A Fragrant Beginning
The history behind the bridal bouquet
Well, readers, it seems you can’t believe everything you read or see on the internet. We are lovers of history here at “Let Them Eat Cake,” and when we recently saw a claim as to why brides started carrying bouquets down the aisle, we had to fact check.
The claim was made in many articles throughout the web including Brides.com, modernwedding.com and bustle.com. When beginning our research, we found that the claim was originally made in an article describing life in the 1500s in England. It stated that people most commonly were married in June, which is a big month for weddings even in modern history, because it fell in line with their yearly baths. Yes, you read that correctly – their one bath a year. The bath, claimed the article, would happen in May, where the entire family shared a tub of hot water – really driving the hygiene home (yuck). So, if your yearly bath was in May, then June wasn’t too far removed and your chances of smelling fairly decent were still intact.
However, some brides, wanting to make sure they didn’t smell of body odor (cute), would carry a bouquet of fragrant flowers to mask any smelliness. Makes sense, right? Well, sort of. But additional research led us to Snopes. Snopes.com is a fact-checking site first created in 1994 to investigate urban legends, hoaxes and folklore only growing as more misinformation found its way to the internet. Snopes has labeled the whole article, “Life in the 1500s,” false.
In response to the claim, Snopes says, “Although the modern practice of full-immersion bathing was a long way off in the 1500s (among other reasons because filling a vessel large enough to hold a person with heated water was rather impractical given the effort required to collect fresh water and fuel for heating it), people did still “bathe” in the sense of attempting to clean themselves as best they could with the resources at hand.”
Something that many sources agree on, including Snopes, is that a large reason for bridal bouquets had to do with sexuality, fertility and virginity. Snopes states that easily broken blossoms signify the same characteristics inherent to a women’s virginity (Kelly here: Ew) and testify to fruit-bearing properties, representative of pregnancy promised (Kelly here: Double ew).
Other history alludes that ancient Greeks, Romans and Egyptians used their bouquets to ward off evil spirits and bad luck on the wedding day. The flowers used were to symbolize new beginning and bring hopes of happiness and fidelity. Additionally in the Middle Ages, a bouquet of herbs was used to make sure no evil spirits got in the way of the happy couple. Dill, which was also used as a sort of aphrodisiac, other herbs and spices and items like chives and garlic were commonly used to drive away the evil, but also – and since there were plagues causing a raucous during the time – to ward off illness, as they were used for medicinal reasons.
Finally, like the now traditional bridal white gown, the Victorian-era had a little say in the matter. The renewed interest in floriography – using flowers to symbolize different meanings and emotions – took root during the reign of Queen Victoria. The bouquets and other flowers displayed at the wedding were used to send messages of love and affection to and from the happy couple.
No matter what the real reason bridal bouquets continue in their popularity, we are here for it. The flowers used at a wedding can really set the tone of the whole affair and make a statement on the personality of the couple.
If you’re looking for the perfect bloom to say just the right thing on the day of your wedding, take a note from the Victorian Era and what they took as meaning for certain flowers, provided by almanac.com.
Aster is a symbol of love and daintiness.
Pink Camellia means longing for you.
Red Camellia means you’re a flame in my heart
White Camellia means you’re adorable.
Carnations symbolizes women and love.
Red Chrysanthemum means I love you.
White clover means think of me.
Daisy to say, “I love you truly.” (Kelly here: daisies are the BEST flowers.)
Heliotrope represents eternal love and devotion.
Honeysuckle symbolizes the bonds of love.
Ivy suggests friendship, fidelity and marriage.
White Jasmine is for sweet love and amiability.
Marjoram is for joy and happiness.
Morning glory symbolizes affection.
Myrtle is for good luck and love in a marriage.
Peony symbolizes a happy life.
Red roses for love.
Pink roses for happiness.
Red Salvia to say, “forever mine.”
Violets for loyalty, devotion and faithfulness.
And, finally, Yarrow for everlasting love.