Wedding Flowers – Lily of the Valley

This will be the first post in an ongoing series about the various types of wedding flowers.  (Check out next month’s Orange Blossom post which will be about another favorite bridal flower)  So, I will start with a little bit of the history of the tradition as to why brides carry floral bouquets on their wedding days.

The origin and history of a bridal bouquet

The first reason was originally thought to date back to the 15th century when people of the time would bath rather infrequently and the bride would carry a fragrant floral bouquet to mask any unpleasant smells.  Still another reason for this old custom is that a superstitious bride would carry a bouquet as a way to ward off evil spirts, these bouquets would be made of herbs, spice and sometimes even garlic!

Then, as the centuries passed it was thought that a bride was considered to be especially lucky on her wedding day.  For this reason the guests would sometimes tear off pieces of the bride’s dress to keep as a good luck memento for themselves.  Since this rather odd custom would ruin a bride’s beautiful dress it has been thought that the tradition of throwing her garter and bouquet would satisfy anyone looking for a lucky memento to take away on the wedding day.  This is a one of those traditions that is still being done at modern day weddings celebrations.

A bouquet can add a touch of beauty and color to the bride’s accessories.  Today, bridal bouquets can be created with a vast variety of flowers and greenery and can be designed into several different shapes and sizes.

Lily of the valley bridal flower

One the most popular bridal flowers that is a frequent choice for a bouquet is the lily of the valley flower.  The lily of the valley (convallaria majalis) is a flowering heavily scented but highly poisonous woodland plant that is native throughout the Northern Hemisphere. The bell-shaped buds are delicate in appearance and look wonderful in contrast to the plant’s vibrant green leaves.

In the “language of flowers”, the lily of the valley means happiness and maybe for this reason the fragrant flower has been widely used in weddings, particularly for a bride’s bouquet or the groom’s boutonniere.  The cost of using the lily of valley can be rather expensive, even when in season during the months of spring and summer, and this might be why it is used so sparingly as a wedding flower.

List of famous brides and their lily of the valley wedding bouquets

For inspiration, here is a list of some of the most famous brides that have used lily of the valley flowers in their wedding bouquets.

Jacqueline “Jackie” Bouvier married John Kennedy (then a U.S. Representative from Massachusetts and future President of the United States) on September 12, 1953 at St. Mary’s Church in Newport, Rhode Island.  The wedding reception took place at Hammersmith Farm which was the home of her stepfather Hugh Auchincloss.  On her wedding day, Jackie’s bridal bouquet was a mixture of white and pink gardenias, orchids and lilies of the valley.


Jacqueline Bouvier – September 13, 1953

Special Note: When Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis died on May 20, 1994 her simple mahogany casket was covered with ferns and lilies of the valley arranged in the shape of a cross.  The funeral mass took place at St. Ignatius Loyola Roman Catholic church in New York City on May 23.  Later in the day, she was buried alongside her husband, President Kennedy, at Arlington National Cemetery just outside of Washington, D.C.

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis burial service Arlington Cemetery – May 23, 1994

When American actress Grace Kelly married Prince Rainer III of Monaco they had two ceremonies.  The first was a civil ceremony that took place in the Palace of Monaco Throne Room on April 18, 1956.  The following day the Roman Catholic ceremony took place at the St. Nicholas Cathedral in Monaco.  The beautiful Grace wore perhaps one of the most iconic wedding dresses of the past century; some people have noted that Kate Middleton’s wedding dress many years later was very similar in design.  On her wedding day, Grace carried a small Bible and a bouquet made of lilies of the valley.

Grace Kelly – April 19, 1956

Elizabeth Taylor, the American actress was famous for her multiple marriages throughout the years, she had seven husbands (she married Richard Burton twice!)  Lillies of the valley were her most frequent choice for her bridal bouquet.  Shown below are photos from her first marriage to Conrad “Nicky” Hilton on May 6, 1950, followed by her second marriage to Michael Wilding on February 21, 1952, then her fourth marriage to Eddie Fisher on May 12, 1959 and finally her eight (and last wedding!) to Larry Fotensky on October 6, 1991.



When Carolyn Bassett married John Kennedy, Jr. on September 21, 1996 on Cumberland Island, Georgia in a very secret ceremony she wore a simple and elegant Narcisco Rodriguez wedding gown, the bias-cut silk crepe in “pearl white” proved to be another iconic bridal dress.  On her wedding day, Carolyn carried a lovely lilies of the valley bouquet.

John and Carolyn Kennedy – September 21, 1996

The final bridal bouquet featured in this post will be the one Catherine Middleton carried on her wedding to Prince William on April 29, 2011 at Westminster Abbey in London, England.  Kate personal floral request was to incorporate the English tradition of the “language of the flowers” and the all white bouquet featured lily of the valley (happiness), Sweet William (gallantry and also an unspoken tribute to her new husband), hyacinth (constancy of love), ivy (fidelity) and myrtle (love and marriage).

Catherine Middleton – April 29, 2011