The Historic Role of Flowers at a Wedding

From ancient times to the modern day, flowers have occupied a key place among wedding decorations

Every bride-to-be knows how critical it is to get beautiful bouquets, floral arrangements and flower decorations for the wedding ceremony and after-party venue. Still, few people are familiar with the history of wedding flowers and their traditional role as it developed over the course of centuries.


Don’t go and order that bouquet, boutonnières, garlands and flower arrangements for your big day just yet: here, we have some useful background info on the origins and history of wedding flowers so make sure you learn the basics about the tradition of bridal flowers before you pick your floral venue accessories and details.

Back to the roots: The origins of floral wedding decorations


According to the first written records, wedding flowers have been around almost since the beginning of civilisation and were reportedly used as far back as ancient Greece. Bundled together to make a small garland worn on the head, floral wreaths and crowns were worn by brides as symbols of the gifts of nature, love and happiness. Sometimes garlic bulbs and various herbs such as dill and sage were inserted into wedding garland bouquets to ensure a successful marriage and enduring mutual commitment of the bride and the groom and ward off evil spirits that may decide to interfere with the ceremony or the couple’s future life. Over time, the contents and designs of wedding decorations changed considerably, but their universal visual appeal, symbolic implications and place among wedding details remained equally prominent to the modern day.



Image by Ryan Polei

International love for flowers: Use of floral details in different traditions


After the ancient Greeks, many other cultures and nations inherited the tradition of using romantic flowers as decorative touches at wedding ceremonies and the trend remains present to this day in a number of countries worldwide. For instance, in Sweden young girls traditionally carried small herb bouquets down the aisle, brides had bouquets made with aromatic herbs while the groom would have some thyme in his pockets – all with the aim of scaring away mischievous trolls. A similar use for flowers was recorded in India, where the groom’s brother sprinkled petals over the bride and groom at the end of the ceremony to keep evil spirits at bay. On the other hand, German brides and grooms traditionally hold candles embellished with ribbons and flowers during the wedding ceremony, while the flower crowns worn by Austrian brides once used to symbolise the power of life.


In England, the bride and bridesmaids were led toward the church entrance by a young flower girl sprinkling blossoms along the path to ensure long life and happiness for the future wife.



Triptych by Jodie McGregor

Modern wedding decorations: Floral arrangements in all shapes, shades and sizes


Thanks to their universal appeal, widespread availability and affordable prices, flowers are used as main decorative accents at contemporary wedding ceremonies and receptions and their arrangements, shapes and sizes range from the smallest and shy colour-wise to the most impressive and picturesque. As a general rule, brides carry wedding bouquets down the isle and its design can vary from the minimalist to the lavish. The list of prominent examples of bridal bouquets includes the cute loose Victorian posies where each flower had a distinct meaning, followed by the tightly structured symmetric biedermeiers, as well as arm sheafs that are usually cradled in the arm and embellished by colourful ribbons. Then there are also the small and unusually designed crescent bouquets and fans, bridal muffs (usually worn at winter weddings), lush multi-trail bouquets in style royale and imposing shower bouquets with yards of vivid flowing ribbons, fragrant buds, verdant foliage and sweet lovers’ knots.


Additionally, some devout Christian brides like to embellish their vow-giving ceremony by a charming prayerbook or Bible spray that attaches to the covers of the prayerbook to signify the Holy Spirit and the strength of their faith.


Barrett + Asia

Image by Ryan Polei 


Other lovable ornamental flower details with an important role at the wedding ceremony include lovely flower-filled baskets that are commonly carried by bridesmaids or flower girls, followed by small nosegays that saw their revival back in the 1980’s, as well as the wrist-worn corsage arrangements and early 20th century composite-flower bouquets usually worn on hats or used as corsage details. Floral ornaments for men during the wedding ceremony are also important and they include various boutonniere details usually attached to the jacket buttonhole or pinned to the coat left lapel. Other floral decorations for a pitch-perfect wedding reception include lavishly decorated garlands, exquisite flower wreaths and elegant table centrepieces – virtually any wedding reception can go without at least one central flower arrangement, so don’t forget to pick yours carefully.

From ancient times to the modern day, flowers have occupied a key place among wedding decorations. Though the shape, size, colours and flower combinations of wedding bouquets and other floral elements changed over time, their role has remained more or less the same – a symbol of life,  happiness and joy, uniquely designed flower ornaments are an inevitable element for any tastefully decorated wedding venue, and will probably remain a vital accessory to matrimonial ceremonies in the centuries to come.


This article was written by Kate, a lifestyle blogger and a proud member of the Highstylife crew. Kate is the owner of a keelboat and two lovely mutts. She is a fan of pre-Raphaelite paintings and seascapes.

Follow Kate on twitter!

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