All about Bouquets
Plus, preserving your wedding flowers and lots more
By: J. Marlando
We’ve all heard it said, “Say it with flowers” and historically people have been “saying it with flowers” since the ancient Egyptian, Greeks, Roman and Chinese cultures. Indeed, flower giving is even woven into Greek mythology. As a matter of fact, ancient Greek mythology is so packed with meaningful flower symbolism that article space permits the telling of only a few. For example, the anemone, poppy (also called windflower) which is a flowering bulb blossoming into a deep red color. It is said (In Ovid) that when Adonis was killed by a wild boar, the goddess Aphrodite, who loved him, created the red flower from his blood. It is said that at the wedding of Peleus and Thetis that Eris, the goddess of strife cast a golden apple to the most beautiful among the goddesses—Aphrodite, Hera and Athena. All three claimed the prize. Then Zeus settled the argument by leaving the decision to the shepherd prince Paris, who awarded the apple to Aphrodite the goddess of beauty and love.
It is guessed that the Egyptians began putting flowers in vases at least 2500 years B.C. In Greece certain flowers and herbs were offered directly to the gods as statements of love, respect and so forth. Laurel wreaths were ceremoniously presented to ancient Olympic winners as well as winning writers of poetry. Flowers in China, going back at least a couple of hundred years B.C., were used in both religious teaching and for medical purposes. Starting in very ancient times flowers were placed on the altars of Buddhists monks, Taoists and masters of Confucianism. When flower use arrived in Europe they were probably first displayed in churches where they were not only used for decoration but for food as well.
Jumping to the Victorian period starting in 1820 and unfolding into the early 1900s, flowers were considered extremely fashionable and massive bouquets were often displayed in the home, Most bouquets and other flower arrangements back then were quite chaotic and with little style—flowers were, if you will, just stuck in vases and other containers to create massive showcases. In fact, floral arranging did not become a profession or an art form. That while a kind of floristry can be traced back to very ancient times, flowers after all adorned the banquet tables of Egypt’s celebrations and in ancient China, as we talked about before began, arranging flowers in vases at least a few hundred years B.C. but artful and coordinated arranging was not really popularized until after the First World War in America and a time when garden clubs were first starting up. Today bouquets are artistically built as opposed to simply put together and we’ll be talking about this a little later.
The Chinese are far more formal than we westerners when it comes to the traditional giving of flowers in that the “meaning” of certain flowers is more widely known than in western cultures. For example, an older person would not be given the same flowers as a younger person for a birthday gift. In China a Chinese evergreen would be given to an ageing person which means, “Everlasting youth.”
Fragrant lilies and roses are a statement of romantic love in China and sending 99 roses expresses everlasting love. And for luck, eight red flowers are always a welcomed gift in China as the color represents long life and happiness.
As other examples, soft lilac represents purity, even holiness in traditional China while chrysanthemums symbolize a healthy, good, strong life.
As a quick aside, it is said that the word “chrysanthemum” arrives from two Greek words—chesos, meaning gold and anthos” meaning flower. Indeed a rather romantic Japanese custom. It is said if you drop a chrysanthemum pedal into the bottom of a wine glass you will have a long, healthy and happy life. For us westerners, at least during Victorian times, a white chrysanthemum represented truth and a red one, what else…love!
Anyway, traditionally men giving flowers to ladies they feel romantic about have been going on for millenniums and is especially popular in the West. I used to take flowers to girls who I felt strongly for when I was dating and I always bring my wife flowers, not only for birthdays but sometimes just to say I Love You.
Flowers traditionally are also sent to funerals those times of deepest grief. Just remember, when you send flowers to a funeral it is most appropriate to send them in a vase.
On the other end of that pendulum, new moms are usually given flowers after giving birth and of course one of the oldest traditions is flowers at weddings and flowers carried by the bride and bride’s maids.
Remember too that giving Mom flowers for Mother’s Day is always a nice, loving thing to do!
In thinking about flowers and tradition, it is also appropriate to gift the hostess with flowers who has invited you to a dinner party. This traditional gift giving can be accompanied by a bottle of wine when appropriate.
FLOWERS AND WEDDINGS
Even prior to the 15th century, however, flowers were also carried to ward off evil spirits. Throughout human history our species has been extremely superstitious so even from ancient times brides carried garlands especially made of herbs and spices to keep harmful spirits away from themselves at their weddings.
Today brides carry bouquets as symbols of the loveliness of their feminine beauty and to signify the love in their heart. In fact, flowers began replacing herbs and spices in the days of Queen Victoria (1819-1901). However, edible flowers were still included in the bouquet. There was also dill in the bride’s bouquet which was known to be an herb of lust. And as an herb of lust the wedding guests were also given dill at the reception which promised to increase sexual desire. Well, a wedding is supposed to be celebrated isn’t it?
By Victorian times, however, flowers were mostly made significant in romances but were also given as an expression of respect, admiration and non-romantic love such as for a mother, grandmother, aunt, daughter or even a close female friend; a way of saying I (or we) love you and “think you’re special,” to those ladies that we care about.
SPECIAL INFORMATION and FUN IDEAS
How best to make a wedding bouquet:
This applies to all flowers chosen for a bouquet but for clarity’s sake I will select roses. Choose a single, beautiful rose to start with. Make sure it has a nice long stem. Then surround it with other roses just a little short than your original rose. Repeat this process of surrounding each level with flowers just a little short than the last until you have created the look and size that you want. Afterwards, cut the stems even and tie a pretty ribbon around them to keep the bouquet together. It’s as simple as that.
In regard to the traditional bouquet, in “olden days” they were seen at all weddings but modern brides might choose to carry tall lilies or short clusters of flowers so the only thing there is for sure is that there will almost certainly be flowers at the wedding.
How does one preserve their wedding bouquet?
What will add fun to your specific wedding reception can be an offering of edible flowers, which was once a tradition to do! Just remember never to pick flowers for the purpose of eating that have been sprayed with pesticides and realize that you cannot eat all flowers, some can make you really sick. There are some great and beautiful flowers that are attractive on the plate or in salads that are not only pretty but healthy.
Chrysanthemums, however, are tasty and arrive in very attractive colors such as red, white, orange and yellow.
Day lilies are another treat with a nice vegetable taste. But be careful because not all lilies are edible and know that even day lilies can act as a natural diuretic so don’t gorge on them.
English daisy pedals are also used to garnish salads adding a slightly bitter taste to the meal. There are also squash blossoms, dill, chives and basil to add tasty novelty to your wedding reception or party.
If this idea appeals to you, take some time to do a little research of what flowers are edible and what parts to eat. I think you will find that it’s well worth the trouble and also flowers on the plate simply make for great conversations.
If you want to be different and create some good memories, serve dandelion wine at your wedding.
Here’s a recipe for making it: For ageing purposes start the process at least a couple of months before your event).
Pluck the pedals off a lot of dandelions.
Put one gallon of water in a pot.
Drop the pedals into the pot until all the water is covered.
Cover pot with cloth and give the dandelions a little “sleep.”
Bring the water to boil.
Add peelings from two oranges.
Let sit for at least an hour.
Strain into pitcher.
Stir in a large cup or so of sugar.
Stir in yeast and add a cup of orange juice.
Pour into large jug and let ferment. (I like to let it sit for five days).
After fermentation period pour in bottles cap or cork and let age.
When people ask you what they are drinking.
My final word is to always keep a couple of flower bouquets in vases around the house. They will always serve to remind you that life is a whole lot prettier than it can sometime seem to be.