What’s in a flower? When it comes to weddings and which bouquet to carry, apparently a lot. Legends abound regarding the origins of brides carrying bouquets – some sweet, some a little unsavory and everything in between.

“Hundreds of years ago, fragrant flowers and herbs were thought to bring protection and good luck to a bride, and the bridal party carried posies to confuse evil spirits who might try to steal her before she reached her groom!” says Karen Bussen, author of “Simple Stunning Wedding Flowers” (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2007). Other stories suggest women held stems that were thought to ensure fertility; were considered an aphrodisiac; or would simply mask body odor back in the days when bathing was rare.

Over time, a “language of flowers” developed, imbuing specific varieties and hues with meaning and emotion, says Bussen. This romantic conceit was especially popular during the Victorian era, when the flowers could convey messages that would otherwise be inappropriate in the stuffy society. “For example, ivy is ‘fidelity,’ rosemary is ‘remembrance,’ stephanotis is ‘marital happiness’ and roses have a whole host of meanings, generally tied to their colors – pale pink for friendship, red for passion, et cetera,” Bussen says.

Other popular wedding flowers and their meanings include orchids (ecstasy), peonies (bashfulness), hydrangea (understanding), calla lilies (magnificent beauty), daisies (innocence), and tulips (perfect love).

There are numerous books and online resources for deciphering historic flower meanings, but for an updated twist on the tradition, Carissa Jones-Jowett, owner of JL Designs Couture Floral & Event Styling, suggests building a bouquet from the same flowers that your mother or grandmother carried down the aisle, or including blooms that were the favorites of late loved ones. If you’re extra fond of your hometown, you could also choose to incorporate your state flower, or, in the name of union, consider carrying a cluster of flowers that represent the birth months of all the newly combined family members.

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