This post will feature the wedding ceremony flowers for the April 29, 2011 wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton which took place at Westminster Abbey in London, England. Per the request of the Royal Couple there were a few stipulations regarding their wedding flowers. First, the bride requested that the flowers used in her bridal bouquet would be chosen for their special meanings according to old English tradition of the “language of the flowers”. Second, the flowers selected would also need to be traditional English flowers that would be in season at the time of the wedding. Third, the flowers and plants needed to be grown in England and possibly from one of the Royal estates. Fourth, the large trees used to decorate in the interior of the Abbey on the wedding day would be able to be replanted.
Catherine Middleton’s bridal bouquet
Catherine Middleton personal floral request for her bridal bouquet would incorporate the “language of the flowers” which was an old custom popular during the Victorian era. At that time, flowers and plants would be selected for their special meanings to convey hidden messages.
Catherine’s small all white bridal bouquet was designed by florist Shane Connolly and was in sharp contrast to Prince William’s mother, Princess Diana, extremely large bouquet for her wedding to Prince Charles in 1981. Catherine’s bouquet featured lily of the valley (happiness), Sweet William (gallantry and also as a tribute to her new husband), hyacinth (constancy of love), ivy (fidelity) and myrtle (love and marriage).
Comparison of Kate and Diana’s bridal bouquets
Catherine Middleton’s wedding bouquet recreated for the Kensington Palace exhibit
Legend has it that clippings from the myrtle in Queen Victoria’s bridal bouquet have been used by every royal bride since her wedding to Prince Albert in 1840 (see the special note below). The tradition of the myrtle first started when the Princess Royal Victoria, the eldest child of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, used the myrtle in her bouquet when she married Prince Frederick of Prussia in 1858. The tradition continued thereafter for the weddings of Queen Victoria and Price Albert’s other four daughters. In the years that followed other royal brides also used myrtle in their wedding bouquets, such as Princess Alexandra when she married Prince Albert Edward (later King Edward II), Princess Mary of Teck when she married Prince George (later King George V), Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon when she married Prince Albert George (later King George VI) and Princess Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth II) when she married Prince Phillip. Special Note: Contrary to popular belief, the myrtle planted during Queen Victoria’s time which still grows in the garden at Osborne House did not come from her bridal bouquet but from a nosegay presented by Prince Albert’s grandmother during a visit to Prince Albert’s homeland of Germany several years later after their wedding.
The gardens of Osborne House
where the myrtle for British Royal bridal bouquets is grown
Another British Royal bridal tradition started with the wedding Prince Albert George and Lady Elizabeth in 1923. In the moments before proceeding down the aisle at Westminster Abbey there was a slight delay. In those few minutes, to honor her brother Fergus who had died a few years earlier in World War I, Lady Elizabeth spontaneously laid her bridal bouquet on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Special Note: Since that time, Royal brides that are married at the Abbey have also laid their bouquets on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier with the one exception that instead of it being placed prior to the start of the ceremony, the bouquet is laid on the sacred spot afterwards. This is a lovely tradition most recently done by Catherine Middleton at her wedding to Prince William.
Catherine Middleton’s bouquet on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
Wedding floral arrangements and trees used at Westminster Abbey
Once again Catherine worked with her floral designer to create meaningful large arrangements made entirely of English flowers. The flowers selected for the white, cream and green arrangements included azaleas (temperance), rhododendrons (beware), beech (prosperity), wisteria (good luck) and lilac (purity and innocence). Two large ornamental hornbeams trees (resilience) were used around the choir area of the Abbey. The flowers and supplies were delivered in the days before the wedding to be finished on site and then placed in several locations within the historic church.
Wedding flowers and supplies being delivered to the Abbey
Seen in this photo is one of the large floral arrangements
placed at the entrance to the Abbey
This photo shows several floral arrangements placed in the Abbey’s altar area
Catherine also selected eight 20 foot high English field maple trees (humility) to use in the Abbey to create the atmosphere of a lovely English country garden; the fifteen year old trees weighted half a ton each. Special Note: The English Field Maple is native to Britain and in medieval times the wood was often used to make loving cups (a shared drinking container traditionally used at weddings).
The trees had been planted into special pots designed by the florist and delivered to the Abbey prior to the wedding. It took a large crew to unload the trees with a forklift and then, with some difficulty and tricky maneuvering due to the height of the Great West Door, the trees were finally moved into position in the designated places within the Abbey.
The large English field maple trees being moved into position in the Abbey
Prince William and Catherine Middleton seen in the recessional
from the Abbey walking through the aisle lined with the trees
As previously mentioned, one of Catherine’s stipulations in selecting the trees to be used to decorate the interior of the Abbey was that the trees would be able to be replanted in an environment-friendly manner. So, after the wedding the trees were removed from Westminster Abbey and taken to Prince Charles’ Highgrove Estate in Tetbury in Gloucestershire, England and planted in the garden as a lasting memorial to the occasion of the marriage of Prince William and Catherine Middleton.
The English field maple trees replanted at Highgrove