In ancient times, brides carried bouquets of fragrant herbs and spices to ward off evil, or wore round garlands on their heads or around their necks as symbols of fertility and longevity. Dill, known as the herb of lust, would often be eaten by both the bride and groom. By the 18th century, bridal bouquets of herbs and flowers had come to symbolize delicateness, purity, and new life. (Sage meant wisdom and garlic goodness.)
Celtic bouquets would include greenery like ivy or thistle. Love knots made from rope or ribbons were tied inside the bouquets, a tradition that is still followed today. Edible flowers, such as pansies, would often be tucked in among the herbs. In Jane Austen’s era, brides would carry herbs, greenery, or flowers that were in season, and that could be picked alongside the road or from one’s garden. They included roses, peonies, sweet peas, scabious, lilies, and delphinium. New exotic flowers like dahlias, nerines and fuschia would also be included if they were locally grown. Only the very rich could afford hot house flowers out of season. Once picked, the herbs, flowers, and greenery would be made into a pleasing arrangement and bound by a ribbon.
Decorations to suggest – baskets, urns and vases of flowers were all used during this time. The flowers would have been arranged informally with lots of different varieties and colours jumbled together in the same container. Flowers worn in the hair and as buttonholes became popular. Elaborate garlands and swags combining fruit, vegetables and grasses into the designs were used. Hang these around fireplaces, on walls and around windows. – Historically Themed Weddings
It was not until the Victorian times, that the all-flower bouquet became popular. Queen Victoria carried a bouquet of marigolds, which were edible. Small posies were also in vogue and remained so until the early 19th century.
Flowers also carried meanings in what was known as ‘the language of the flower.’ Roses meant love, freesia trust, ivy fidelity, violets hope, and ferns sincerity. Until modern times, the choices brides would make for their bouquets would be influenced more by symbolic meaning than by shape or color.
Other posts on the topic:
- The Wedding Procession in Sense and Sensibility 1995
- The Language of Flowers in the Regency and Victorian Era
- Regency Wedding Dresses and Later Developments in Bridal Fashions