A perfect way to personalise your wedding is to choose flowers for your bouquet and floral arrangements that hold specific meanings in the language of flowers.
When your guests step into a venue for the first time, the sight and scent of beautiful blooms are one of the first things they notice.
And while the colour and shape of your chosen flora is important, a magical touch for your big day is to choose flowers that have specific historical associations, providing an added layer of meaningfulness to your wedding celebrations.
By using the language of flowers, you can communicate emotions and feelings of love on your special day.
What is the Language of Flowers?
Although finding symbolism in nature has been a part of human culture for centuries, it was the Victorians who first began crafting an emotive language out of flowers, expressing the feelings through bouquet gifting when words and gestures failed.
The popularity of floriography, or the language of flowers, in the late 1800s saw the publication of flower dictionaries and a trend in sending secretive messages to lovers through floral gifts.
Today, the London Flower School suggests that a floral arrangement can convey “themes and motifs”, as well as “emotional content and a range of meanings” from its composition.
We’ve researched a selection of the most popular wedding flowers and their meaning to find out which blooms will add a magical message to your big day…
The classic wedding flower of the rose has different meanings when used in an arrangement, depending on the colour you pick. White roses, a popular bouquet choice, stand for purity, innocence and youthfulness, while red roses represent love, passion and beauty. Light or dusty pink petals are said to mean admiration, gentleness and grace and peach-coloured blooms suggest sincerity and gratitude.
Roses also have a complex symbolism dependent upon how they are represented. The gift of a singular red rose on a wedding day is, according to Victorian tradition, a depiction of utmost devotion, while two roses entwined together can be interpreted as a floral illustration of marriage. Watch out if you’re future partner comes home clutching thirteen roses in a bouquet, however – it’s said to be the gift of a secret admirer!
Sweet Pea (Lathyrus)
The homely sweet pea, with its rich fragrance and array of tones to suite any wedding colour scheme, is a firm bouquet favorite, inspiring thoughts of country weddings and delicate girliness. According to George Rouledge & Sons’ 1888 dictionary The Artistic Language of Flowers, this two-petalled flower symbolizes the initial enjoyment of delicate pleasures, fitting for a bride’s bouquet.
Lily of the Valley (Convallaria)
According to The Artistic Language of Flowers, Lily of the Valley symbolizes the return of happiness. This beautiful little plant was chosen by Kate Middleton for her wedding day bouquet because of its secondary meaning as well – trustworthiness.
Named by botanist Christian P. Ecklon after his friend Friedrich Freese, these sweetly scented blooms represent friendship, trust and honesty. They’re a beautiful addition to any wedding arrangements, representing the intimate trust a couple places in each other on their special occasion and the importance of friendship within a marriage.
Peonies can have different meanings, depending on their colour, and both meanings stem from ancient Greek mythology…
In the first, legend has it that Paeon, the Greek physician of the Gods, was a student of the god of medicine Aesculapius. When Paeon successfully used a peony root to heal Pluto, Aesculapius became jealous of his apprentice’s talents and tried to kill him. To save the doctor, Pluto transformed Paeon into a peony, cementing one meaning of the beautiful bloom – compassion.
However, in a darker myth, the peony is linked to a nymph called Paeonia. The beautiful and attractive creature attracted the attention of Apollo. When Paeonia realized that the Greek god Aphrodite was watching them, she became bashful and blushed red. In anger and jealousy, Aphrodite transformed the nymph into a red peony. Today, a red peony symbolizes bashfulness and timidity.
The Artistic Language of Flowers suggests that ranunculus symbolizes the receiver being “radiant with charms” and “rich in attractions”. These ruffled, bold blooms come in a variety of colours from elegant whites and pinks to fiery reds and golds.
The etymological meaning of the various blooms that come under the name ‘ranunculus’ is thought to be a combination of two Latin words: rana meaning frog and unculus meaning little. The story goes that the flower earned its name when it grew plentifully along streams during the summer months.
The delicate white flowers of Stephanotis can look strikingly stunning in a simple bouquet. The elegant trumpet flowers of this Madagascan plant are said to symbolize marital happiness, making them a perfect addition to any floral arrangement on your special day.
Gardenias might have been used in days gone by to as fabric dye, food dye and medicine, but today its heady fragrance and bright, voluptuous blooms have made it a popular choice for table arrangements at weddings.
The intoxicating perfume of this velvety soft flower can sometimes be overpowering, so if you’re featuring them in your wedding day, it’s an idea to only include a couple per arrangement.
Originating from Asia, in Japanese and Chinese cultures, these flowers symbolize peace and calmness.
The trusty Hydrangea fell out of favour as a wedding flower for a long time, but as with all fashions, its bulbous sprays of tightly-packed blooms are starting to see a renaissance amongst wedding florists.
Although the robust flowers of this plant were negatively viewed by Victorians, who associated them with frigidity and boasting, in their native Japan, they represent gratitude. Legend has it that an emperor supposedly gave hydrangeas to a woman he loved as an apology for neglecting her when his duties as a ruler took up his attention.
Baby’s Breath (Gysophila)
Delicate sprigs of Baby’s Breath add a touch of romance to any bouquet, headdress or arrangement they are tucked into. This elegant flower is most commonly seen in white, but you can also find pink and pale yellow varieties.
Gysophila has two meanings in the language of flowers. Firstly, as with many wedding blooms, it symbolises innocence. But it also represents fertility and is frequently given within a bouquet at the birth of a child.
And the Flowers You Might Want to Avoid
Some flowers have negatives associations, so you might want to stay clear of them on your big day to avoid tempting fate.
The delicate blooms of Begonia have a decidedly darker meaning than you might think: they are said to symbolize a warning to be cautious. And be careful who you give them to! The Victorians often gifted begonias to symbolize dark, fanciful thoughts about the receiver.
Hyacinths might be beautiful, but you’re more likely to see them at a funeral than a wedding. These statuesque blooms have been linked to the tragic myth of Hyacinthus in Greek mythology. According to legend, Hyacinthus was a lover of the god Apollo but was also admired by Zephyrus, the god of Wind. The friendship between Apollo and Hyacinthus enraged Zephyrus, who used the wind to throw a discus Hyacinthus was playing with off course, hitting the mortal and killing him. From the spilled blood, sprang a hyacinth bloom. The plant now symbolizes sincerity (on Hycinthus’ behalf), but also jealously and rashness.
At Signature Living Weddings, our capable wedding coordinators will be on hand throughout your wedding journey to ensure your special day is a magical experience. From picking the perfect flowers, to ensuring each guest has a wonderful time, we always go the extra mile to make sure you have your dream wedding in a beautiful venue.
Our hand-selected venues make the perfect, romantic backdrop to your wedding – why not explore the historic Exchange Hotel in Cardiff or start planning your big day at the iconic Cunard House on Liverpool’s Waterfront?
To find out more about our stunning venues, get in touch with our team on 0151 236 0166 and take your first steps towards an unforgettable day.