Flowers look beautiful at your wedding, but to make sure every detail of your day is perfect you’ll need to know exactly what they symbolise. We asked two leading florists to share their knowledge on the meaning of flowers, so every bloom you choose has special significance.
Behind the Blooms
Pictured bouquets by Evelyn Cole Flowers
“We find that most couples are drawn to the flowers that echo their personality and relationship as a couple,” says Heather Cole of Evelyn Cole Flowers. “At last year’s Royal Wedding the Duchess of Cambridge chose flowers that reflected her relationship with Prince William. She chose lily of the valley (return of happiness), ivy (fidelity) and Sweet William (gallantry).”
“Lots of websites offer lists of meanings,” says Liz Inigo Jones of Blue Sky Flowers. “They do differ slightly as meanings have changed or evolved, but to find the original significance look for a list of Victorian flower meanings which is where it all stems from, in the days when feelings could not often be spoken aloud.”
Roses are one of the most popular wedding flowers and Liz says that their traditional meaning is love. Freesia is another favourite and the most common meaning is innocence. “Presumably this stems from the time when all brides were innocent,” Liz says.
“If you time your wedding correctly you can take advantage of the peony season and be regarded as ‘sweet’. Calla lilies are gaining popularity with contemporary brides and they mean ‘true beauty’ — who wouldn’t say any bride is beautiful?
“Although it’s not a flower, ivy means friendship, which I think makes it an essential ingredient in any bouquet — and any marriage,” Liz adds.
“When selecting any flower, colour should be considered,” Heather advises. “The same flower in different colours can have different meaning. For example, pink peonies symbolise bashfulness, while red means devotion. White roses say ‘I am worthy of you’, while red roses signify love.
“If you’re choosing tulips, pink means caring, red symbolises love, purple is for royalty, white means forgiveness and yellow tulips say that you are hopelessly in love.”
Flowers to Avoid
“Some flowers have a dual meaning,” Heather warns, “so look carefully and choose the meaning that best represents you.”
“Lavender can mean devotion and distrust, so a possible mixed message there,” Liz agrees. “And apparently, the humble hydrangea has associations with frigidness and heartlessness.”
Other flowers that have negative associations are larkspur (infidelity), foxglove (insincerity), marigolds (grief) and yellow roses (jealousy) – but if any of these are your favourite flower, you may decide to ignore superstition and incorporate them in your bouquet anyway.
“Most couples seem to choose flowers almost with instinct,” Heather reveals. “One of my latest couples chose peonies (sweetness and bashfulness), hydrangeas (beauty and friendship) and veronica (marital fidelity) for their wedding day; these qualities were clearly apparent in their relationship when I met them for consultations.
“Some couples select flowers that remind them of their mother or grandmother who had the same flowers on their wedding day or grew these flowers in their childhood garden, while a recent groom, a keen cook, wanted lavender incorporated into the day as he used lots of herbs in his cooking.”
“I’ve made several bouquets over the years where a significant flower has been requested to act as a memento either of a father who couldn’t be at the wedding or a grandmother who had recently died,” says Liz. “For these reasons, rosemary (for remembrance) and pansies (‘you are in my thoughts’) have been incorporated into bouquets and the top table display.”
A Word of Warning...
“I think a little too much can be read into this subject,” Liz warns. “A handwritten love note from a groom to his bride-to-be, delivered on the morning of the wedding along with a small posy of her favourite flowers says it all. Flowers mean what you want them to mean.”
“Go with your instincts and choose flowers you love as this will reflect your relationship perfectly,” adds Heather. “For brides who love reading, I recommend The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh, a fictional story that is beautifully written — and heart-breaking at times — but, as well as being a good read, it also teaches you a lot about the meaning of flowers.”
Make Your Feelings Floral
If you want a bouquet that symbolises the five main themes of a wedding, our florists have chosen their favourite meaningful flowers for the occasion:
Marriage: Stephanotis (marital bliss), holly (domestic happiness), geranium (true friendship), phlox (harmony), lemon verbena (unity) and myrtle (marriage and love).
Love and Passion: Red rose (love and passion), red tulips (declaration of love), carnations (lasting love), orange rose (passion), forget-me-not (true love), lilac (pure emotions and first love), fuchsia (desire) and orange blossom (eternal love).
Romance: Acacia (unspoken love), sweet pea (everlasting pleasure), ranunculus (radiance), yellow tulip (hopelessly in love), daisy (romance and innocence) and agapanthus (love letters).
Loyalty: Ivy (fidelity), Veronica (marital fidelity), violet (faithfulness) and hyacinth (constancy).
Luck: Mistletoe, white heather and Bells of Ireland (good luck) and mint (prosperity).