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Toss the Bouquet! What Flowers Mean at Weddings

written by: CathleneSmith • edited by: Ronda Bowen • updated: 1/26/2015

When you're planning a wedding, often you worry about how your flowers will co-ordinate with the rest of your wedding plans. By taking into account the customs different cultures have associated with bouquets when choosing your flowers, you can create a more meaningful and rich statement.

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    Origin of the Wedding Bouquet

    Busy Bee amongst Lavender The origin of the wedding bouquet goes back to ancient times. It was customary for the bride to carry a spray of aromatic herbs and spices. Garlic was often used in this bundle, trusting it would ward off evil spirits. The spices and herbs offered promises of fertility and a new beginning. While not as fragrant as the lily and rose combinations of today, the bouquets were steeped in religious meaning.

    Celtic bouquets combined the greenery of ivy and thistle with the lavender hue of heather. These sprays were intended to keep the “evil eye" from infiltrating the new couple’s lives. The harsh perfume of the display was thought to have mystical powers. A bride carrying this bouquet anticipated fertility and a long, fruitful marriage.

    Victorian times replaced the spiced wedding bouquet with flowers. During the union of Queen Victoria to Prince Albert, flowers of purity, fertility and luck were used. One spice, dill, was included in the bridal piece. Dill was thought to be the spice of lust. The couple consumed a small portion of the herb after the wedding ceremony. Expectations of an exciting and enticing consummation followed.

    Going back to the Black Plaque, the wedding bouquet meant more than beauty and fertility. The fragrance of the flowers dulled the senses of the death that surrounded the couple. Petals from the bouquet were plucked and tossed about the wedding party. A shower of colorful blooms helped ease the stench and brighten the mood in such dark times.

    Tossing the wedding bouquet originates from Black Plague era. Those petals that danced over the heads of the bride and groom are now left complete in the bouquet. Sending a ribbon-wrapped floral parcel to the gallery of single women is more appropriate in some cultures than showering the wedding party with greenery and herbs. In Hindu and Buddhist wedding parties, the sight of petals floating from above is still enjoyed.

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    Floral Symbols in the Wedding Bouquet

    Wedding Bouquet From ancient Greek and Roman times to modern day, flowers have always been linked to symbolism. Most flower symbols originate in religious themes. Taken from Pagan, Christian, Jewish and Eastern philosophies, the tender reeds and rainbow-hued flora have deep representational meaning.

    Baby’s Breath, a common filler in the wedding bouquet, carries with it the symbol of purity and innocence. In Christian terminology, the tiny blooms represent the breath of the Holy Spirit.

    Ferns are familiar fronds embedded in the bouquet. The symbolism tied to the emerald leaf is said to grant magic, confidence, reverie and a strong love bond to the bride and groom.

    Gardenias, along with most white blooms, represent the bride’s purity and chastity. Wedding bouquets arranged with this fragrant posy offer refinement, beauty, sophistication, and innocence of mind and body.

    The lily is the second most conventional flower used in wedding bouquets. White is symbolic for purity and innocence, and the lily’s stalk stands for stability in the marriage. Ironically, the lily is also the most popular flower for funerals.

    The lotus flower, often used in Eastern cultures, can be found in the wedding bouquet. The fragrant lotus also adds a decorative touch to the ceremonial site. In Indian culture, the lotus represents estranged love and forgetfulness of the past. Used in the matrimonial ceremony, the lotus symbolizes a new beginning.

    Orange blossoms are symbolic of innocence, eternal love, marriage and fruitfulness. The orange blossom is incorporated into the wedding bouquet to represent good fortune. Many southern states in the U.S. use this aromatic addition in the wedding bouquet.

    Roses are the number one floral ingredient in the American wedding bouquet. The symbolism of the rose is love, remembrance, passion, happiness and fidelity. Caution should be taken in choosing the color of roses for the spray. Yellow roses represent infidelity, friendship and lack of romance. Purple roses are symbolic of the end of love. Of course, if the colors of the wedding include these two shades, one may not take their symbolism so literally.

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    Wedding Bouquets in Different Cultures

    Pearly dew drop roses Jewish ceremonies incorporate the wedding bouquet, but also use the blooms as crowns. The mother of the bride wears a wreath of flowers as she is surrounded by her daughters. The party parades and dances around the mother, singing lively Yiddish ditties. The Chuppah, or wedding canopy, is elaborately decorated with flowers of the bride’s bouquet.

    The colors and the flowers hold less significance symbolically in the Jewish culture. Some Jewish brides choose flowers from Israel to make their day more elegant and traditional. Thousands of desert blooms with every color of the spectrum are found in Israel. Thistle is added as filler to the wedding bouquet.

    East Indian nuptials replace the wedding bouquet with garlands. A strand of flowers, usually white, is worn by each of the wedding couple. The groom dons a turban or crown and is seated in a throne-like chair. The bride enters the matrimonial ceremony, dressed lavishly in red and gold. The colors of the flowers reflect the pageantry of the wedding. During the ceremony, the garlands are exchanged by the bride and groom. Petals are showered upon the newly married couple by guests. Jasmine and roses are the most popular wedding flower for the Hindu and Indian wedding.

    Muslim weddings span many different cultures. The Muslim ceremony is the same; the decorations and festivities tend to reflect the culture of the area. Flowers are an integral part of the Muslim ritual, regardless of the place of origin. The signing of the marriage contract is the main focus of the wedding. There is little pageantry at this point in the ceremony. The after-parties include music, flowers, and a bride dressed in a kaftan, with her hands delicately endowed with henna.

    Japanese weddings utilize Shinto traditionalism and may or may not incorporate Western culture. The traditional setting for the Shinto bride is in the shrine. There will not be a wedding bouquet at the traditional and more sedate Shinto wedding. The ceremony is small and discrete. The flowers, decorations and partying occurs after the Shinto priest has left. Many Japanese weddings incorporate Western concepts including white gowns instead of kimonos, flowers, wedding bouquets and music.

    Native American wedding bouquets are filled with traditional wild flowers and grasses indigenous to the tribe. While most Native American wedding ceremonies have adopted Western tradition, some still reflect the times of their ancient leaders. In the more traditional wedding, a bouquet is not used. Jewelry of silver and turquoise replace the necessity for flowers. In the multi-cultural Native American design, most traditional western values are utilized.

    Mexican weddings are generally held at 9 p.m. The bride is adorned in a colorful, ruffled gown with an elaborate head piece. Flowers of bright colors adorn the wedding festival. The bride may or may not choose to use a wedding bouquet. The wedding ceremony is held at a brightly lit church, filled with red, green and white posies. The reception is taken to the streets for lavish cooking, dancing and partying. Flowers are a decorative part of the ceremony, but there is no advantage to holding the blooms by the hand.

    Traditional Greek ceremonies are steeped in ancient tradition. Along with most cultures, some western ideas have infiltrated the festivities. A bride may adopt the use of the wedding bouquet, but the most important use of flora is contained in the crowning ceremony. The bride and groom each don a wreath of white flowers held together by strands of ribbon. During the vows, the religious sponsor or koumbaro exchanges the wreathes three times between the bride and groom. At the reception the bride may opt to toss a wedding bouquet into a crowd of single women.

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    Wedding Bouquets Are an Integral Part of the Ceremony

    Whether the wedding bouquet is held by hand, tossed into the air in the form of petals, or arranged in a crown; the floral piece is evident in most cultures. Westernization has made the wedding bouquet prevalent in weddings that span many cultures. Flowers unite us, delight us, congratulate, celebrate and inspire us. The wedding bouquet accomplishes all of these ideals.

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    Sources:

    FavorIdeas.com. The Traditional Greek Wedding

    Bright Hub Education: Weddings in Turkey

    Perfect Wedding Day.com: Bridal Bouquets

    Bright Hub Education: Origin of Good Luck Wedding Traditions

    Spangenberg, Lisl. Timeless Traditions: How to Blend Wedding Customs from Around the World into Your Own Wedding Ceremony. Universe Publishing, 2001

    Image: Busy Bee amongst Lavender by avlxyz under CC BY-ND 3.0

    Image: Wedding Bouquet by jenniamago under CC BY-ND 3.0

    Image: Pearly Dew Drop Roses by e under CC BY-ND 3.0

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