Wedding Flowers

The Bride and the Bouquet: A History

March 6, 2017

Choosing wedding flowers is one of the most exciting parts of a bride’s wedding prep (second only to maybe the cake tasting). While flowers are a necessity for any wedding, it’s the bouquet that really steals the floral show. Today, the bouquet adds beauty and a pop of color to the blushing bride as she walks down the aisle. But believe it or not, the tradition is actually much older than you may think, dating back to the 16th century. And though brides were carrying bouquets down the aisle even back then, it wasn’t for the reason you’d expect. Below is a brief history about the origin of the bouquet.

Bride & Bouquet Under Umbrella

Why Carry a Bouquet?

To Ward off Evil Spirits

Pink Peony Wedding BouquetYou’ll be hard pressed to find a bride nowadays who wants to walk down the aisle with a bouquet of garlic, but in the 1600’s, that was the norm! During the 15th century, it was believed that a bride was so happy on her wedding day that evil spirits would try to attack her and steal her joy. In an effort to keep demons away, she would walk down the aisle (when she was alone and most vulnerable) with something that smelled very pungent. Many brides would choose to add herbs, spices, and yes, cloves of garlic to their bouquet.

 

To Ward off…Smell?

Even today, America is one of the few countries where the majority of its citizens bathe everyday, but in the 1600’s people really took advantage of infrequent showers. To conserve water, most people only showered every few weeks, even months. It’s even believed that small towns held an “annual bath” in May. Since most brides got married in June, they were afraid of being a bit smelly for the wedding day. And since the Macy’s fragrance counter didn’t yet exist, they turned to flowers! Lavender and marigold flowers were a popular choice because they gave off a strong, pleasant smell.

To Promote Lust and Fertilization

Back in the 1600’s your bouquet went straight from your hands to the dinner table…well, somewhat. People believed that a full bouquet symbolized that the bride was “in bloom” and now ready for children. Bouquets were often made with spices and edible flowers that were then cooked and used as a seasoning at the dinner feast. Because the bride was now a married woman, it was believed eating parts of her bouquet would help her and the other married ladies conceive.

The Bouquet Toss

If you’ve ever attended a wedding, you’re probably familiar with this tradition. It turns out, for hundreds of years women have been fighting to get a piece of the bride’s attire. The tradition as we know it now started around 1550. A bride on her wedding day was considered especially lucky, so guests were all looking for a chance to have some of her luck rub off on them. In the early 16th century, guests would rip pieces of a brides dress off throughout the night, and keep them at home for themselves. Guests eventually got so aggressive that some women left their wedding wearing little to no clothing (yikes)! Fed up with the tradition, brides started throwing pieces of their bouquets into the crowd and it eventually transformed into the modern day practice of throwing the whole bouquet.

The Bouquet Today

It wasn’t until the 1700s that bouquets started being used just to add beauty and complement a bride’s gown. Today, the most popular flowers for a bouquet are the rose, tulip, calla lily and hydrangeas. But it’s not just flowers bride’s are opting for in a bouquet nowadays. Brides have carried everything from leaves and pinecones to candy down the aisle.

Floral Wedding Centerpieces on a Table