How do you choose the flowers for your wedding bouquet: color, season, childhood favorite? Did you know that the flowers in your bouquet may be sending a certain message?
Flowers have been used to symbolize certain traits, feelings, and meaning throughout time, showing up in such things as plays, mythology, and poems. Learning to speak the language of flowers can add a whole new dimension to your ceremony.
How did the tradition of carrying bouquets get started?
In the 15th century, wedding bouquets were carried by brides to ward off evil spirits. They were not made of flowers, but instead, herbs were used to provide protection.
- Juniper was thought to banish evil and protect from witchcraft
- Garlic and thyme symbolized strength and courage
- Thistle was associated with resilience, pain, and protection
- Aloe represented protection, affection, and healing
- Oak denoted strength
- Dill was considered to be powerful against evil
As legend has it, the first instance of the use of flowers in wedding bouquets started with Queen Victoria, a 20-year-old princess bride with an appreciation for flowers. She placed a sprig of myrtle in her bouquet for its sweet smell. The trend continued. Although the symbolism assigned to individual flowers in the Victorian age may vary slightly, each flower was used to communicate a specific message.
Flowers that express love
You’ll be expressing your love and commitment to your partner during your ceremony. Use your bouquet as one more way to communicate this heart-felt sentiment. Consider the meanings of these flowers to help you.
- Red roses and chrysanthemums say “I love you”
- Sunflowers mean adoration
- Peonies express a happy life, a happy marriage
- Red tulips declare love
- Violets symbolize loyalty and faithfulness, saying “I’ll always be here”
- Yarrow means everlasting love
- Lily of the Valley say, “You make my life complete”
- Dahlia, red salvia, and baby’s breath represent everlasting love
- Red carnations speak of adoration and say “my heart aches for you”
- Honeysuckle represents bonds of love
- Blue Hyacinth symbolizes a loyal and steadfast love
Flowers that remember a loved one
Weddings can induce feelings of longing for people we’ve lost, as we wish they could be with us on this special day. Flowers can be used to remember them in your ceremony. Here are a few suggestions of flowers that mean remembrance.
- Pink carnations say, “I’ll never forget you”
- Clover means, “Think of me”
- Forget-me-nots symbolize true love memories
- White Hyacinth can suggest prayers for someone
- Rosemary represents remembrance
- Blue salvia says, “I think of you”
- Zinnia gives us thoughts of absent friends
Flowers to avoid?
Some flowers have negative or ambiguous connotations. The superstitious among us may want to think twice before using these in your bouquet to avoid sending ‘the wrong message.’
- Yellow carnations express distain, disappointment, and rejection
- Begonias mean beware
- Cyclamen symbolizes resignation and good-bye
- Purple hyacinth represents sorrow and regret
- Yellow hyacinth denotes jealousy
- Rhododendrons speak of danger
- Willow means sadness
Alternatives to flowers
Almost anything can be used in a bouquet if you are able to think beyond the expected. Here are some examples to give you inspiration. All you need is a glue gun, some styrofoam, a sense of adventure, satin ribbon and Pinterest.
- Shells: for a beach wedding, use real or fabricated shells to carry down the aisle.
- Bows: A mix of different textures such as satin and tulle with pearls and crystals for sparkle
- Legos: Let your inner child free with bright colors and shapes of Lego pieces or vintage toys
- Buttons: vintage buttons, pearl accents, and diamond studded accessories will provide the glam you’d want for your wedding
- Brooches: A collection from your grandmother, aunts, mother, and bridesmaid will give you a bouquet to remember. Drape a string of pearls for an additional dramatic effect.
If you love the idea of fresh flowers to symbolize what your heart is feeling, select a few to capture your sentiment. Mixing a variety of different types and colors will speak volumes. What about honeysuckle, violets, and lily of the valley for a sweet declaration of love and loyalty? Maybe you prefer red tulips and carnations to signify passionate love. For a more subtle approach, tuck a sprig of salvia or forget-me-nots in your bouquet in memory of your loved one. Mix red roses, dahlias, and baby’s breath to say, “I will love you forever.” But you might want to think twice before you pick yellow carnations!
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Cindy Dumont is a Justice of the Peace in North Hampton, New Hampshire.