Weddings have many traditions associated with them, with one of the most popular traditions being the tossing of the bride's garter. The use of the garter is associated with the romantic and sexual promises of the bride to the groom. However, in recent years, garters have become traditional at proms in addition to weddings. As with weddings, the wearing (and exchange) of a garter at prom has specific meanings.
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Together As Couple
One meaning of a prom garter is that a young man and woman are together as a couple. The woman gives the garter to her date, who wears it on the upper part of his arm for the rest of the evening. In exchange, the young man gives his date his necktie, which she wears. When others see the young man or woman with the garter and necktie, it advertises that the two people are already in a relationship or are spoken for.
A more risqué meaning of a prom garter is that the man who obtains the garter has "deflowered" his prom date (i.e., had sexual intercourse) or at least been able to engage in sexual activity with her. The garter is placed on the rear view mirror of the man's car as a way of announcing the activty. For this reason, some individuals see the exchange of a prom garter as being a very tacky fashion faux pas and as an advertisement that the woman is "easy."
In some instances, a prom garter signifies not that the woman has been deflowered or engaged in sexual activity but that such activity has been promised to the woman's date. This can also be considered as being tacky, but it is seen as less so because it implies that nothing sexual yet has happened and that the couple is still "pure" toward each other.
In many cases, the exchange of a prom garter is done simply so the man has a memento of his date from the evening. The garter in these instances does not signify anything of great importance but is given merely as a token. The garter is not prominently displayed on the arm or on a rear view mirror as it is in other instances.
Because there are some negative associations with prom garters (i.e., sexual promiscuity), alternatives to prom garters can be considered. Appropriate alternatives include the exchange of a flower pin and corsage, the reservation of the first or last slow dance for only the prom date, or the exchange of class rings. These alternatives show commitment but do not necessarily hold the connotation of sexual activity or promises.