It’s hard to imagine a modern wedding without beautiful bouquets and dazzling floral arrangements. In fact, fresh flowers are the one thing you’ll find at nearly any wedding you’ll attend. Fashion trends and other traditions have changed greatly during the last few centuries, but the tradition of brides carrying wedding bouquets isn’t going out of style any time soon. Here is a brief look at the history of the bridal bouquet.
Where It All Began
Wedding bouquets date back to the beginning of recorded history. During marriage ceremonies, Egyptian brides walked down the aisle carrying sheaths of wheat, which were meant to symbolize fertility and good fortune. In ancient Greece, brides were adorned in garlands of greenery to honor the goddess Hera. The Romans were incredibly superstitious and had brides carry strong smelling herbs to both enhance fertility and ward off any evil spirits that may be lurking in the shadows. In the Middle Ages, bouquets served a more practical purpose. It’s said that brides carried incredibly fragrant flowers and herbs so that their beautiful smells would mask any unpleasant odors that might fill the church. It was also during the Middle Ages that an important wedding day tradition was created. During this time, single women were encouraged to steal something off of the bride on her wedding day so that her “luck” would rub off on them. Not wanting to lose jewelry or other precious belongings, a bride would instead toss her bouquet into a crowd of single women on her way out of the reception.
Wedding Flowers in the Elizabethan Era
During the 16th
centuries, wedding bouquets lost their utilitarian nature and became much more decorative. It is during this time that posy and nosegay bouquets became a wedding day staple. Along with a beautiful floral bouquet, Elizabethan brides would often adorn their hair with flowers or wear a gorgeous garland of greenery when walking down the aisle. Fragrant floral sachets also acted as a “perfume” for brides. Sometimes, small bouquets were even given as wedding favors so guests could take some of the beauty home with them. An important tradition during this period was the “Kissing Knot.” These were decorative spheres off flowers that were suspended over the bride and groom’s seats at the head of the table. Much like modern mistletoe, they were expected to kiss while under the Kissing Knot to both appease guests and help them have a more faithful marriage. Sometimes these round balls of flowers were also suspended around the room so other couples could join in on the fun.
Wedding Flowers in the Victorian Era
During the Victorian Era, women wanted to mimic the trend-setting Queen Victoria when it came to their wedding flowers. At her wedding in 1840, the royal carried a nosegay or posy bouquet down the aisle. She also adorned her hair with a crown of delicate orange blossoms. In the years that followed her wedding, brides around the world started wearing orange blossoms in their hair to emulate Queen Victoria’s wedding day look. True to form, Victorians believed that every type of flower had a very specific meaning. Queen Victoria kept this in mind when creating her bouquet and selecting her wedding flowers. Orange Blossoms were a longstanding symbol of innocence, eternal love, and faithfulness, which is why Queen Victoria chose to wear those in her hair. In her bouquet she also carried Myrtle, a plant that featured small yet fragrant blossoms. Myrtle was believed to strengthen the bonds of marriage and evoke Venus, the ancient goddess of love.
Victorian Floral Symbols
Because of their buttoned-up nature, Victorians expressed their thoughts and feelings in a variety of odd ways. One of those was via flowers, which were said to have their own “language.” Each flower had a specific meaning or sentiment attached to it, and this was never more important to Victorians than when they were picking out their wedding flowers.
Here are a few examples of flowers used in bouquets during the Victorian Era and the meanings behind them:
Asters symbolized everlasting love.
Carnations symbolized faithfulness.
Baby’s Breath symbolized innocence and virginity.
Dahlias symbolized dignity and elegance.
Daisies symbolized loyalty, purity, and beauty.
Peonies symbolized compassion and a happy marriage.
To complicate things further, roses had a specific meaning that was dependent on their color:
Red Roses were a symbol of love and passion.
Pink Roses were a symbol of undying happiness and joy.
White Roses were a symbol of purity and humility.
Yellow Roses were a symbol of joy and everlasting friendship.
A comprehensive list of Victorian flower meanings can be found by clicking here.
Wedding Flowers in the 20th Century
Although the world has changed greatly since Elizabethan and Victorian times, weddings are the one place where time-honored traditions remain relevant. Brides continued to carry bouquets down the aisle during the early 20th
century, but their tastes changed slightly. Cascade bouquets were immensely popular during the 1910s and 1920s. It’s not uncommon to see wedding photos from this time that feature an over-the-top waterfall of flowers and greenery. During The Great Depression and World War II, weddings became a bit less lavish. In the later parts of the 20th
century, however, flowers became a wedding day tradition that extended far beyond just bouquets. In the 1950s, it became customary to decorate each table at the wedding reception with a floral centerpiece. Not unlike in Victorian times, wedding trends were also set by members of the royal family. Princess Diana’s cascade bouquet made this type of arrangement popular again around the world. While brides have more freedom than ever when it comes to picking their wedding flowers, most adhere to traditions set hundreds of years ago. It’s even said that Kate Middleton carried a sprig of Myrtle in her bouquet, just like Queen Victoria herself.
Wedding Bouquets Shapes & Types
Although small, Nosegay bouquets are still incredibly popular. These bouquets consist of a few tightly packed flowers that are bound together by a decorative wrap or ribbon. Chic and elegant in design, these minimalistic arrangements often allow one statement flower to take center stage.
Biedermeier bouquets originated in Europe during the late 1800s. These large, round bouquets consist of flowers with stems that have all been cut to equal length. The hallmark of these bouquets is the pattern that the flowers make. When creating a Biedermeier bouquet, the florist arranges them in concentric circles. Often, flowers of different colors or styles are used to make a subtle “striped” effect.
Posy bouquets are one of the most popular choices when it comes to modern wedding bouquets. These small, round bouquets consist of an array of seasonal flowers with stems of all the same length. Their stems are tightly bound together so that they are easy to carry in the hand while walking down the aisle. Often, a ribbon is wrapped around the stems to make it more decorative. Typically, these smaller posy bouquets are carried by bridesmaids or other female members of the wedding party.
A round bouquet is a larger and more statement-making version of a posy bouquet that is carried by the bride. As the name suggests, these bouquets consist of flowers that have been bound together at the stems so that their blooms create a cylindrical shape. Very few greenery stems are used in these bouquets so the focus remains on the beautiful flowers.
True to their name, cascade bouquets are oversized bouquets that are meant to hang down over the front of the hands in a waterfall effect. Often, these bouquets are made of long greenery stems and feature a few carefully placed flowers near the hand. Organic in their beauty, these are ideal for bohemian brides who want a stylish and statement-making bridal bouquet.
Composite bouquets are a relatively new trend in wedding flowers. These bouquets are comprised of either one large bloom or a variety of flowers that have been arranged in a way that makes the bouquet look like one single bloom. While uncommon, these bouquets are truly breathtaking when done correctly.
Hand tied bouquets have a purposely rustic look, making them perfect for laidback outdoor weddings. The flowers within this bouquet all feature stems of differing lengths, which creates a more casual appearance. These stems are then clustered together and tied with a decorative ribbon so they are easy to carry in the hand. Essentially, cluster bouquets look like the bride randomly picked wild flowers and carried them down the aisle.
Crescent bouquets are elegant, somewhat elaborate arrangements that pair flowers and greenery together. Rather than forming a traditional “round” shape at the top, the blooms sit in the middle while the greenery extends outward on each side to create a gently sloped arrangement.
Single stem bouquets are a sleek and sophisticated option. These minimalistic bouquets consist of one single stem that is usually adorned with a decorative ribbon. Although more common for bridesmaids than brides, their uniqueness makes them just as visually impactful as a traditional posy bouquet.
Pomander bouquets are a round sphere of flowers. They are carried around the wrist by a decorative ribbon loop. Incredibly charming, they essentially resemble Edwardian Kissing Knots. Although traditionally carried by flower girls, these unique bouquets are becoming more and more popular for members of the bridal party.
Pageant / Presentation
Pageant or Presentation bouquets are a unique take on wedding flowers. This oversized assortment of flowers and greenery isn’t meant to be carried in the hand. Rather, it is carried down the aisle in the crook of the arm, much like how flowers are carried in beauty pageants. These bouquets also have a rustic, laidback feel about them and are perfect for bohemian or outdoor weddings.