The History of Bridal Bouquets

Wedding flowers are selected to add visual interest and color to the ceremony and reception.  In particular the bridal bouquet reflects the bride’s personal preferences with her selection of flowers chosen in regards to the basic shape, style, colors and even sometimes taking into consideration the scent of the flowers.  In this post I will discuss the history of bridal bouquets including the various customs and traditions, such as why does the bride will carry a bouquet to the ceremony and then toss it away at the reception.  I will also discuss the various types of bridal bouquets in regards to shape and offer several examples for inspiration.

The history of the bridal bouquet

The origin of the bridal bouquet can be traced back to the time of Ancient Greece and Rome.  In those times herb garlands were worn by the bride around her neck or as wreaths upon her head.  These garlands or wreaths were sometimes made by the bride’s attendants and small floral bouquets were also made for the guests and placed upon the table at their seats as an offering of thanks from the bridal couple.  The herbs used had various meanings and some signified fidelity and fertility while other herbs had a much more sinister purpose which was to supposedly ward off evil spirits.  Herbs such as sage were thought to bring wisdom while dill brought passion and garlic would protect the married couple.

Unlike people in modern times, during the Middle Ages people rarely bathed,  It was thought that they would only bath once a year, this yearly bath usually took place in May and for this reason perhaps the month of June was often chosen for weddings.  Regardless of this fact, bouquets of scented flowers or herbs were often used to mask bodily orders.

During the time of the gallant knights and beautiful maidens, a knight would ask a maiden for a token of affection for him to carry into battle.  On their wedding day, the groom would often ask his bride for a flower or herb from her bouquet, this is possibly where the custom of the groom’s boutonniere started.  Another unusual wedding tradition started when guests would tear off pieces of the bride’s dress with the thought that the piece of fabric would be them good luck.  Since the bride was often jostled in the process, eventually as a distraction and to avoid having her dress torn to shreds she would toss her bridal bouquet.

During the Regency and Victorian Era, the language of flowers was a popular custom.  This was when flowers were arranged in small posy or tussie mussie, the flowers were specially selected from their meanings.  The tussie mussies would be given from a prospective suitor to a young lady as a way of sending hidden messages.  Some examples are that roses meant love, stephanotis for good luck, violets for hope, freesia for trust and ivy for fidelity and fern for sincerity.

Different shapes and styles of bridal bouquets

Modern brides now infrequently select the flowers for their bridal bouquets based on their meanings and instead select them based on the type and color of the flowers.  Today, the most popular types of bridal flowers are roses, stephanotis, lily of the valley, hydrangeas, tulips, orchids and gardenias.

Bridal bouquets are available in a variety of shapes and styles, the most popular being round and cascading bouquets.  Other shapes for bouquet include crescent, shield (such as the one carried by Catherine Middleton) and other styles include arm sheaf (also known as a presentation bouquet).  Two unique bouquets are the composite bouquet which is painstakingly assembled from the petals of a flower to create one large flower and pomanders (sometimes known as kissing balls) which could be available in several different types of handles, such as a variety of ribbons or strings of pearls and crystals.

Shown below are photos featuring examples of the different shapes and styles available in bridal bouquets.

Two variations of round bouquets – roses (left) and orchids (right)

Examples of hand-tied bouquets – tulips (left) and liliies (right)

An example of a hand-tied mixed flower bouquet

Examples of cascading bouquets – roses (left) mixed flowers (right)

More examples of cascading bouquets – mixed flowers (left) and tulips (right)

Examples of cascading bouquets – orchids (left) and mixed flowers (right)

An example of a cresent bouquet

The shield style bouquet which Catherine Middleton carried on her wedding day


An example of a rose sheaf bouquet

Another example of a mixed flowers arm sheaf bouquet

An example of a composite bouquet


Two examples of pomanders – roses (left) and hydrangeas (right)

For more information regarding unique bouquet ideas and suggestions using alternative items, please check back in the upcoming months.