Floriography, also known as the “language of flowers”, is a custom from the Victoria Era which allowed the giver and recipient of a bouquet to speak through the symbolism and the individual meaning of different flower. It even extended to coded messages to express emotions and thoughts which otherwise could not be spoken.
Although flowers remain a very symbolic part of our familiar customs, which extends well beyond that of a wedding arrangement, I remain deeply disappointed that we have allowed the quiet dignity of floriography to all but disappear from our use of flowers. Thus, my recommendations for your summer wedding’s floral elements are presented while keeping the “language of flowers” in mind.
If you would like to learn more about this lost art of unspoken conversation, I highly recommend the article Floriography ~ Flowers and Their Veiled Meanings by fellow contributor Angela Lynn. In addition, the site Victorian Bazaar has a wonderful selection of flower information and floriography applications, many of which I have borrowed to compose this article.
• The Aster – meaning: Symbol of love, Talisman of love – a wonderful selection for everything from centerpieces to bouquets. With vivid colors ranging from pink to purple this summer flower is a dainty splash of color. A summer favorite for many gardens which would be a welcome surprise at any wedding.
• The Bird of Paradise – meaning: Faithfulness from a woman to a man – this exotic option is a clever and unique idea for decorating the groom’s cake table, place setting, or boutonnieres. This flower has long held association with summer, love, and originality.
• The Carnation – meaning: (White) Pure Love, Woman’s Love, Good Luck; (Solid) Yes; (Red) My heart aches for you, Admiration – take caution while utilizing the popular carnation, whose abundance of options have just as many variations in meanings. Striped carnations were used for a rejection; a solid carnation was an affirmative to a question likely also asked with floriography.
• The Calla Lily – meaning: Magnificent beauty – an obvious choice for bouquets, the Calla Lily remains one of the most popular flower choices for a summer wedding. Their white blossoms and long stems lend well to modern wedding centerpieces, and work well carried alone or with accompanying flowers.
• The Dahlia – meaning: Dignity and elegance, forever Thine – a delicate, often overlooked flower which comes in almost any hue you could possibly desire. The compact, rounded petals lend well to a lush bouquet, and the symbolism is lovely for a boutonniere. A unique choice for any summer wedding.
• The Iris – meaning: Faith and wisdom, Promise in love, Hope; (Yellow) Passion – a very popular summer flower, the iris adds a unique and ornate splash to a wedding floral arrangement. Yellow especially pairs well with darker blossoms, and the thick stems lend well to a bouquet.
• The Pansy – meaning: Merriment, You occupy my thoughts – likely the only edible plant represented on this list, pansies come in a vast array of colors. Although a smaller blossom, consider having pansies in your wedding colors present in salads featured at your reception.
• The Primrose – meaning: I cannot live without you – the delicate, dainty shape of the primrose makes it a popular summer flower. Most commonly seen in yellow and pink varieties, the shell-like shape of the blossom would lend well to a seaside or beach wedding.
Before you decide to use roses in your flower arrangement, consider that in floriography the rose has a multitude of meanings. Dark crimson for example symbolizes mourning, and deep red for shame. Another consideration is the increasingly popular hydrangea, which symbolizes frigidity and heartlessness. Hyacinths, which have a remarkably strong fragrance, were gestures of sorrow (purple) and jealousy (yellow) in addition to playful joy (red or pink).
With so much legacy and symbolism already tied so strongly into weddings, stopping to consider the Victorian floriography meaning of your choice blossoms lends further depth and character to your summer wedding.
Angela Lynn, “Floriography ~ Flowers and their veiled meanings,” Associated Content
Victorian Bazaar, “Online shopping, it’s Victorian Bazaar’s Boutique – Recapture the romance of an era gone by,” www.victorianbazaar.com