Wedding Flowers – Prince William and Catherine Middleton

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

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