For most traditional brides, her ceremony will begin by walking down the aisle with her father while wearing a stunning white gown and holding an elaborate bouquet of her favorite flowers. As she walks down the aisle, every single woman in the audience will be dazzled by how beautiful the bride looks and will be eyeing the bouquet until the bouquet toss. While so much thought and envy goes into the beautiful floral bridal bouquet, I wonder if as many women would be so eager to catch the bouquet if they knew only a few hundred years ago that the bridal bouquet was just a bundle of herbs and spices, and not the beautiful flower arrangements we see today.
Bridal bouquets have been a wedding tradition dating all the way back to ancient times. But instead of brides holding beautiful bouquets of flowers to complement their gown and match their decor, ancient time brides held bouquets of garlic, herbs and spices. Originally, it was believed that by carrying a herb bouquet the bride would help ward off evil spirits during her ceremony.
Traditional Celtic weddings had the same superstition. Bridal bouquets were traditionally made of ivy, thistle and heather, which released a pungent odor. It was believed that the strong aroma from the bouquet had mystical powers that would keep evil spirits away from the bride and groom.
Traditional Rome and Greece weddings had different beliefs, and the arrangements were more of a symbol of hope than protection. Instead of holding a bouquet, a garland necklace would be placed around the bride and the groom. The circle garland was a symbol of new life, hope and fertility for the new couple to take into their marriage.
It was not until 1840 when Queen Victoria married Prince Albert that the tradition of having flowers in a bridal bouquet was adopted. Queen Victoria’s bouquet was made of marigolds and the herb dill, which combined tradition and her favorite flower. The dill from her bouquet, which is the herb of lust, was eaten by the married couple at the reception and thought to help increase sexual desire.
Floral bouquets grew in popularity during Victorian times, and the bride’s bouquet portrayed a secret message to her groom on their wedding day. Florigraphy, which is the flower language, gave specific flowers a significant meaning and lovers would use flowers to exchange secret message. So on the bride’s wedding day, the bouquet flowers were chosen to carry a significant meaning and not so much for looks.
Overall, the bouquet has taken on many different forms, held many different meanings, and will most likely continue to change. However, as I watch the bride walk down the aisle, it is nice to know that the tradition of weddings, bouquets and marriage is something that will continue on forever.