Every woman loves flowers, not only to receive them as a gift, to decorate her home or to wear but even more so, as a bouquet to carry and compliment her wedding gown on one of the most memorable days of her life. The bridal bouquet is an essential part of a modern bride’s outfit, whether it be a lavish, opulent affair or a simple garden wedding at the family home. Flowers indeed add visual beauty and a touch of romance to a wedding, but there are deeper reasons for their presence.
A bride carrying flowers has its roots in ancient times. In Ancient Rome, brides carried or wore flower garlands, believing that flowers signify new beginnings, fidelity and hope of fertility. In the Middle Ages, strong-smelling herbs and spices were thought to ward off and drive away evil spirits, bad luck, ill health and help mask the smell of body odour. Often composed of herbs, not flowers, dill was especially popular since, being the herb of lust, its consumption by the bride and groom during the reception was thought to increase sexual desire.
It was during the Victorian era that flowers became part of the wedding bouquet and that has continued until today. The modern version of the bridal bouquet was popularized by Queen Victoria who, when marrying Prince Albert, carried a tussie-mussie, a tiny round clutch of flowers in a filigree holder filled with moss and orange blossom. In Victorian times, lovers often sent different flowers as a way of expressing their love. Each flower had a different meaning, and their exchange soon became popular and was linked to romantic love. Flowers became a part of wedding ceremonies because of this romantic association. Brides carefully chose flowers for the sentiments they represented, and the blooms she carried, became “her flowers” for the rest of her life.
If you’ve ever planned a wedding or are currently in the process of planning one, don’t let the following history sully the way you feel about your floral arrangements. These days, I’m happy to report, most brides simply carry flowers because they are beautiful. And, to be honest, I feel like it prevents that awkward “what-do-I-do-with-my-hands” problem that typically results in a ton of fidgeting. Can you imagine walking down the aisle without a bouquet? Seriously, though … what would you do with your hands? Regardless, it’s your wedding, so you’ll carry a bouquet if you want to (or not). The only reason that matters is yours.
But for the sake of the wisdom of knowing thyself, let’s get to some of the weird and sometimes cringe-worthy reasons brides have carried bouquets historically. Like a lot of wedding traditions, it’s… not all sunshine and roses. Literally.
Table of Contents
- 1 A Bouquet is a Must
- 2 To Mask The Bride’s, Uh, Scent
- 3 To Banish Bad Spirits
- 4 To Make The Happy Couple Frisky
- 5 To Send A Sweet Message
- 6 The language of love
- 7 To protect the bride
- 8 Bridal Bouquet FAQs
- 8.1 What kinds of flowers should I use?
- 8.2 What style bouquet should I have?
- 8.3 Should it complement my wedding dress?
- 8.4 How much does a bridal bouquet typically cost?
- 8.5 Who else in the party needs flowers?
- 8.6 How do I differentiate between bouquets?
- 8.7 Do I have to toss my bouquet?
- 8.8 What should I do with it after the wedding?
- 9 Bridal Bouquet Alternatives
- 10 A Lovely June Bride
A Bouquet is a Must
To many brides, a bouquet is a must. But, have you ever asked yourself why brides carry bouquets at weddings? Like many traditions, bouquets are based in antiquity. This custom began in ancient Greece, where brides carried bouquets made of spices and herbs. A popular bouquet of the time was one made from garlic, interlaced with herbs. The strong scent emitting from these bouquets was said to ward off evil spirits that could curse the newlyweds.
This tradition was also adopted by the ancient Romans who themselves contributed to the wedding traditions we know today. Ever wonder why we carry wedding rings on the third-fingers of our left hands? The Romans believed this finger has a vein that is directly connected to the heart. They placed their wedding bands on these fingers as a symbol of love, and we have carried this tradition on into the modern age.
The tradition of bridal bouquets continued into the Medieval ages. During this time, the purpose of bouquets continued to evolve but remained a bouquet of spices and herbs rather than flowers. Medieval brides believed bouquets warded off evil spirits, but they also believed it was a sort of aphrodisiac that would drive fertility between the couple.
It wasn’t until the 1800s during England’s Victorian-era that bouquets would change from herbs and spices to flowers. The first bride to do so was none other than Queen Victoria. Marrying Prince Albert in 1840, she chose her bouquet to be made from fresh flowers rather than the traditional herbs and spices. Many had said this was a choice made to cover up bodily scents in a time when deodorant was unavailable.
To Mask The Bride’s, Uh, Scent
Here’s the ugly truth, people — back in the 15th century, brides had a very distinctive odour. As in, they smelled. According to the Huffington Post, June was the most popular time of year for weddings because people took their annual baths in May. They only got one, you guys (and you thought your struggles were real), and women were the last to take a dip. A household would fill a big tub full of hot water and, in this order: The man of the house would take a nice, hot bath; followed by any male members of the household; followed by the poor and lowly women residing there; and, lastly, the baby got the stagnant surplus. As you may have guessed, this is the where the expression “Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater” originated.
So the theory behind June weddings was that people would still smell relatively well only a month later, presumably especially the menfolk who got the hot, clean portion of the bathwater. As an extra precaution against any potential stink they may be sportin’, brides began carrying fragrant bouquets to mask their pungent body odour. Swoon?
Check out our ultimate list of Wedding Flower Shops in Melbourne to help you pick the perfect arrangements.
To Banish Bad Spirits
Another popular custom that dates way back in the world of bridal bouquets is carrying them to ward off evil spirits. In this scenarios, the bouquets were odoriferous, not due to strong-smelling florals but, rather, because they were created using highly pungent herbs — think spices, dill, and quite possibly lots o’ garlic and chives. If now you can’t help picturing a baked potato walking down the aisle, you aren’t alone. But, I digress.
The theory here is two-fold. On the one hand, traditional folklore suggested the strong smells would drive away evil spirits and bad luck. On the other hand, the may practise either emerged or evolved during the times of the Plague — during that time, people commonly clutched herbs over their noses and mouths in an attempt to survive, as garlic and dill both have natural medicinal properties.
To Make The Happy Couple Frisky
Well, now we’re talking! During Roman times, bridal bouquets weren’t bouquets at all. Instead, they were floral garlands which signified new life and fertility. As the wedding tradition evolved back toward a bouquet, edible aphrodisiacs like dill (pulling double-duty) and marigold were added to incite lust.
To Send A Sweet Message
This Victorian-born reason for the bridal bouquet is probably closest to our modern logic behind carrying flowers when we get hitched: Because they mean something special. During Victorian times, they meant something particularly special — it was during this time floriography or the language of flowers, came to be, whereby specific flowers took on specific, significant meanings. If a groom wanted to send his bride a sweet, coded message, he would choose a bouquet using flowers that conveyed his message of love. Similarly, brides would choose flowers to relay their feelings to their future husbands as well.
Today, this practice is still used by some brides when choosing their bouquets. Want to express adoration? Consider a white camellia. Want a happy marriage? Peony is your pick. Want to convey to your partner you are “dazzled” by their charms? You can’t go wrong with the ranunculus. Yeah, this reason for bridal bouquets easily trumps the rest.
The language of love
This reason is more in line with our modern uptake on wedding bouquets. In Victorian times it was custom to send your lover messages through flowers. As you probably know, each flower has a different meaning, according to the language of flowers: floriography. Due to this romantic association, flowers became a new wedding tradition which we gladly embrace.
To protect the bride
This reason mostly explains where the bridal bouquet toss tradition comes from. Several centuries ago, a bride was considered very lucky. People thought that some of this luck would transfer to them if they were able to rip off pieces of her dress (seriously!). To distract the wedding-goers, the bride began tossing her bouquet in the eager crowd. When everyone attempted to catch the bouquet, the bride and her husband would quickly run to their bridal chambers. Due to this new tradition, wedding attendees stopped tearing off the bride’s dress (thank God!).
Bridal Bouquet FAQs
What kinds of flowers should I use?
This part can be overwhelming, but a lot of the times the kinds of flowers you choose comes down to three things: personal preference, the colour theme of your wedding, and the time of year it’s taking place. Here’s a breakdown of the types that tend to be the most popular.
What style bouquet should I have?
“There are no ‘wrong’ bouquet styles,” Owens says. “Whether it’s traditional, loose and organic, minimal, or even non-floral, our advice is to choose what feels comfortable and what reflects a couple.” When it comes to the size of the bouquet, she adds that it should be proportionate to the bride, “to make sure she isn’t swallowed by one too large, or the impact is not there with something too small.”
Should it complement my wedding dress?
Owens says the final design of the bouquet has a lot to do with the design of the gown. “A sleek, clean-lined gown perhaps calls for a more minimal bouquet, so as not to overpower the dress,” she says. “Likewise, a larger ball gown might be able to handle a larger, more elaborate bouquet.”
How much does a bridal bouquet typically cost?
It typically ranges anywhere from $150-$350, but that doesn’t include flowers for everyone else in the wedding party. You can learn more about those additional floral costs here.
Who else in the party needs flowers?
If you’re opting to outfit everyone with flowers, it’s typical to have bouquets for your bridesmaids; a basket of petals, nosegay, or a flower crown for your flower girl; wrist corsages, nosegays, or floral clutch clips for female family members (like mothers, grandmothers, and sisters); and boutonnieres for the groom, groomsmen, ring bearers, ushers, and male family members (like fathers, grandfathers, and brothers).
Check out our post on What should flower girls do?
How do I differentiate between bouquets?
Most commonly, brides opt to have their ‘maids carry a slightly smaller version of their bouquet, sometimes designating a certain flower to appear in the bridal bouquet only. You could also choose a variety of blooms for your bouquet and then have each bridesmaid carry a single bloom or a few stems of a single variety. Another great option is to play with colour, either adding tone to your bouquet or having one be quite bright while the other is more muted.
Do I have to toss my bouquet?
No. After putting all that work into designing the perfect photo-worthy bouquet, the thought of throwing it over your head can be heartbreaking. Also, many female wedding guests have expressed intense aversion to the entire practice of the bouquet toss, so you may want to save them the ordeal. If you do decide to do a bouquet toss, either ask your florist to create a smaller (and less expensive) nosegay for you to throw, or grab one of the bridesmaid’s bouquets. The smaller style will be much easier to throw, and less dangerous for those trying to catch it.
What should I do with it after the wedding?
If you’re attached to your bouquet, look into options for having it preserved. You can press a few of the blooms in a book, dry the flowers and place them in a shadow box, or have a professional preserve it for you. Otherwise, stick the stems in a vase, and pop by your local florist for flower food to add every few days to keep the flowers alive as long as possible. Then relish in the pictures from your photographer.
Bridal Bouquet Alternatives
Not every bride chooses a traditional round bouquet, and that’s OK because there are lots of other equally elegant options. Asymmetric shapes, smaller bouquets resembling posies, cascading designs, are all beautiful and appropriate. The elements used can go far beyond basic roses and peonies. Tropicals, dried floral elements, and interesting colour combinations create unique bouquet statements.
If you want to buck tradition even further, you can opt to hold a single bloom, make your way down the aisle with your pooch on a leash, or leave your hands empty so you can grab your parents for that important walk. Lanterns, floral wreaths, paper flowers, wearable live floral pieces, like statement necklaces and dramatic headpieces, could be fun options for the bride hoping to skip the traditional bouquet altogether.
A Lovely June Bride
June is an incredibly popular month for weddings, and it has been for a long time. These days people choose June dates because the weather tends to be favourable. In the Middle Ages, there was a very different reason for June’s wedding popularity. Many people of the time only bathed once a year, and that bath was usually taken in May. As they wanted to be as fresh as could be for the big day, the couple married soon after. The bride then upped her freshness by carrying a fragrant bouquet of blooms. It brings new meaning to the phrase “love is in the air” doesn’t it?
Of course, body odour isn’t the only reason that bouquets became an official bridal accessory. If you want to know where did the bouquet originates, we have to dig deeper. Here are some other reasons brides of the past carried bundles of flowers (and other things) down the aisle.
Many people assume that the bridal bouquet is just another piece of adornment, meant to dress up the bride and add to the overall decor. While this thought may be accurate today, originally bundles of flowers were carried for very different and often much less romantic reasons. No matter the origins, the custom led to the elegant tradition we carry on today. So now you no longer have to question, “where did the bouquet originate?”
Brides of today can carry a bouquet for any number of reasons and attach as much or as little meaning to it as they choose. When you’re ready to look for your wedding bouquet. We carry a wide variety of fresh floral options and have choices for the bride who wants to be very hands-on and plenty of options for the bride who wants her arrangements artisan crafted.
However, in modern times, charming as they may have seemed, the old traditions have been almost forgotten, with brides now selecting flowers for the beauty of their colours, fragrance and shape. The bouquet is the bride’s ultimate accessory and greatly adds to the overall appearance of the day. The bride’s selected blooms are a way for her to express her style, taste and personality and an essential complement to her gown.