Weddings are one of the most universally celebrated events, yet each culture infuses its unique traditions and practices into the ceremony. Among these diverse customs, the usage of flowers in weddings serves as a universally cherished element. From the bridal bouquet to elaborate floral arrangements adorning the venue, flowers lend their beauty, symbolism, and fragrance to make the day even more special. While the sight of floral decorations is common in weddings globally, how they are used and what they signify can differ widely.
In this blog post, we will explore different wedding flower customs from around the world, delving into their meanings, histories, and how they reflect the cultures from which they originate.
1. European Traditions: A Bouquet Of Symbolism
When it comes to popular wedding floral styles, Europe provides a myriad of options. The bridal bouquet is a paramount feature, usually consisting of white flowers like roses, lilies, and daisies. In many European cultures, the choice of flowers is not merely aesthetic but deeply symbolic. White flowers signify purity and new beginnings, while others like lavender represent love and devotion.
Tucked away in these bouquets, you might also find herbs like rosemary symbolizing remembrance and fidelity. Some cultures even have the tradition of the bride tossing her bouquet over her shoulder, a custom which is believed to bring good luck and marriage to the lucky woman who catches it.
2. Indian Customs: Garland Exchanges And Flower Canopies
In Indian weddings, flowers are ubiquitous but most prominently seen in the form of garlands, commonly made from roses, marigolds, and jasmines. These are not just decorative but are exchanged between the bride and groom during the ceremony, symbolizing mutual acceptance and respect.
Another awe-inspiring floral creation is the ‘Mandap,’ a canopy under which the ceremony takes place. It’s often elaborately decorated with flowers, each chosen for its specific symbolism—red roses for passion, orchids for everlasting love, and tuberoses for purity.
3. Japanese Tradition: Tsumami Kanzashi
Flowers in Japanese weddings are elegantly minimalistic but imbued with meaning. One significant feature is the Tsumami Kanzashi—a traditional hair ornament worn by brides. It’s usually handmade from silk and is an art form that dates back to hundreds of years. These floral pieces are often seasonal, representing cherry blossoms for spring or chrysanthemums for autumn, symbolizing the transient beauty of life.
4. Mexican Tradition: Floral Crowns And Natural Aromas
Mexican weddings often feature vivid, colorful flowers like dahlias, the national flower of Mexico. The bride often wears a floral crown and carries a bouquet to match. Apart from aesthetic appeal, these floral arrangements serve a functional purpose by keeping evil spirits at bay, according to local folklore.
Mexican weddings may also feature a ‘lazo,’ or floral rope, which is placed in a figure-eight around the couple as they take their vows, symbolizing eternal unity.
5. Hawaiian Custom: Lei Exchanges
The Hawaiian Lei, a garland usually made from native flowers like orchids, plumeria, and tuberose, is a central part of Hawaiian wedding ceremonies. Both the bride and groom exchange Leis as a symbol of their commitment and love for one another. In some ceremonies, their parents also receive Leis, representing the joining of two families.
The flowers are often selected for their symbolism—orchids for love, plumeria for positivity, and tuberose for ethical purity.
6. Swedish Tradition: Pocketful Of Posies
In Sweden, the brides often carry small bouquets, but there’s an additional floral touch. The groom typically carries strong-smelling herbs like thyme and garlic in his pockets. These herbs were traditionally believed to ward off trolls and other evil spirits.
As strange as it may seem to some, it’s an age-old tradition that adds a different layer to the wedding ceremony, contributing both an aromatic and symbolic element.
7. Chinese Rituals: Red For Prosperity
Red is the dominant color in Chinese weddings, symbolizing love, joy, and prosperity. Flowers like red roses, orchids, and peonies often adorn the wedding venue.
In traditional Chinese weddings, a special floral crown is worn by the bride. It’s made from red silk roses and a silk red robe accompanies it, completing the ensemble. The significance is enormous, emphasizing good fortune and happiness in their life ahead.
8. African Traditions: Floral Patterns And Proteas
In many African cultures, flowers are not just physical adornments but also find their way into the couple’s attire through intricate floral embroidery and patterns. However, a notable floral feature in South African weddings is the use of the Protea, the national flower.
This unique and dramatic flower symbolizes change and hope, making it a perfect fit for a ceremony centered around new beginnings. The Protea is often the focal point of the wedding bouquet and is also used extensively in the table arrangements and venue decorations.
9. Jewish Tradition: The Floral Chuppah
In Jewish weddings, one of the most prominent features is the Chuppah, a canopy under which the bride and groom stand. The Chuppah represents the home that the couple will build together, and it is often adorned with a wide range of flowers to symbolize love, joy, and tradition. Roses, lilies, and hydrangeas are popular choices.
Depending on the season, local flowers may also be used, and their selection is often a careful consideration that involves both families. Unlike other traditions where the flowers might be chosen for their visual appeal, in a Jewish wedding, the aroma of the flowers is equally important, symbolizing a sweet life ahead.
10. Persian Customs: The Sofreh Aghd
In traditional Persian weddings, flowers are an integral part of the “Sofreh Aghd,” a ceremonial spread where various symbolic items are laid out. Among the items, you’ll often find a mirror and two candelabras, which are commonly surrounded by a floral arrangement, usually of pink and white roses. The mirror reflects the light from the candelabras, which in turn illuminates the flowers, symbolizing brightness and a blooming future.
The flowers aren’t merely for aesthetic appeal; they are also believed to ward off evil. Traditionally, both the bride and groom touch the flowers before sitting down, absorbing the positive energy they offer.
From the Protea blooms in South African weddings to the flower-laden Chuppah in Jewish ceremonies, and the elaborate Sofreh Aghd in Persian nuptials, the symbolism and use of flowers in weddings are as varied as the cultures they represent. The power of flowers to symbolize complex human emotions—be it love, happiness, hope, or unity—is universally acknowledged and celebrated in various unique ways.
Whether you’re a guest or the one saying “I do,” a closer look at these customs enriches our understanding of how flowers contribute to the sacredness of matrimony across different cultures. With each petal, bud, and leaf, we discover a fragment of human tradition, belief, and the eternal quest for love and companionship.