Well, I’ve definitely got weddings on the brain these days, with our daughter Christi getting married soon, Pam Crook’s Kristi a brand-newlywed, Charlene Sands’ son recently engaged…and a mail-order bride book just released! In Marrying Minda, the heroine-bride’s favorite flower is the white rose, and her bridegroom ordered special the big bouquet of them she ended up tossing on his grave. So I figured bouquets and wedding flowers could use a bit of looking into.
In The Little Big Book of Brides, I learned that a Victorian-era suitor used “the hidden language of flowers” to woo his intended. He might send peach blossoms to let her know “You are perfected loveliness” only to have her send him a posy of burdock ordering him to “Touch me not.” Burdock, pictured here, is a wild plant found in waste places and seldom worth cultivating.
Hopefully, the lovely lady would send him ambrosia, signifying “love returned” if she received a bouquet of ranunculas, which told her “You are radiant with charm.” He might “think of her” if she sent back pansies…but daffodils meant, sadly, unrequited love.
Down the road a few months, her eventual bridal bouquet also held symbolism. Ivy stood for faithfulness and strength, since the vine is hard to uproot. Rosemary spoke of remembrance, the rose for love. Myrtle embodied love, peace and happiness. In fact, a bridesmaid was encouraged to plant a sprig of myrtle in front of the newly married couple’s first home. She’d marry within the year if it took root.
The lovely hydrangea marked devotion, the clover, faithfulness, and the marigold, sensual passion. Thyme brought courage, the gardenia, joy; orchids, beauty and passion. Phlox insured united hearts, and the classic lily of the valley signified purity. Only available for a few weeks in May, this classic is definitely a luxury!
In our case, the bride is selecting her flowers based on color (yellow, for Livestrong), but I think I can convince her to stick some rosemary in somewhere. It’s my favorite herb.
When Queen Victoria married her prince in 1840, she selected a wreath of orange blossoms, not the jeweled tiara expected of a royal bride, and the trend spread. When real orange blossoms were in short supply, wax replicas were made, and used over and over by other brides. The orange blossom symbolizes happiness, fertility and everlasting luck, and took its importance from Greek myth when Hera received a garland of them to bless her marriage to Zeus. This “first” bridal flower made its way to Europe via the Crusaders.
A bridal bouquet tied with ribbons and knots symbolized the “tying the knot” tradition that likely stems from the handfasting ceremony of medieval Celtic couples. Their hands were bound together while they pledged their fidelity. But a bride’s handful of flowers has been a centerpiece of weddings for centuries.
In Britain’s early days, a bride was supposedly such a powerful source of good luck the guests took to tearing off her flowers, ribbons, even bits of her garments. So eventually, brides simply tossed their bouquets to protect themselves…hence starting a long-standing tradition. While long ago bridal bouquets definitely signified the sweetness of marriage, they were also thought to hold off sickness and, if built of herbs or grains, to protect against evil spirits.
Throughout time and cultures, bridal bouquets have ranged from humble clumps of wildflowers to pomanders, tight balls of herbs and flowers hung by a ribbon, to tussie-mussies, small arrangements of blooms and herbs chosen for their hidden language. Today’s bridal flowers range from elaborate cascades of blooms that tumble from the hands like a waterfall to nosegays, round clusters held by a handle, to an artful curved arrangement cradled in one arm. Stems wrapped in ribbon are one of today’s loveliest trends.
Certainly a wedding wouldn’t be complete without flowers. I made bouquets of straw flowers for my bridesmaids, thinking they’d last forever. (They did not.)Those of you who have been or will be brides, what flowers decorate(d) your big day? As a wedding guest, what are the loveliest flower arrangements you remember?
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