Roses are-plain and simple-the quintessential wedding flower. A universal symbol of love and beauty, they are at once classic and contemporary, omnipresent yet never overdone, ever current yet steeped in history. There were 20,000 cream-color roses at the wedding of Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas. More recently, brides are finding Carmen Electra's luscious deep red rose bouquet to die for. Why? Roses are synonymous with romance. More elegant than daisies, less pretentious than French tulips, and more affordable than orchids...
Roses are Symbolic...
Open any romance novel, look at any romantic painting, and it's clear that throughout the ages writers, poets, artists, and others have used the rose as a metaphor for undying love, beauty, and passion. But why? It has been cited that Chloris -- the Greek Goddess of Flowers -- created the rose out of a lifeless nymph. In the creation, Chloris called upon Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love, to bless the nymph with beauty; Dionysus, the God of Wine, to give her a sweet scent; and the three Graces to bestow charm, brightness, and joy upon her. Then Zephyr, the West Wind, blew away clouds so that Apollo, the Sun God, could make the flower bloom. Voila! A rose and symbol of beauty was born.
It was the Victorians, however, who turned flowers into poetry, giving them symbolism and meaning. Inspired by a French book entitled Le Langage des Fleurs by Charlotte de la Tour, those genteel Victorians adopted this flower code to convey their sentiments. Soon every young woman relished in knowing that receiving a rose -- a symbol for true love -- was of the highest significance.
Roses are Reasonable...
According to the Society of American Florists, there are at least 120 varieties of roses commercially available. Styles can range from small blooms with sturdy leaves to larger flowers with soft, delicate petals. But the real beauty? Roses are widely available and can be reasonably priced (though rare varieties can skyrocket from $4 to $10 per stem).
What affects the cost? The grades of the stem and the head; in which part of the world the rose is cultivated; and the service that's provided with the flower. (Be honest: Is the level of preservation, handling, and care the same with your neighborhood street vendor as it is with a high-end retail florist?) But generally speaking, prices can stoop to as low as $1.50 a stem because of the huge variance in kind, quality, and color of roses.
Roses are Varied...
There are three main types of roses that are the most likely candidates for wedding flowers: hybrid tea roses, spray roses, and garden roses. Here's a quick glance at what makes each unique:
- Hybrid Tea Roses: With its classic shape, the hybrid tea rose is, in fact, valued for its uniformity, durability (it will last the whole day without wilting!), and availability. The most popular kinds include the deep red roses known as Black Magic, the creamy white ones known as Vendela, and the gold-tone roses known as Leonidas.
- Spray Roses: These smaller roses include five to 10 small heads per stem and therefore fill out bouquets more than a single stem -- making them a great value. They are available in single hues or bicolor, like the hybrid. Because of the variance in size, they are ideal for giving texture and visual interest to an arrangement.
- Garden Roses: These roses are far larger and more lush than the other varieties. They are often very open, and they're more natural and freeform -- like something you'd find in your own garden (hence the name). Because of the fragility, they are rarer, precious, and costly.
Roses are Versatile...
Roses can go from minimal to mod -- it's all in the arrangement. Here are seven spectacular ways to use roses in your wedding-day decor.
Clean & Classic
- Pair white roses with a classic flower like a gardenia or white hydrangea. Or fill a classic silver bowl with 200 of the same variety and color for a clean look with megaimpact.
- Take a classic white arrangement and throw in something unexpected. Add a shocking black or dark brown floral element, such as an olive or fern shoot, to create dynamic contrast.
Romantic & Ornate
- Make a visual statement: Try fur-trimmed or beaded wraps for the bouquets, or jewel-tone (ruby or citrine) tear-shape beads dangling from rose-filled candelabra.
- Think feminine but modern -- and incorporate sweet elements, like satin ribbon looped into an arrangement of big open garden roses.
- Want something both romantic and eccentric? Suspend a wreath of garden roses from the ceiling over each table.
Mod & Contemporary
- Monochromatic arrangements are on the rise-whether that's all white, or shades of pale peach and hot orange. Take the single-color cluster of flowers (white roses, stephanotis, and hydrangeas, for instance) and arrange the bunch in a glass cube or vase with a strong geometric shape. (A Lucite glass or square wooden box will give arrangements an au courant personality.)
- Juxtapose roses with spiky dahlias in bright colors, like yellow and orange, and set them in unexpected vases in cool colors, such as deep blue ceramic water pitchers.
Roses are Simply Perfection...
Whether you'll marry outdoors in a garden or in an exquisite ballroom, roses will make your wedding reverberate with romance.
Special thanks to: floral designers Matthew Robbins for Artfool and David Stark for Avi Adler; and Carol Caggiano, AIFD, PFCI Board of Directors for Society of American Florists
photos: Wendell Webber, from The Knot Book of Wedding Flowers (Chronicle Books, 2002)