The langage des fleurs, a detailed picture dictionary of flowers with hundreds of blooms and their symbolic meanings, was published in 1819 by French author Charlotte de La Tour. The symbolism in the book allowed readers to exchange secret messages of affection using flowers in an era when etiquette prevented some couples from communicating openly. Different flower combinations, their placement within an arrangement, and even the direction in which they were handed to the recipient were all chosen to convey a message from the sender.
Robert Tyas, a British florist and pastor, published The Sentiment of Flowers: or, Language of Flora twenty-three years later, bringing the flower dictionary tradition to the English language. It quickly became a popular choice among newlyweds. Brides assembled well-thought-out and carefully arranged bouquets, tied them with a ribbon to symbolize companionship, and carried them to the altar on their wedding day as a sign of the happiness to come in their union, and the tradition of communicating with blooms soon took root in North America.
Wedding flower symbolism
We spoke with Margaret Buckley, product development, design, and supply manager at SophyCrownFlowers, to help brides choose bouquets. It includes a textbook on the most common wedding flower languages.
The peony, a timeless flower that has been associated with prosperity and happiness in relationships across cultures, is also seen as a symbol of a partner's honesty and compassion for others. The peony's many shades and variations allow a bride to create a truly one-of-a-kind floral design to be revealed on her wedding day. Margaret describes the peony as a "cherished choice for any wedding, an exquisite blossom that features lush feathery petals in a variety of colors," saying, "These exceptional flowers possess an unforgettable fragrance and are considered a potent symbol of romance and adoration."
Hydrangeas have always symbolized gratitude in their native Japan, even on a grand scale. When their time-consuming day jobs left loved ones feeling neglected, ancient Asian emperors were known to present hydrangeas as an apology. In today's world, the hydrangea still symbolizes commitment, empathy, and perseverance in a partnership, as well as a desire to make a union work no matter what. Hydrangeas, unlike many single-bloom wedding flowers, are actually flowering shrubs that are reasonably priced for such a dense and full plant. Another of the shrub's core meanings is abundance, which is represented by its bulbous, full-bodied shape.
The lovely gardenia is said to represent happy dreams, trust, and joy, all of which are strongly associated with weddings. Gardenias are an Asian flower that are seen as a symbol of peace, calm, and unique intimacy experienced only between couples by Japanese and Chinese people. Margaret describes them as having a delicate, layered bloom and shiny, green leaves, as well as a sweet fragrance that is absolutely intoxicating and memorable. “The gardenia bloom's white color conveys purity and innocence, which is why it is frequently used in wedding ceremonies.“ These bright flowers are popular for reception-table arrangements as well as bridal bouquets.
The summer-flowering dahlia is a bold and elegant bloom that will stand out in any wedding bouquet, a trait that has led to the dahlia being associated with personal grace and a strong presence in an overcrowded world. The bloom also represents eternal commitment and a soul bonding, which is an ideal message for a wedding day. The dahlia, which is light and feathery, also speaks to the wearer's good taste and elegance. This flower has a light but enticing scent and is perfect for weddings in the summer or early fall.
Garden roses are lavish and luxurious flowers that represent deep passion and lasting emotion, and they are prized by brides for their elegance. Garden roses are dense and detailed, with a ruffled, pillow-soft look and a center that resembles four blooms in one. Margaret says, "These roses have a vintage flair, which can be very appealing to someone who is traditional, romantic, and appreciates old-world style." “Garden roses are available in a wide range of beautiful colors that are both relevant and fashionable right now.“ These hybrid roses, whether in a striking pink, deep cream, or scarlet, are among the most popular and widely cultivated flowering plants available all year.
The lightly fragrant calla lily is a tropical African bloom that gets its name from the Greek term for "magnificent beauty." White callas are thought to represent innocence, while yellow blooms represent gratitude, and pink varieties represent admiration and thanks. Margaret considers the calla to be her personal wedding favorite because it represents faithfulness, true devotion, and good fortune.
“The flowers are in the shape of trumpets, which also represent triumph,” she explains. “Planning a wedding is a long and arduous task, so I suppose getting through all that drama is a triumph.” Calla lilies are a popular choice for spring and summer weddings because they are in season during the first half of the year.