By Alexis Wilson-Barrett
Flowers can be incorporated into your wedding theme in numerous ways to bring the ultimate freshness and promise of nature into your matrimony. From bouquets and buttonholes through to the head table display and centrepieces, the design of your floral displays is very much an opportunity to display your personal taste and style.
You probably decided on your colour scheme long before you started to think about your flowers and you will undoubtedly choose displays that complement your theme. But have you considered the meanings associated with the flowers you intend to feature?
Dating back to Victorian times, ‘Floriography’ is the art of communication via flowers. Commonly referred to as ‘The Language of Flowers’, it gave the Victorians a way to express their feelings and emotions with floral displays at a time when women were expected to maintain a graceful demeanour. Blatant flirtation was unacceptable and those who indulged in such behaviour would find themselves snubbed by their peers. Using flowers to convey messages was a subtle yet effective way of communicating sentiment.
As part of our Wedding Season we have collaborated with local expert, Susan Dobson from The Yorkshire Dales Flower Company, to highlight the romantic meanings attributed to flowers by our 19th century ancestors. One of Susan’s most treasured possessions is ‘The Language and Poetry of Flowers’, published by Milner and Sowerby in 1867, and she has shared with us some of her favourite gems from its well-worn pages.
Each variety of rose has a positive meaning. In general, the rose itself means ‘pretty and genteel’ – the perfect depiction of a 19th century maiden. The Victorian’s love for this flower is unmistakable. Frequently appearing on fabrics, wall coverings, ceiling decorations, furniture and chinaware, roses were a firm favourite in 19th century Britain and it’s no surprise they were also a popular choice with brides. With the China Rose symbolising ‘Beauty always new’, one would expect this particular type to be a popular addition to the bridal bouquet.
Another flower with positive symbolism was the White Violet. Representing ‘purity of sentiment’, this flower would have made the ideal gift from a potential suitor. It was during this period that ‘nosegays’ became a popular way of subtly communicating admiration. Gifted as symbols of love or friendship to the recipient, this new trend truly enabled the art of Floriography to flourish.
Unlike today, the Victorians did not use the red rose to announce their romantic feelings or intentions. Instead it was the red tulip that was commonly considered as a ‘declaration of love’, so finding this in one’s nosegay would have brought considerable excitement to the recipient.
Unfortunately, not all flowers have a positive meaning. One flower in particular, the peony, Susan tells us is –ironically – very popular with brides today yet according to her revered volume, this flower is associated with shamefulness – certainly not an ideal choice for a Victorian bride!
A gardener most of her life, Susan spent more than twenty years developing her verdant garden in Bradley to establish The Yorkshire Dales Flower Company. Providing bridal displays created from her home grown, seasonal cut flowers, foliage, blossom and herbs, she specialises in rustic country floristry, evoking the rich heritage of our Dales cottage gardens for weddings with a natural or vintage theme.
Working sometimes with blooms from further afield, she loves to use her own flowers when they are in season, as often the flowers grown here are deliciously scented and quite different to those found on the High Street. If you are a devotee of Yorkshire or have a flair for tradition, these flowers are a match made in heaven.
We have included images of some of the beautiful bridal bouquets Susan has created. You can see more of her stunning arrangements on The Yorkshire Dales Flower Company website or Facebook page.