Where did our biggest wedding floral traditions come from? Why do we still do them?
We can’t answer the latter, but we can shed some light on the former. The origins of some of our most cherished floral rituals are fascinating, reminding us that flowers have always been believed to have a kind of mystical, magical power.
The Bridal Bouquet
Back in the day, brides carried bunches of herbs rather than flowers. Why? Well, it had to do with personal hygiene. In the 15th century, baths and bathwater weren’t widely available, and people had to share. On the occasion of her wedding, a bride wanted to smell at least marginally better than she usually did. To mask her scent, she carried a bundle of herbs in front of her.
There was also the belief that herbs would help ward off evil spirits (this is also why bridesmaids exist–they confused the evil spirits from identifying the bride, their intended victim). Finally, herbs were thought to prevent sickness. Their medicinal qualities were important to have close by on your wedding day.
Throwing The Bouquet
The bouquet toss has invited a fair share of criticism in modern times (it’s also made for a funny scene in many movies). But initially it served a valuable function. In the past, people believed that a bride was inherently good luck. They even fought to get a piece of her dress to take home as a kind of good-luck talisman. The bridal toss helped distract the masses (read: wedding guests) from tearing at her gown and flowers. In essence, she was sacrificing her bouquet to save her dress, letting all the single ladies fight over that instead.
The Flower Girl & Her Petals
The Greeks and Romans always had a little girl walk ahead of the bride tossing herbs. This arrangement reflected the idea that the bride was passing from the pure state of the little girl to the position of woman who would ultimately bear children. The herbs were meant to both symbolize and invite her fertility, literally lining her path as she walked forward into the future.