Wedding Flowers Through the Ages: A History of the Bridal Bouquet

Wedding Flowers Through the Ages: A History of the Bridal Bouquet

Flowers have been an important part of wedding ceremonies for centuries, evolving in style, symbolism, and significance across different periods. From ancient times to the present day, the bridal bouquet has carried more than just beauty down the aisle—it has held layers of meaning, tradition, and cultural significance. Dive into the history of wedding flowers and see how these traditions have shaped the choices of modern brides.

Ancient Beginnings and Medieval Traditions

Ancient Civilizations

In ancient Greece, Rome, and Egypt, flowers and herbs were used for their symbolic meanings—love, purity, and fertility—and their supposed magical properties to ward off evil spirits. Brides and grooms wore garlands or wreaths as a sign of love and protection.

The Middle Ages

During the medieval period, bouquets were more utilitarian, comprising herbs and flowers meant to ward off diseases and evil spirits. However, they also symbolized fidelity and fertility, laying the groundwork for the more decorative and symbolic uses of flowers in weddings to come.

The Elizabethan Era: Decorative and Symbolic

The 16th and 17th centuries marked a shift towards the decorative use of flowers in weddings. Elizabethan brides embraced posy and nosegay bouquets, along with hair adornments of flowers and greenery. The era also introduced the “Kissing Knot,” a precursor to modern floral arrangements, highlighting the social and symbolic functions of flowers beyond their aesthetic appeal.

The Victorian Influence: Language of Flowers

Mimicking the Queen

The Victorian era heralded a profound transformation in the role of flowers in weddings, introducing a complex language of flowers known as floriography. This period was deeply influenced by Queen Victoria's own wedding in 1840, which set trends that resonated around the world. Her choice of orange blossoms for her hairpiece—representing innocence, chastity, and eternal love—became a coveted symbol for brides everywhere. Additionally, the myrtle in her bouquet, symbolizing love and marriage, rooted itself in wedding traditions, becoming a must-have for bridal bouquets.

This fascination with floral symbolism wasn't just about beauty or fashion; it was deeply intertwined with the Victorian era's values and the societal emphasis on decorum and coded communication. Flowers became a way to express feelings and messages without words, perfectly aligning with the period's penchant for subtlety and nuance.

Victorian Floral Symbols

Floriography became a vital part of Victorian culture, extending beyond everyday communication to become a cornerstone of wedding ceremonies. The language of flowers allowed couples to infuse their bouquets, centerpieces, and even their wedding attire with deeply personal messages and wishes for their marriage. This era's brides meticulously planned their floral arrangements to convey specific sentiments, turning their bouquets into messages of love, fidelity, and hope for the future.

  • Asters were cherished for their representation of everlasting love, making them a popular choice for expressing undying commitment.
  • Carnations, with their varied hues, communicated different messages; pink carnations spoke of a mother's undying love, while white symbolized pure love and good luck, weaving a complex tapestry of feelings and familial bonds into the wedding decor.
  • Roses, perhaps the most iconic of all Victorian flowers, carried nuanced meanings depending on the color of the rose. Red roses declared deep love and respect, white roses offered a symbol of purity and new beginnings, and pink roses whispered of admiration and joy. Yellow roses, celebrating friendship and joy, added another layer of complexity, allowing brides to acknowledge different facets of their relationships.
  • Lilies, often associated with purity and renewal, were favored for their elegant appearance and deep symbolic meanings, representing a pure and renewed life together.
  • Ivy, symbolizing fidelity, friendship, and eternal love, was frequently woven into garlands and crowns, echoing the desire for a lasting union.

The Victorian era's embrace of floriography enriched the wedding tradition, allowing couples to communicate their deepest feelings and aspirations for their union through the very flowers they chose. This practice of embedding messages within bridal bouquets and floral decorations has left a lasting legacy, influencing modern weddings to include flowers not just for their beauty, but for their ability to convey personal and meaningful messages.

The 20th Century: Tradition and Modernity

Early Trends and Royal Influences

The early 20th century saw the popularity of cascade bouquets, influenced by royal weddings and societal trends. Despite the world wars leading to simpler celebrations, the later part of the century witnessed a resurgence in lavish floral arrangements, with every decade introducing its own trends, from minimalistic designs to extravagant displays.

Wedding Bouquets: Shapes & Types

This period also saw diversification in the styles of bouquets—nosegay, posy, round, and cascade bouquets became popular, each with its own unique arrangement and symbolism. Innovations like the hand-tied and composite bouquets reflected the changing tastes and preferences of brides, emphasizing personalization and creativity.

Modern Day and Personal Touches

In recent years, the focus has shifted towards personalization and sustainability in custom wedding flowers. Brides now choose flowers that hold personal significance or opt for locally sourced and eco-friendly arrangements. The variety in bouquet styles—from the minimalist single stem to the elaborate crescent—allows for individual expression, blending tradition with personal taste.

Your Takeaway

From ancient garlands to Victorian nosegays, and from the opulent cascade bouquets of the early 20th century to today's eco-conscious arrangements, wedding flowers have undergone a remarkable evolution. Each era has contributed its own traditions, styles, and meanings to the bridal bouquet, making it a rich tapestry of history and culture.

At Dragonetti Florist in Brooklyn, we connect the deep history of flowers with personal significance for each bouquet. Whether you're drawn to the simplicity of a nosegay or the grandeur of a cascade, our expertise is at your service to create a floral arrangement that not only beautifies your special day but also connects you to the ever-evolving tradition of wedding flowers.

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