Throughout history, many cultures have described flowers as objects of beauty and have written about them frequently in poetry. Flowers express love, romance, kindness, and affection. It’s no wonder that flowers are used so prominently in happy occasions like weddings. Let us delve into the tradition of throwing bridal bouquets and the meanings behind the diverse types of flowers used in ceremonies.
History of Throwing the Bouquet
The tradition of throwing a wedding bouquet is steeped in rich history throughout many cultures. Long ago, the ancient Greeks and Romans used fragrant herbs and spices to ward off nasty evil spirits or bad luck, wearing garlands or carrying flowers to signify new beginnings, fertility, and loyalty.
In the Middle Ages, English brides threw bouquets of fragrant herbs, such as dill, to represent lust. They used spices in the bouquet to ward off evil spirits and bad luck, as well as mask body odor. Brides were considered lucky, so guests would try to grab something belonging to her (such as her dress, hair, or flowers) to improve their luck. To make her escape, the bride threw her bouquet into the crowd. This is where the tradition of throwing the bouquet is thought to have begun.
During the Victorian era, flowers became common in wedding bouquets, such as when Queen Victoria married Prince Albert. She carried a small bouquet of Galanthus Snowdrops (also known as posies, which were her bridegroom’s favorite flower), myrtle (an addition to her bouquet from her prince), and orange blossoms in her hair and on her dress. All royal weddings have included a sprig of myrtle since the 1850s, from the same exact plant which still grows today. Orange blossoms are still a part of royal wedding traditions as well. However, it is unknown if the queen threw her bouquet, as it was an established custom by this time.
Among brides, flowers are a meaningful part of the wedding because of their association with romantic love. Victorian lovers would exchange specific flowers as an expression of their relationship, and choosing the right blossom was critical. Furthermore, the flowers from a wedding would be cherished by the bride for a lifetime.
While the tradition of throwing a bouquet originated in England and mostly spread to countries that had English influence, like America, many cultures today incorporate this tradition as a fun activity during the reception. However, throughout history, the actual tossing of the bouquet was not commonplace. Many countries and religions incorporated bouquets of flowers in different ways into their wedding ceremonies.
Symbolic Meaning and Language of Flowers
Let’s say you’re using roses for the wedding bouquet. You probably already know it’s symbolically used for love, but what color should you choose? Each variation has its own meaning that can change from one culture to the next.
Did you know that when the Spanish reached the Americas, legend is that they thought sunflowers were made of gold? That’s why they have been called “false riches.” However, in Italy, sunflowers mean happiness. Some cultures use roses for love while others may use it for less pleasant occasions. Moreover, certain flowers can also have a more personal meaning based on individual experiences and preferences.
During the Victorian era, flower symbolism was so prominent, that a bouquet could be an entire message to a friend or lover. These symbolic meanings have remained popular in Western culture, so let’s take a look at some common wedding flowers.
Roses – Whiteor Beige: Innocence; Burgundy: Lust; Red: Love, happiness; Pink: Loveliness; Yellow: Friendship; Orange: Fascination
Anemone – Anticipation, expectation
Baby’s Breath – Innocence
Calla Lily – Purity and faith
Carnation – Pink: Boldness; Red: Love; White: Talent
Chrysanthemum, Mums – Abundance, wealth, truth
Freesia – Innocence, friendship, sweetness, thoughtfulness
Gardenias – Joy
Hydrangea – Honesty, heartfelt emotion, gratitude, understanding
Iris – Faith, wisdom
Lilacs – Love’s first emotion
Lilly – Magnificence, majesty, honor, truth
Lilly of the Valley – Purity, humility, happiness
Orchids – Love, beauty
Peony – Beauty (China), good fortune, bashfulness (Greece), honor, love, romance
Stock – Lasting beauty
Tulips – Yellow: Hopeless love; Red: Passion
Traditionally, the bridegroom wears a boutonniere matching his bride, which traces back to the custom of knights wearing their ladies’ colors as a declaration of love.
Catching the Bouquet
What does it mean to catch the bouquet? Traditionally it means that the unmarried lady who catches it is the next to be wedded. Many weddings today have all the women line up to catch it, married or not, as some find it difficult to single-out the single women. Most people find it fun, but some people may find it difficult to participate or feel embarrassed.
If you’re asking all the ladies to participate, consider catching the bouquet a symbol of good luck, or even have a dance competition for the bouquet. The best part is that a guest gets to keep a gorgeous bouquet of flowers that were part of your special day.
It’s your wedding, so you can decide on which flowers you want to use. You could match your décor or bridesmaid dresses, choose you and your partner’s favorites, or find deeper meanings in your blossoms. Your choice of favorite flowers should be based on your own preferences, but it is fun to know where the traditions with bridal flowers began.