(according to no experts but us….)
“Love one another but make not a bond of love: Let it be rather a moving sea between the shores of your souls.”
– Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet
An almost universal aspect of modern weddings, spanning cultures across the globe, are wedding flowers. Being a Wedding Florist, we’ve often wondered why we end up creating floral designs for the same wedding pieces over and over again. So, let’s check it out! Let’s take a little stroll down memory lane and visit some of these sweet (and some weird!) traditions.
Most modern American wedding traditions date back hundreds of years to early Europeans. With a large number of those traditions growing from the need to protect the bride from… evil spirits? So, let’s start with floral pieces for the bride, and how each was meant to protect her from those pesky sprites!
The Bridal Bouquet
In ancient Rome, brides would carry bunches of aromatic herbs, garlic, and grain. The powerful smell reportedly frightened off (that’s right!) evil spirits. (And, we’re assuming, Vampires.) Over time, the herbaceous bouquet was replaced by fragrant flowers, each flower with its own special meaning.
Flower meanings differ between cultures, but one meaning that is universal is the Rose. Regardless of color, the base symbolic meaning of the Rose is harmony, union, and happiness. What a perfect flower to represent marriage!
Welsh brides began the tradition of using Myrtle in their bouquets. In Anglo-Saxon tradition, Myrtle symbolizes love. Brides would take a cutting of Myrtle from their own bouquet, and gift it to each of the Bridesmaids. Folklore tells that each Bridesmaid plants the cutting at her door, and the owner of the first branch to bloom would be the next to wed!
The Wedding Party
Bridesmaids haven’t always been asked to wear tacky dresses. In Celtic tradition, the Bridesmaids would each wear gowns that matched the bride. They also would carry similar bouquets of flowers, all in an attempt to confuse… evil spirits. (These evil spirits seem a little obsessed…)
In ancient Rome, Bridesmaid “duty” consisted of linking arms and creating a protective shield for the bride while walking through the village. These similarly dressed women were expected to confuse and intervene with any angry exes who might try to injure or kidnap the bride, or – Heaven forefend! – steal her dowry.
Groomsmen, on the other hand, were a tradition started with (by today’s standards) no thought given to the health and well-being of the bride. A group of men were gathered by the groom for a few different, less-than-gentlemanly reasons. These mobs of men would help to “steal“ the bride away from her home and fight off other potential suitors or, in some cases, a disapproving father. (Yes, that means kidnapping!)
Or perhaps the bride was less-than-enthusiastic about the groom and would attempt to run away before the wedding. Or heck, maybe she’d attempt to escape during the wedding. She, of course, would have to be stopped! (Again, kidnapping.)
The Best Man was quite literally the “best” swordsman or fighter. He might be expected to fight off enemies, rivals, or angry family members during the ceremony. He might also be called upon to be “second” for any duel that would arise from a disapproving father, or other such hurdle to marriage.
At least the tradition of the Flower Girl is a little less… suspect. In ancient Rome a young virgin would walk before the bride, carrying sheaves of wheat, which were believed to bring bounty, fertility, well-being, and good fortune to the couple.
During the reign of Queen Victoria, a pageboy was responsible for carrying the bride’s train down the aisle. At the same time, pillows were considered a luxury of the upper classes. What better way to show your soon-to-be in-laws that you’re rolling in dough, than to put those silly ol’ rings on a pillow that was too small for sleeping on! Eventually, the pageboy’s duty shifted from carrying the train to carrying the ring pillow. Thus, was born the Ringbearer, one of the most confusing traditions we still practice.
Showers and Stag Parties
These parties are both born out of rebellious behavior!
The Bridal Shower began as a solution for brides whose families did not approve of the groom. They were designed as an opportunity for the bride’s friends to “shower” her with gifts and money, therefore providing a dowry that was refused by her father, allowing the couple to begin life comfortably. Even without daddy’s support.
The modern Bachelor Party began in ancient Sparta. The groom’s male family and friends would feast and toast him on the eve of his wedding. These feasts would often turn into quite a raucous event, with Spartan broskis still passed out throughout the village square the next day - during the ceremony.
Nowadays, the Wedding Arch is one of the most beautiful wedding traditions. Modern trends see arches in a variety of shapes, draped in beautiful fabric, with tons of flowers and vines. We here at Bloom loooooooove wedding arch flowers! Flowers on your arch (or altar) never fail to turn a beautiful ceremony EPIC!
But other than Instagram cred, what’s the point?
In European traditions, the “arch” is meant to be an Arbor – a semi-permanent tunnel-like garden structure, draped with climbing vines and flowers. The tunnel is representative of your new journey as a couple, with the flowers and plants representing fertility and bounty.
In Jewish tradition, the couple marries under a Chuppah. The Chuppah consists of four upright poles, connected by supports, and holding a prayer shawl or cloth. The overall shape symbolizes the home the couple will build together, with the upright poles representing the parents and their efforts in raising up the couple and preparing them for marriage. The prayer shawl represents the shelter and protection found in God. Though flowers on the Chuppah are not a requirement, they create a living tribute to the strength of the marriage to be.
A Mandap is often used in Hindu or Jain ceremonies. Traditionally made of wood, this tent-like structure is decorated heavily with offerings to deity of flower garlands, potted plants, ewers and bowls of water, and many, many bells. Similar to the Chuppah, the four pillars of the Mandap represent the parents and their toil in raising the newlyweds.
In Ireland, Wedding Bells frighten away the (you guessed it!) evil spirits that are so heck-bent on destroying your marriage! Their bright, clear ring promises a happy future to the newlyweds. Some Irish brides will even include bells in their wedding bouquet to keep away bad luck.
Rain (or snow!) on your wedding day is a blessing in many cultures! Rain does represent purity, cleansing, and fertility, after all!
Tossing the bouquet dates back to 14th Century Europe, when the bride would toss her garter into the crowd. What with so many jilted lovers, angry fathers, evil spirits, dowry thieves, and potential suitors present at weddings of the time, it’s no wonder riots would often break out. The poor groom would have to literally fight for his new bride’s life – as well as his own! Needless to say, this tradition shifted, bringing garter responsibility onto the groom, therefore removing all of that horrible, lecherous temptation that apparently no man could control in himself. The bride then moved her attention to tossing the bouquet, instead. Much safer for everyone. (Watch out for thorns, though!)
So yes, there are some really lovely wedding traditions that are a joy for modern couples to continue. Those lovelies sit right alongside some pretty ridiculous traditions. But let’s face it, the weird ones are just as fun!!!
Let Bloom help you find the right traditions for you! We work hand-in-hand with you as we discover and create your perfect wedding vision. Request a consultation by filling out our form!