and lets his groomsmen know ahead of time that there will be no garter toss.  This will save you the embarrassment of having the men egging the groom on and making you uncomfortable.

Can you wear a garter and not do a toss? Absolutely.  A blue garter is often worn by the bride to fulfill the old saying, “ Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue”.   Many brides feel that a lacy garter completes her wedding look, even though it wont be seen by anyone but the groom.

Does it have to be blue?  No.  In fact, a quick search for wedding garters on line turned up everything from traditional white and blue lace garters to Tweetie Bird and Guns & Roses garters.

Wear them or don’t wear them.  Toss them or don’t toss them.  It really is up to you.

Here are a couple informative links:

You’ve announced your engagement to your parents and friends, set the date, picked your bridesmaids and groomsmen and started your to-do list, everything from favors to flowers.

There’s a lot to do, and one event that can really get you into the mood to tackle all those happy chores is an engagement party.  So, what is an engagement party and what are the ground rules you need to be aware of?

Traditionally, an engagement party is a means of bringing the bride and groom’s families together, especially if they have not met yet.  A basic engagement party includes members of the couple’s families, the wedding party, and the couple’s closest friends.  Keep in mind that anyone who is invited to the engagement party should also be invited to the wedding.

Customarily, the brides parents pay for the engagement party, but it could be hosted by both sets of parents, the couples siblings, close friends or even the bride and groom.  You should not expect an engagement party to be put on by members of the bridal party, as you will be expecting them to host your shower and any bachelor or bachelorette parties that are planned.

Your engagement party can be as formal or informal as the hosts decide.  It does not have to be a formal sit down dinner, and in fact, a more casual event can be more conducive to getting your guests mingling and getting to know each other.  A brunch, afternoon tea, cocktail party or beach barbeque are all appropriate. Your guests should feel welcomed and at ease.

Gifts are not usually given at an engagement party.  If a guest presents you with a gift, thank them graciously and then put the gift aside (and preferably out of site) to open later.  If your guest insists upon the gift being opened right away (maybe it’s a puppy!) find a fairly private spot to do just that, but again, try to keep it a bit private so other guests don’t suddenly feel awkward for not bringing gifts.

Remember that this party is not just about the bride and groom. It’s about the melding of two families.  Be sure to do what you can to help the hosts welcome guests, introduce them to others and make them feel a treasured part of a new chapter in your lives.

The moment you announce that you are getting married you will not only receive a ton of heart-felt congratulations but also another ton of ideas, suggestions, advice, and offers to help that may surprise you and in some cases make you wish you could run for the hills.

But here’s the thing; everyone gets excited about weddings, and that’s a good thing. And almost everyone has a supposedly great suggestion for you, which is really just an expression of thier excitement about your upcoming wedding.

Even though you may be inundated with some of the worst ideas ever (at least in your book) your duty as the bride-to-be is to be thankful, gracious, and very, very tactful.

Your cousin tells you she would love to sing at the wedding, even though you know she can’t sing without crying.  Your sister tells you that her two- year-old, who screams when mom is more than three feet away, would be thrilled to be the flower girl.  Your mom wants your dad, your grand-dad and her second and third husbands all to walk you down the aisle.  Your best friend wants you to use her cousin as a travel agent for your honeymoon plans, because she could really use the practice.

So what to do?

Don’t panic. Listen patiently and express your thankfulness for the offer, whatever it entails. Be gracious enough to not simply say “ick” or “not in this lifetime” or “what, are you nuts?” even if you really, really want to.

Let the person you are talking to know how pleased you are that they are so excited about your wedding.  Smile, breathe, and tell them that your not sure if their idea will fit in with your plans, but again, express your thanks for their thoughtfulness.

And perhaps most important of all, don’t hurt anyone’s feelings.  If you really hate an idea, you don’t need to mention it to everyone, and you certainly should not make any catty or disparaging remarks about the person who offered the idea.  Those comments have a way of making their way back to that person and you may have made them, even inadvertently, the butt of a joke.  And that’s never the classy thing to do.

So, here’s an example:

Great Aunt Grace wants you to wear the garter she wore for her wedding as “something blue”.  But its more yellow than blue now, is definitely not your style and smells distinctly of moth balls.

But she’s not just offering you her garter, she’s offering you a symbol of her affection for you.  So, tell her “thank you” sincerely, accept the garter, don’t wear it (but keep that a secret) and then send her a thank you note for helping to make your wedding day special. And that’s not a lie, because her excitement about your wedding is something you will always treasure.

So there you go.  By remaining thankful, gracious and tactful you can say “no” to just about everyone and everything without ever having to actually say “No!”

If you are planning on keeping your gown as a keepsake of your wedding there are a few things you should be aware of.

You can try hand washing a polyester gown if you are willing to go to the work involved and follow directions carefully. I would think twice about this as it seems like there are a lot of ways this could go wrong.

Before you decide that you can simply drop off your satin and lace gown at your local dry cleaners do some homework.

Do you know anyone who has used the cleaner before for an item that needed special care?

Will they inspect the gown for loose trim and beads and make repairs before the cleaning?

Do they have a written guarantee of their work?  If the gown is damaged during cleaning, what do they provide as compensation?

Are they prepared to let you inspect the gown after cleaning and before the boxing is finished?  More than one bride, after opening her stored gown has discovered that cleaning has been slip shod or incomplete and in one instance, the gown had obviously been worn by someone else and then simply packed away, un-cleaned, in a presentation box.

Most cleaners are reputable and eager to do their best to clean and preserve your gown. With a little effort on your part you will be able to turn over your gown to their care with the confidence that it will be in good hands.

Though the tradition of tossing a bouquet to women guests at a wedding has been around for a while, that does not mean that you are obliged to do so.

If this is an activity you look forward to, then there is no reason why you shouldn’t go ahead with it.  However, if there are any considerations you have that make you less than excited about the bouquet toss, you should take those concerns seriously.

If you have seen one too many (one is enough) bouquet tosses where the supposedly “just for fun” activity has turned into a pushing and shoving brawl between ladies behaving badly, you might be hesitant to proceed.  Are some of your bridesmaids and other female guests likely to get a little rambunctious after the champagne has been flowing? Will you and your guests find their behavior entertaining or embarrassing? It’s something to consider.

There are several good reasons for keeping the bridal bouquet, not the least of which is that you would like to keep it as a reminder of a wonderful day.  Or you may wish to present it to someone special; your maid of honor, your mother or grandmother, your new mother-in-law (make sure you tell your own mom about that plan first) or to the couple who attends your wedding who have been married the longest.

If you are planning on the toss, you might like to consider an alternative to the basic bridal bouquet. Your florist can supply you with a break-away bouquet that can be separated into several (usually three) small bouquets just as it is tossed.  It provides a bit of surprise and more than one of your friends can end up with a bouquet. Or, use one section for the toss, keep one for yourself, and present one to a special person.

What you do with your bouquet is up to you.  Keep it, toss it, pull out individual flowers to give to guests, or let your five year old cousin “decorate” with it.  It really is your choice.

Although you may have everyone at your wedding that you really wish to include, don’t be surprised if your parents have a whole other list of people who they want to share their joy at your being married with.

This list could include their neighbors, close friends, church or temple members, every teacher you ever had, the people they work with and even their favorite clerk at the grocery store who has seen you grow from an infant to an adult.

These are the people your folks talk to about you, even just in passing. And even if they only saw you occasionally or not at all since you left for college, the navy or your stint with Greenpeace, they feel like they know you and they share your parents joy.

Many parents will want to plan an at home meet and greet sometime in the first few months after the wedding.  Don’t be surprised if both sets of parents wish to do this.

Let your parents decide how formal or informal this get together will be, set the menu and the date and tell you when to show up.   This is their opportunity to host their friends and show off their new son or daughter in law.

Your job is to show up early enough to greet the first guests and stay until you have had a chance to meet and talk to all the guests. You may not remember any of these folks, they may not be your generation, and they may hug you too hard, smear your cheeks with red lipstick and tell you for the third time how they remember how cute you were in 4th grade, but they all care about you.

So relax, have a glass of champagne, look around the room, and realize how lucky you are that so many people are so happy for you.

If you have decided to include young children as your wedding guests a little pre-planning can make the difference between a pleasant experience for you and all your guests or a headache of mammoth proportions for everyone including the tiny tots.

Having children at your event can be a pleasant and memorable experience for all involved if you plan ahead and keep in mind the needs and limitations of your youngest guests.

If your ceremony is going to be longer than half an hour, consider having a sitter for the children until the reception.  Make sure you provide age appropriate activities and games to keep them occupied.  Children get hungry at the most inconvenient times and there is no way to keep a hungry child happy. Providing a fun, wedding themed snack can also be a big help in keeping the kids from becoming cranky or lonely for mom and dad.

Seat tots with their parents at the reception.  They will be more comfortable there.

Don’t expect them to eat the standard reception fare or just snack off their parent’s plates.  Grilled asparagus and mustard crusted chicken are not kid friendly foods. See if your caterer can provide small, child friendly meals for your young guests.  They wont eat much, but they will need something they can enjoy.

Provide distractions at the tables.  Coloring pages and a small box of crayons, small stuffed animals or age appropriate (non-noisy) toys can go a long way to keep them occupied until the cake is served.

You may want to provide a sitter who can take the children for a stroll around the grounds or on a scavenger hunt (if appropriate) or to a separate room for activities during the time set aside for toasts, introductions and the first dance.  Think about which parts of the reception would have bored you silly as a child and let that be your guideline.

Letting the children leave the reception for a while will break up the time for them and also give their parents an opportunity to chat with the other adults in a more relaxed fashion.

Keep your expectations realistic.  Don’t cringe when a tiny voice peeps up with “I have to go potty…NOW”.  Let the parents deal with that, smile, and get on with having a great time.

You can easily go on line and find numerous lists of what the bride and grooms parents are traditionally responsible for and what costs the happy couple are expected to take on for themselves.

It is also clear that as more couples are waiting to wed until they are well established financially, the old guidelines do not need to be so closely observed.

If you are reading this, you are probably already spending time trying to make some sense of what to expect from your parents, and what they might be expecting from you.

Unless you are just finishing school or have just landed your first job, the idea of Mom and Pop covering all expenses is probably a bit unrealistic.  More and more established couples want the latitude to make important decisions about their weddings which comes with taking on more of the cost of the wedding themselves.

So how do you figure out what is affordable and who will help with what? The first thing you need to do is come up with a basic guideline of what you really want in the way of a wedding: How extravagant? How many guests?  How big a reception?  What type of location?

Get those ducks in order and then its time to talk to both sets of parents, present your vision, let them know what you think (realistically) it will cost and then ask if they would be able to help you out.  Don’t ask for a specific amount of money and don’t ask for an immediate commitment.

You may find that you will not be able to have the wedding you have been dreaming of based on the financial help your parents can provide.  Be gracious for whatever help they can give you.  With a little downsizing and a few adjustments, you can still have a day you will always remember, and no one will feel the poorer for it.