More Than a Bouquet: The History of Wedding Flowers and How to Put a Twist on Tradition

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words by // Ellie Van Houtte, Chief Creative Officer and Designer at GardenView Flowers
photo by // 222 Photography


How did flowers become an important component of a wedding day? Rooted in cultures across the globe, many contemporary floral traditions took root centuries ago. Today, couples build on these traditions to make their weddings as unique as they are. Here are a few of our favorite stories behind wedding flowers and a few ideas for making them modern.

The Wedding Bouquet

The Greeks carried bundles of wheat as a sign of fertility. In medieval times, a fragrant bouquet of herbs might cover up odors from days without a bride bathing. But, it was Queen Victoria that brought the modern nosegay or tussie mussie style bouquet into popularity. Today’s brides not only prefer more elegant flowers - peonies, roses, ranunculus and lisianthus among the most requested - but also more diverse bouquet styles. From an over the top cascading arrangement to a simple petite round composition, the bouquet a bride carries down the aisle reflects her personality and gives her an extra boost of confidence and “wow” on the wedding day. 

Boutonnieres

Although some may just say boutonnieres - translated as buttonhole flowers - are a fashionable attire addition, one origin story makes them a romantic must-have on a wedding day. In ancient times, ladies would gift their gentleman a colorful flower in a pre-battle tradition to symbolize their adoration, thus originating the notion of “wearing a lady’s colors”. Popularized in subsequent generations, even as a part of daily attire, boutonnieres are a wedding tradition that has endured. When you plan your wedding flowers, be sure to ask your florist to include a flower used in the bride’s bouquet in the groom’s boutonniere to represent the love a bride gives her husband on their wedding day. 

Rose Petals

Not only is a trail of colorful rose petals pretty, but also symbolical of a couple’s journey ahead. After an extravagant wedding feast, the Greeks would have a flower girl sprinkle the path to the couple’s new home with rose petals. The tradition of having a flower girl drop roses at wedding receptions is still popular. As some venues are unfriendly to real flowers on their floors and aisles, many couples have their youngest bridal party members carry flower wands and mini bouquets. Couples are also choosing to decorate pews or chairs with hanging flowers or strings of greens or flowers and adding arches and pedestals to make their ceremony space special.  

Floral Crown

The ladies weren’t always the only ones to wear flower headpieces; the Greeks would celebrate matrimony wearing strands of olive branches and herbs in tribute to Hera, the goddess of marriage. For contemporary brides, floral headpieces, crowns and flower clips offer a bit of whimsy and beauty to complement their bouquet and wedding dress. Whether a single stem or a show-stopper piece, many variations exist.

Reception Flowers

It’s easy to believe that the English royals were the ones to make an extravagant and elegant ceremony and reception flowers using in-season blooms all the rage. Even if you don’t have a budget to decorate like the Queen, a wedding flower designer can help you find a way to use flowers, greens, and other creative elements to create a memorable scene that elevates the experience of your special guests. 

Perhaps you’ll adore some of these historical wedding traditions or even reach out to parents or other family members to see how they used flowers on their wedding day to carry a piece of them into your special day. Regardless, we know that flowers can make your wedding picture perfect.