History + Modern Bride: Bouquets

The custom of enhancing the wedding ceremony with flowers dates from ancient times, but the wide selection of bridal bouquets now available has only been a relatively recent development. The popularity of each has waxed and waned through the past few decades, each evolving special variations over time.


The posy had its heyday in Victorian times, when flowers were also the secret messengers of lovers; each flower having its own meaning. Thus bridal flowers were chosen with regard to their traditional significance. Unfortunately many lovely flowers were assigned rather undeserved meanings, such as the beautiful anenome “sickness”, delicate purple larkspur “haughtiness” and sweet-smelling lavender “distrust”. However, today most brides pick their flowers for color and personal appeal – it’s hard enough to decide without having to worry that your pretty bouquet announces, “I declare war against you” (tansy).

The posy fell out of favour in the first half of the 2oth century, then very slowly crept back into fashion over the last few decades. Whether the end result is formal or loose and unstructured, there have always been two methods employed by florists to create posies. These are ‘natural stems’ (also called hand-tied) and ‘fully-wired’, where the stems of the flowers are removed and replaced with florists’ wire, then constructed into a much lighter posy with an easy to hold handle. As its name suggests, ‘natural stems’ posies look more natural and informal, whereas the latter gives a neat, polished effect. These two looks have been combined in recent years (mainly under the influence of the Martha Stewart magazines and TV show), to form a third option called ‘wrapped stems’ – a combination of the two styles where the natural stems are wrapped in a beautiful ribbon or fabric, perhaps even embellished with pearl pins. In fact, the ribbon adorning a bridal bouquet is becoming almost as important as the flowers themselves, due to the popularity of lace, velvet and beading trims in the fashion world.

Biedermeier Another posy variation is the biedermeier; carefully-arranged concentric circles of coloured flowers, each ring containing one type of flower. Originating in Switzerland in the late 1800's, this tightly-structured bouquet often had lemon and orange peels added for fragrance. The biedermeier is showing signs of popularity again due to its dramatic geometry and pleasing symmetry.

Nosegay The nosegay, traditionally a small bunch of flowers and/or herbs, was resurrected temporarily in the 1980’s as a small, tight posy of small flowers, often backed with stiff tulle. It was extremely popular for flowergirls and bridesmaids. Its a beautiful bouquet and is often referred to for its size and pretty look. :)

Arm Sheafs Arm sheafs first became popular for brides in the early 1900’s under the name of ‘Bernhardt’ bouquets; inspired by the presentation bouquets given to the actress of the day, Sarah Bernhardt. This shape is held cradled in the arms, or more recently, upside-down against the skirt of your gown. An arm sheaf bouquet is a good choice if you like the natural look of stems but want something a little larger and more dramatic than a posy. Larger than a posy, I suggest using one flower with beautiful long stems (like the calla lily). The ribbon or binding treatment can be a feature in itself, so make sure the ribbon you chose is appropriate.

There's more to come - two more to be exact! :)

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