From fresh foliage to fragrant florals, bouquets to boutonnière, flowers have been indelibly linked with wedding traditions around the world. There is just no throwing a wedding without flowers of some form. They adorn the pews at the ceremony, preside over tables at the reception, encircle the heads of the flower-girls, accompany the bride down the aisle, are tossed at the unwed women and strewn over the married couple. Yip. Flowers are working hard at weddings, and they deserve a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T.
Down through the ages, humans from cultures all around the world have been using flora in wedding ceremonies for symbolic, decorative and functional purposes. In traditional Hindu weddings, bright flower garlands are exchanged between the bridegroom during Jaimala (also known as Varmala), or they can be used in the Rangoli art. In medieval western tradition, fragrant flowers or herbs were used to mask any…um, unwelcome body odour or to scare off evil spirits, while Victorians became infatuated with flower language and the meanings attached to each flower became important at their weddings. Ancient Greeks were adorned with wreaths. Chinese and Japanese tradition calls for bouquets of bright flowers (red is a favourite colour) in groups of six or nine. So, wedding flowers have been on the scene since the first I do - and with their beauty, heavy symbolism and fragrant functionality, it’s easy to see why.
Now, read on to find out how we suggest you go about getting the most out of your flowers at your wedding.
Once you have determined what your overall theme is, then you’ll have a clear colour scheme to compliment your wedding style. It's only after you have settled on style and colour, that you can then go about deciding on your floral arrangements.
Be flower smart and try to go seasonal. Not only is it more eco-friendly, but it’s also more budget-friendly. You’ll cut down on the costs of importing flowers or paying for artificially induced blooms. Luckily, in South Africa, we have extended cultivation periods. Although within the country itself there are different climate zones: from the temperate conditions of KwaZulu Natal to the Mediterranean climes of the Western Cape. This means that different localities will have slightly different seasonal blooms. However, on the whole, we have shorter springs and autumns and longer summers with temperate winters - which is pretty flower friendly.
Once you know what colour combination you are looking for, and you know which season you will be getting married it, then it’s easy enough to choose from the range of flowers that will be available during that time frame. Also, bear in mind, there are some flowers - like roses, freesia, gladiolus, carnations and some orchids that are available all year round.
If you’re looking to tie the knot between September and February, then there are a whole host of floral options available to you. Obviously, this list is far from complete and serves inspirational purposes, rather than encyclopaedic!
Gorgeous whites can be found in the iris, lily of the valley, fragrant jasmine, magnolia and humble daisy. Blues in the form of delicate cornflower, hyacinth, delphinium, bluebell and forget-me-not. For a yellow or orange colour scheme, you could look at the daffodil, azalea, daisy, hibiscus, marigold or the impressive strelitzia. Pink and purple options include lavender, tiger lily and camellia. Of course, many flowers come in a variety of colours - like the ever-popular rose, peony, sweet-pea, amaryllis and carnation.
March to August weddings can take advantage of different seasonal favourites. All across the country, a new array of flowers are taking centre stage. From bright reds and oranges to cool blues and whites, there are seasonal options to suit any colour scheme.
In the cooler months, you could opt for white blooms from tulips, wax flowers, hyacinth, fragrant freesia and azalea. Soft pinks, dusty reds and creamy whites can be found in the numerous and iconic proteas that bloom during this time of the year. As with the warmer months, there is a range of seasonal flowers that come in a stunning array of colours - like the tulip (which come in lovely reds, yellows and oranges as an alternative to marigolds), daisy, snapdragon and some variety of orchids. The red hot poker, green kale and silver brunia are great options to bring structure and interest to your floral decorations.
You’ll also need to consider exactly where you want your floral displays. From the ceremony venue or the wedding Mandap to the tables at the reception; from the bridal bouquet to the confetti, you will have to decide where you want the flowers to go and how many you’ll need.
Be savvy with your floral arrangements. Often you can move flowers from the wedding ceremony, and they can do double duty in the reception venue (for example, at the dessert station or the entrance). Or are there foliage options you can use as filler that would be less expensive but equally impactful? So plan ahead, be smart and remember less is often more.
On a final note, we can’t leave a post on flowers without a shout out to eco-friendly practices. Although wedding flower arrangements by their nature are often ‘throw-away’, there are ways to reduce the impact on the environment.
As mentioned, going seasonal is a great way to encourage natural demand patterns. You could also opt for alternatives to the traditional single-use oasis (aka floral foam) and how about potted plants instead of cut flowers? Consider the wedding favour which could be seeds or tiny potted succulents. There are so many opportunities to do our bit to save the world; it just takes a little forethought and planning.