A Timeless Tradition: The Significance of Bridal Bouquets

Bride holding a modern day bridal bouquet on her wedding day

Have you ever thought of why this timeless tradition exists? If you're already married, did you just assume that you would be carrying a bridal bouquet without giving it any thought? Bridal bouquets have been a symbol of love and celebration for centuries, but their meaning goes beyond just aesthetics. This article explores the history, symbolism and significance of bridal bouquets.


Bridal Bouquets in Ancient Times

Marriage in the olden days equaled baby-making. Life was tough and short, so couples who took vows and were ready to start a family were celebrated. Belief in many different gods led to a number of superstitions. So when couples got married, friends and family gave gifts like wheat and herb garlands as gifts to the gods.

Back in ancient Rome, newlyweds adorned themselves with nice smelling garlands and hair crowns woven with greenery and floral blooms such as roses and orange blossoms. Herbs were added to these garlands to ensure fertility and good fortune. Ivy was always featured in these garlands to symbolize the unbreakable bond of matrimony, and white blossoms represented the joy and sweetness of love in the marriage.

Wheat sheaves were added to the bride's hair to ensure bountiful harvests (read: fertility). Their bouquets featured symbolic herbs such as dill as an aphrodisiac, thistle and rosemary for protection, ivy for an unbreakable matrimonial bond and garlic too!

There was also a myth that back in the days, people only bathed once or twice a year – once in May and once in October. And that's why brides often chose June to be married as there was a better chance of smelling the freshest. If brides got married at other times, it was said that they would carrying bouquets of fresh smelling flowers to cover their own body odor. Would you believe that?

Black and white photo of an old fashion bath tub outdoors

Bouquets in the 18th and 19th Centuries

In the 18th and 19th centuries, flowers were used to express messages of love and devotion. Brides would choose flowers that would have symbolic messages for their wedding ceremony. Without saying a word, bouquets were then used to express sentiment on the couple's special day. 

So much has changed over the centuries, starting off with a bouquet made up of herbs to ward off evil spirits and to appease the gods. By the time Queen Victoria married Prince Albert, her bouquet was made up of orange blossoms and myrtle. And legend states that the same myrtle plant has been passed down the royal bloodlines to this day. Famous royals such as Kate Middleton, Meghan Markle and Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie all used springs of myrtle in their wedding bouquets. 

The Last Century

The first half of the 20th century really left a lasting impact on bridal fashion, as brides made practical choices because of the war and the Great Depression. During World War II, brides would just use flowers from their gardens. Not surprisingly, their outfits were quickly pulled from their closets so that they could marry quickly before their husbands were deployed. 

In the last half of the 20th century, bouquets became more extravagant again. This was likely inspired by Princess Diana's massive bouquet when she married Prince Charles in 1980. 


Princess Diana on her wedding day with Prince Charles in 1930; featuring her massive bridal bouquet

Photo Credit: Getty Images / Good Housekeeping

This Century

Nowadays, wedding bouquets are a blend of bridal tradition, history and individualism. Even though brides can choose from endless possibilities, certain flowers still remain ever-popular. For example, roses have held top spot as being the most popular flower for bridal bouquets for centuries. Today, roses are featured prominently in bridal bouquets. Peonies, ranunculus, calla lilies and dahlias are heavily featured as well. 

Bride on her wedding day holding a modern bridal bouquet with peach and pink flowers

Where Did the Wedding Bouquet Toss Come From? And Why Is It Done?

The bouquet toss is a tradition steeped in history, yet still embraced by modern brides. The origins of this tradition date back to the Middle Ages, when brides had to fend off eager guests who wanted a piece of their dress for good luck. Ingenious brides began flinging their floral arrangements to distract the crowd and make a speedy getaway.

Bride getting ready to toss her bridal bouquet to other women

Catching the bridal bouquet then became a symbol of good fortune, signifying fertility from a married woman. Today, if a single woman catches the bouquet, she's believed to be the next in line to the altar! Typically, if a bouquet is thrown, it'll take place during the second half of the reception after the cake has been cut and the speeches are done.

Some brides choose not to toss their bouquets and to preserve them as a memento of their special day instead.

Interested in more bridal history? Check out Bridal Fashion Over the Years which explores the evolution of bridal fashion and the cultural influences that have shaped it.

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