Weddings, like any ceremony, are steeped in symbolism and tradition; therefore, weddings come with various expectations, but where do these expectations come from? One of the most memorable images from any wedding is seeing the bride walk down the aisle: the train following her all-white dress, the veil, her father giving her away. Another thing you will notice, though, is that she is carrying a bouquet of flowers. But why? Where did the tradition of bridal flowers begin?
The appearance of floral arrangements in weddings can be traced all the way back to classical antiquity, most notably in Roman society. Romans believed that donning the bride and groom in garlands and wreaths made of flowers not only assured good luck for the newlyweds, but also symbolized fertility, new life together, and faithfulness. As time progressed, however, societies began adopting new wedding customs.
In the midst of the Middle Ages, flowers were exchanged for bouquets of more savory herbs and spices. Dill, garlic, and chives were all incorporated into bouquets as a way to ward off bad omens and mischievous spirits through scent. These spices were also considered aphrodisiacs, and were often consumed by the bride and groom during the wedding meal before consummating their marriage.
Although Roman and Middle Age societies built the foundations for our modern-day wedding traditions, the past society most closely resembling our current ceremonies were the Victorians. In fact, the Victorian Era is where the still-used practice of “floriography” began.
Floriography — also known as the language of flowers — was developed as a way for people, often lovers, to send secret messages to each other through floral arrangements as a way to subvert a society that prohibited outright flirtatious behavior. Each flower was given a special meaning, and today, many bouquets are created with these principles in mind; for example, chrysanthemums are often associated with abundance and wealth. Lilacs, however, could mean beauty and pride. Even roses have different meanings attached to each color variant.
Today, wedding flowers make an appearance in our ceremonies as a nod to these ancient traditions; but, whether modern brides select specific flowers for their meaning, scent, or purely their beauty, they are here to stay.
The reason brides throw the bouquet during the reception? This practice also dates back to ancient times. After the ceremony, crowds would often attempt to collect pieces of the bride’s dress and veil, believing that if the bride wore the item, then it would bring them luck. In order to safely leave her wedding, the bride would throw her flowers so crowds would take those instead. Thank goodness this tradition has evolved as well!