A History of Wedding Bouquets
Article by Loveflowers
The custom of enhancing the wedding ceremony with flowers dates from ancient times, but the wide selection of bridal bouquets now available has only been a relatively recent development. The popularity of each has waxed and waned through the past few decades, each evolving special variations over time.
||Bouquets framed with large turkey feathers fashionable in the 1920’s, were the inspiriation for this contemporary bridesmaid’s posy (pictured).
The posy had its heyday in Victorian times, when flowers were also the secret messengers of lovers; each flower having its own meaning. Thus bridal flowers were chosen with regard to their traditional significance. Unfortunately many lovely flowers were assigned rather undeserved meanings, such as the beautiful anenome “sickness”, delicate purple larkspur “haughtiness” and sweet-smelling lavender “distrust”. However, today most brides pick their flowers for colour and personal appeal – it’s hard enough to decide without having to worry that your pretty bouquet announces, “I declare war against you” (tansy).
The posy fell out of favour in the first half of the 2oth century, then very slowly crept back into fashion over the last few decades. Whether the end result is formal or loose and unstructured, there have always been two methods employed by florists to create posies. These are ‘natural stems’ (also called hand-tied) and ‘fully-wired’, where the stems of the flowers are removed and replaced with florists’ wire, then constructed into a much lighter posy with an easy to hold handle. As its name suggests, ‘natural stems’ posies look more natural and informal, whereas the latter gives a neat, polished effect. These two looks have been combined in recent years (mainly under the influence of the Martha Stewart magazines and TV show), to form a third option called ‘wrapped stems’ – a combination of the two styles where the natural stems are wrapped in a beautiful ribbon or fabric, perhaps even embellished with pearl pins. In fact, the ribbon adorning a bridal bouquet is becoming almost as important as the flowers themselves, due to the popularity of lace, velvet and beading trims in the fashion world.
Another posy variation is the biedermeier; carefully-arranged concentric circles of coloured flowers, each ring containing one type of flower. Originating in Switzerland in the late 1800's, this tightly-structured bouquet often had lemon and orange peels added for fragrance. The biedermeier is showing signs of popularity again due to its dramatic geometry and pleasing symmetry.
The nosegay, traditionally a small bunch of flowers and/or herbs, was resurrected temporarily in the 1980’s as a small, tight posy of small flowers, often backed with stiff tulle. It was extremely popular for flowergirls and bridesmaids, and is now surely due for another revival, perhaps reinvented with softer swathes of organza and larger flowers?
Arm sheafs first became popular for brides in the early 1900’s under the name of ‘Bernhardt’ bouquets; inspired by the presentation bouquets given to the actress of the day, Sarah Bernhardt. This shape is held cradled in the arms, or more recently, upside-down against the skirt of your gown. An arm sheaf bouquet is a good choice if you like the natural look of stems but want something a little larger and more dramatic than a posy. Usually larger than a posy, you’ll find it can be heavier, especially as one arm does most of the holding. The ribbon or binding treatment can be a feature in itself, so make sure the ribbon you chose is appropriate.
Almost forgotten, the composite-flower bouquet dates from the early 20th century. Unable to source the wide range of colours and year-round availability found in today’s hybrid roses, florists used this ingenious method of constructing huge ‘roses’ from the petals of gladioli. Then called ‘glameria’, these oversized blooms were worn by themselves on a hat or as a corsage, or several could be fashioned into a bouquet for the bride with an unlimited budget. Although featured recently in the pages of Vogue magazine, this specialized and time-consuming technique may unfortunately never regain its former popularity.
The fan enjoyed a fleeting popularity in the late eighties. Lacy plastic fans were embellished with carnations, baby’s breath and plenty of tizzy ribbon. Around the same time, some unfortunate brides, possibly badly affected by frizzing and teasing their hair once too many, choose to carry flower-filled baskets. The sight of what appeared to be an overgrown flower girl walking down the aisle confused the wedding guests who were already traumatised by the sight of the groom in his pale pink tux. While we may still be trying to forget and move on, it doesn’t take a great leap of faith to imagine a bevy of bridesmaids carrying elegant bamboo fans embellished with jewel-coloured orchids and rich, two-tone ribbon. Perhaps the fan is due for a revival as well?
A crescent bouquet may be suitable for the bride who wants a small, unusual bouquet with more structure than a posy. It’s perfect for complementing a slim waist and hips, as it has a dainty, curved line. Suprisingly, it has never reached dizzy heights of popularity, which means that this bouquet will never date your wedding photos!
The muff is for the very individual bride. Far more popular in Europe, where it was borne centuries ago out of necessity, a bridal muff is an unusual, yet perfect choice for a winter wedding. It can be made by your dressmaker, then embellished with flowers. To continue, but not overdo the look, have your bridesmaids wear evening gloves.
Prayerbook or Bible Spray
The prayerbook or Bible spray is a sign of faith and spirit. A long-time favourite of devout brides, especially Catholics, a small spray of flowers is attached to her prayerbook’s cover. While a traditional choice, it can be designed in a contemporary way. Shane Connolly’s classic book, Wedding Flowers, shows a simply perfect stephanotis version.
Shower bouquets replaced posies as the bridal bouquet of choice around 1910. By 1920 this style became quite exaggerated, with larger and larger bouquets almost concealing the bride! 'Lovers’ knots' were incorporated into the design; yards of ribbons streaming out of the bouquet featured knots along their length into which buds and foliage were inserted. Interestingly, the custom of tossing the bridal bouquet to unmarried girls is only half of the original tradition – the catcher of the bouquet was entitled to untie a lovers’ knot and the wish she made was said to come true. Lovers’ knots are the evolutionary forerunner of ‘swing flowers’ – tiny blossoms ‘swinging’ on narrow ribbons attached to a posy bouquet.
After reaching their peak in the 20’s and 30’, shower bouquets all but disappeared by WWII: their generously elaborate style at odds with the austerely simple suits worn by war-time brides. Corsages, now the sole premise of mothers and grandmothers of the bride and groom, were often worn instead of a hand-held bouquet during the war years.
What used to be termed the shower, now became known as the large, multi-trail bouquet, subsequently renamed the princess in honour of the late Princess Diana and her impressive bridal bouquet. The new, smaller shower bouquet regained top position in the 1980’s, albeit in smaller sizes. The shower then gave rise to the popularity of the similar teardrop, trail and cascade. These are all variations in proportions, with the most contemporary being the cascade. It features waterfall-shaped dimensions, the width across the top not much more than the width below. This gives a more natural, flowing look than the stiff point of the teardrop and a neater look than the trail, which peaked in the 90’s. Their long, elegant line can often be more flattering than the plump, round shape of the posy and complement elaborate and vintage gowns beautifully.
Further information at http://www.loveflowers.com.au
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This article has been reproduced on Wedding Central Australia with permission.
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