Have you wondered about the origins of your wedding decorations? We are obsessed with weddings here at Thorum, so today, we decided to investigate the historical record to uncover the history of wedding decorations. However, this topic is so big that we opted to focus on one decoration at a time, so we started with the most popular wedding decorations of all: flowers.
Ancient Egyptian Floral Decoration: 3100 - 30 BC.
Via: Rideau Club Ottawa.
Flowers are the oldest form of wedding decoration which is still a popular choice for adorning one’s wedding venue.
The oldest flower arrangements are recorded in Ancient Egypt around 2,500 BC when they would cut flowers and put them in vases or decorate clay vessels with flora designs. These arrangements have been found in archaeology through funerary paintings on tomb walls and carved stone reliefs. Flowers were used to decorate all facets of life, from table decoration to special occasions like funerals or crowning ceremonies.
Ancient Egypt didn’t have legal weddings as we see today, as these were invented in Ancient Rome and Greece. However, we can imagine that when a couple decided to start living together, they might’ve decorated their house to celebrate the union and occasion.
An Ancient Egyptian flower of choice was all those most sacred to Isis: the water lily, delphinium, narcissus, arecaceae, cyperus papyrus, and the rose.
Ancient Greek Flower Design: 800 BC - 600 AD.
The Greeks loved using flowers to make their clothes stand out more and to take advantage of their fresh, natural aroma. This is seen in how they created woven flower tiaras and jewellery as part of their traditional wedding ceremony attire.
In these arrangements, they would have a lot of herbs to go with the signature flora piece, crafted symmetrically or triangular, and often with one or several colors, but never wild. They used many flowers, but several popular species included: the Olympus yarrow, the flower of the Acropolis, and the Greek flower peony.
You can see from the excavated title found at an Ancient Greek house that flowers were symbols of love and body decoration. A man is shown carrying a bouquet to whom we can assume is his wife or girlfriend.
Ancient Roman Flower Design: 800 BC - 500 AD.
In Ancient Rome, floral designs evolved from what was established in the Ancient Greek traditions. They established the first formally legal weddings and, with it, the birth of early Christianity, and they would get married adorned by flowers.
The Romans loved floral arrangements that showcased their status through luxury and excess and with bright and loud colors made of violets and roses. If a wealthy Roman politician's son or daughter were getting married, he’d want all of Rome to know about it. He might even opt for an imported flower from far-off lands to show extra power.
Another thing of great importance was the meaning of the flowers, not just if they looked good. So they picked flowers that were significant to the event they were celebrating. Generally, flowers represented rebirth and rejuvenation and were offerings of goddesses like Venus for good luck in their marriage.
Ancient Chinese and Japanese Flowers: 200 BC - 1900 AD.
In Ancient China and Japan, flowers were important symbols of teaching, religion and medicine. For example, Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism practitioners put flowers on their altars as offerings, whilst some would spend hours painting images of these same plants. No one can ignore the sacred nature of flowers.
Florists were held in high regard all over Asia, including Japan. The Japanese flora traditions, called Ikebana, were minimalist, using twigs, branches, or stems in pots. Whilst in China, florists, arranged flowers based on calligraphic designs and fitted them in baskets, focusing on the meaning behind each piece.
In Asian weddings, popular flowers included: orchids for love and fertility, lilies for long-lasting and happy unions, and the lotus for purity, longevity and honor. Flowers were an integral part of life and are still used to adorn the venues of weddings or serve as patterns for suits or dresses.
Byzantine Flora Design History: 320 - 6000
With the fall of the Roman Empire, Europe came into its own after a troubling renewal of culture. Then, just before the Early Medieval period, we saw the development of the Byzantine floral arrangement design, which was different to what came before in several ways.
Firstly, they were similar to Roman flora designs by the symmetry and minimal colors with the addition of not just flowers to complete the look. In addition, they added buds, fruits, foliage, and flowers to achieve a striking decorative statement.
However, they differed from what came before with more vivid colors, and garlands were transformed into long bands. The triangular arrangements became conical, and flower choices changed as well. They loved carnations, cypress, pine and daily flowers.
Mediveal Wedding Flower Decorations: 500 AD - 1500.
The Mediveal traditions of flower arrangements are not as well known as what came before or after, as ordinary people didn’t seem to decorate their houses the same as before. It was mainly reserved for the wealthy or important ceremonies run by the church, such as important weddings for rich folks.
We can't deny, however, that flowers didn’t lose their cultural significance, as when you look at any Mediveal manuscript, you will see the pages decorated with flowers. Some scenes show couples embracing each other surrounded by rose vines or getting married under an archway of flora arrangements. So we can see the records might be hard to find, but they still associated flowers with love and weddings.
Renaissance Flower Wedding Design: 1400 - 1600.
With the rise of a new art and cultural movement in Italy, it became popular for painters to use floral arrangements as subjects to paint and practice their craft. When florists suddenly found a new audience, they started to develop new ways to arrange flowers and present them as unique and evocative subjects for fresh paintings. In addition, they wanted to create color contrast between unique colors and draw the viewer's attention via these means.
This led to floral arrangements that explored many different cultures, floral arrangements, colors, and compositions, and through this experimentation, flowers as decoration became more varied than ever before. They loved big, bright flowers, like blossoms woven into architectural features like balconies or held in an old antique vase. It is here where flowers were encouraged to adorn structural elements, possibly the origin of flowers being woven into venue spaces in weddings today.
Baroque Flower Wedding Design: 1600 - 1775.
The Baroque painters and florists followed the continued traditions set by the Renaissance period, yet they strove to push the media further. First, they still played around with color contracts with symmetrical oval shaping held in vases. Later, they started moving away from traditional symmetry to experiment with asymmetry and s-shaped compositions.
Flemish Flower Wedding Design: 1600 - 1750.
The Flemish version of the Baroque flower designs was more compact and proportioned, with much more variety of flowers overall. However, they still had elements distinctive of the broader Baroque flower floral decorations.
French Flower Wedding Design: 1600 - 1814.
During the French Baroque period, a flower style developed which was softer than the others. This delicate, fragile arrangement had a massive appeal to the masses and became a popular choice for weddings, and is still used by florists today. They were asymmetrical in c-shaped or s-shaped early on and later evolved into simple lines and triangle shapes.
Georgian Flower Wedding Design: 1714 - 1760.
The Georgian period saw a return to symmetrical formal floral design patterns, but tightly arranged with various flower types. By the end of this period, arrangements became informal and small as some started to associate bad smells with diseases, and so by wearing a fresh-scented flower, you could ward off ailments.
The European flower market became increasingly more heavily inspired by Oriental designs imported from Asia as the Age of Exploration and the Industrial Ara made travel and trade much easier than before. This led to designs becoming more minimalistic or adopting Asian designs in their floral arrangements.
Victorian Flower Wedding Design: 1820 - 1901.
Via: ProFlowers Blog.
The flower decoration was trendy when Queen Victorian took the British throne. Flowers were used to decorating every aspect of people's lives to make their homes or special occasions lively with color and amazing smells. They were so essential to Victorian society that there was even a language of flowers called floriography, which was used by flower lovers to subtly communicate things without saying anything at all.
Victorians loved mass flowers stuffed tightly into vases to create compact, asymmetrical arrangements. There was no ‘style’ like those seen in the past, as with the emergence of trade and an ever more connected world, but most loved a floral arrangement that looked unplanned and rustic.
At the end of this period, as the florist trade came into its commercial infancy, there were steps made to try and create rules for arranging flowers. By having rules, they could turn this into a serious profession.
The Modern Age and Flower Wedding Design: 1900 - Present.
Modern floral arrangements and weddings are more varied than in previous eras. We see it more as a continuation of the tail end of the Victorian era, but with the florist profession coming into its own as they’ve had at least 150 years to refine their designs. However, like anything, fashion falls in and out of favor, so they are constantly chasing an ever-changing world of flower designs.
Final Remarks: Excavating The History of Wedding Decorations: Flowers
Via: Harbour Rose Florist.
Flowers are the most iconic wedding decorations, and there are many reasons why they have survived the test of time. They smell great, come in so many colors, are found all over the world, and are university known as the symbol of love. We love flower-filled weddings, so we hope you learn something new about this history of wedding decorations with flowers.
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