Wedding Floral Traditions Every Couple Should Know About
There are countless wedding traditions that couples and their loved ones practice around the world. So it's no surprise that the blossoms you select for your wedding day are also often rooted in rich cultural and historical floral traditions. If you want to learn more about the significance of flowers in other cultures or incorporate wedding flower traditions into your wedding, we've got the perfect list for you. From Ancient Greece to modern-day Mexico, we've rounded up 14 flower-related customs you might not have heard of, plus the history behind the most common floral rituals.
The History of Common Wedding Flower Traditions
Flowers aren't just added to a couple's wedding day because they're nice to look at. Many blooms have meaning behind them which results in numerous customs being formed. Here are the stories behind these common wedding flower traditions.
The Bride's Bouquet
The bridal bouquet is a collection of flowers the bride holds as she walks down the aisle, but why do brides carry flowers? Tony Crespo, owner of FMI Farms, explains. "The origin of the wedding bouquet started with the Ancient Greeks and Romans. The bouquets had fragrant herbs to ward off bad luck during ceremonies." During this time, the bouquets were floral garlands worn by the bride and groom, which symbolized fertility and fidelity. Some herbs used were rosemary to represent loyalty and protection, dill as an aphrodisiac and ivy to represent a strong and unbreakable bond.
The kind of wedding bouquets we see today originated during the Victorian age. At that time, brides chose their florals based on their symbolism. Now, many couples choose their flowers because of their visual appeal and symbolism.
Throwing the Bouquet
The bouquet toss has a unique history that started in England. "The common superstition was that a piece of the bridal bouquet or even the bride's dress would bring good luck and fortune. A mob mentality created a dangerous situation for the bride. The toss developed over time to give an escape route for the bride. She would toss in one direction and run out the opposite way," Crespo says. Now, newlyweds do the bouquet toss for fun during the reception, with the lighthearted superstition that whoever catches the bouquet will be the next person to get married.
The Flower Girl
Typically, the flower girl is a wedding party role given to young girls. The small attendant throws flower petals while processing down the aisle before the bride. Historians believe this role comes from the Ancient Romans and Greeks. The flower girls threw grains and herbs to represent fertility or carried garlic garlands to ward off evil spirits. During the Victorian era, flower girls wore white dresses, sometimes a replica of the bride's gown, and carried flower baskets or hoops, which symbolized infinite love.
Wedding Party Corsages and Boutonnieres
Corsages are another floral tradition that dates back to the Ancient Greeks. They believed the flower's fragrance helped ward off bad spirits, so couples pinned flowers to themselves for protection. Corsage comes from the French term "bouquet de corsage," which means "bouquet of the bodice." The corsage's placement used to be high on the shoulder, so the suitor didn't pin the flowers to an inappropriate area (a women's chest). Eventually, with the popularity of strapless or spaghetti-strap dresses, corsages moved to women's wrists.
The boutonnière comes from when the Egyptians and Aztecs wore blooms to show their support for different sports teams. Another inspiration for the boutonnière is the War of the Roses, when the Lancaster and York families wore red and white roses, respectively, on their armor. The way men wear boutonnières today didn't start until the 19th century when suits had lapels with buttonholes.
Wedding Floral Traditions From Different Countries
There are numerous unique wedding floral traditions around the world. Check out these global flower customs and consider using them in your wedding.
At Chinese weddings, the lotus flower is the most significant botanical. A blooming lotus symbolizes purity, honor and longevity, which every Chinese couple wants in their marriage. You may often see two blooming lotuses next to each other at a Chinese nuptial since two lotuses represent harmony.
In England, some guests give the bride and groom a rose bush to plant. It is thought that the growth symbolizes the growth of a marriage, the blossoms symbolize happiness, and the thorns symbolize the trials of married life.
French weddings usually don't have wedding parties with bridesmaids and groomsmen. Instead, they have témoins (or witnesses) whose purpose is to be present to sign the wedding registry, stating the couple was married. But even though there's no wedding party, to-be-weds typically always have a flower girl, who showers the aisle with flowers as the bride enters the ceremony.
Stefana, also known as Greek wedding crowns, are two crowns joined by a ribbon for unity. In Ancient Greece, the crowns were made of lemon blooms, olive branches and vines, but today they are typically made of silver or gold with floral designs. The Stefana is blessed by a priest and placed on the couple's heads indicating they are the king and queen of their home. Finally, crowns are switched back and forth three times by the couple's honor attendants to "seal" the union.
At Italian weddings, Italian newlyweds add flowers to the front grill of their wedding getaway car instead of tying old cans to the back. The flowers on the front manifest the couple driving down a path (or road) of a good and happy marriage.
The Varmala ceremony, also known as Jaimala, is at the beginning of Hindu weddings when the to-be-weds see each other for the first time before the wedding ceremony. A mala, which means garland in Hindi, is a lush and colorful flower garland exchanged between the couple as a physical acceptance of the marriage. The flowers represent beauty and happiness and sometimes are integrated with money as a wish of good luck.
Traditionally for Irish weddings, female wedding guests are tasked with picking wildflowers to place in the bride's hair before the wedding ceremony. This floral tradition replaced the veil and existed so the guests could show their love and support for the to-be-wed.
"In Mexican weddings, the bride can carry up to two bouquets. One bouquet for herself and one for the Virgin Mary," Crespo says. The presentation of the bouquet is an important custom in Catholic-Mexican weddings. This wedding floral tradition is done after the ceremony so the bride can pray and ask the Virgin Mary for her blessing over her union.
In Scotland, people believe hiding a sprig of white heather or thistle in the bride's bouquet would give the couple lots of luck and happiness. The Scottish thistle is Scotland's national flower and stands for loyalty and bravery.
Sicily has two wedding flower traditions. The first is the use of orange flowers in bridal bouquets to wish the couple luck in fertility. Another custom is that the bride's parents give their daughter a bouquet, which she takes pictures with before the ceremony. Once at the wedding venue, the bride gives the bouquet to the groom's mother to show her appreciation. Finally, the groom gives the bride a new bouquet, which she carries while walking down the aisle.
Instead of a veil, lots of Swedish brides wear a flower crown, sometimes adorned with myrtle leaves. This floral tradition symbolizes youth and innocence and is practiced in many Nordic cultures.
At Thai wedding ceremonies, the mothers of the bride and groom walk to the altar to drape phuang malai around the couple's shoulders. These flower garlands are used for numerous reasons in Thailand, but for Thai weddings, they are used to wish the happy couple good fortune in their life together.
Brides wear wedding wreaths, which are intricate traditional Ukrainian flower crowns worn to protect the bride from evil. Myrtle leaves, flowers, sage, garlic, honey, mint leaves and much more are laced into the wreaths for ultimate protection. Traditionally, the wedding wreaths were made by female loved ones of the bride the evening before the wedding. Attached to the wreath are colorful ribbons, there are 12 different colors to choose from––each with its own meaning, acting as charms against evil.
The last flower garland on this floral traditions list is the lei. The lei is incorporated into many Hawaiian wedding traditions to symbolize love and the aloha spirit. During the wedding ceremony, the couple exchanges leis made of pikake flowers and green maile leaves (for the groom) to showcase the couple intertwining their lives. Couples might also give their mothers and their guests leis depending on the size of the wedding.