Shower Her with Herbs

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Potted centerpieces can double as favors for each guest to take home.
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Make a lavender spritzer to add scent to herbal invitations.


In the language of flowers, roses and myrtle mean enduring love; rosemary and violets speak of faithfulness; lemon verbena translates to enchantment by love; sage represents domestic happiness; and catnip articulates the joyful intoxication of love. Their ancient and romantic symbolism make herbs the perfect bridal shower theme.

From the invitations to the menu, decorations, favors and shower games, an herbal theme effortlessly ties each shower element together. Herbs also make a great theme if guests are asked to bring gifts for the garden, kitchen or bath.


In the color language of flowers, lavender signifies pure love. Select lavender-colored invitations and carry this color through to the shower decorations. To make simple invitations yourself, use white or lavender-colored cards and write them by hand using a lavender or silver pen. Before mailing, include a stem of lavender (or use rose petals or rosemary) in the envelope so the recipient will have a fragrant surprise. Also, consider adding scent to the invitations with a spritz of herbal fragrance spray. Be sure to write on the invitation the quality or emotion the herb represents.

Selecting the menu

Showers are often held as luncheons or teas. An herbal shower lends itself beautifully to either. Using herbs associated with love and marriage, you can have fun creating a delightfully symbolic, delicious menu.

For a tea, serve an herbal cheese dip, tea sandwiches with herbs and several herbal deserts such as lavender cookies, rosemary shortbread and buttermilk herb cookies served with herbal tea.

It’s never fun for the hostess to be fussing with the food and missing all of the fun. So, I keep most of the menu very simple, reserving my time and effort to make a grand finale dessert.

Greet guests with a choice of drinks: champagne-orange cocktails or sparkling water and herbal iced tea garnished with a sprig of mint; alternately, freeze whole mint leaves ahead of time in ice cubes and use them in the tea or sparkling water.

With the drinks, serve appetizers of Rosemary Roasted Pecans and crudités with an herb dip. For the main course, serve cold cucumber soup, a mixed gourmet greens salad with raspberry or herbal vinaigrette and an herbal quiche. With the exception of the salad, everything can be made ahead of time.

Cap off the party with the uniquely delicious taste of a Rose Geranium Cake served with rose-peppermint or orange tea.


Use the aroma of herbs to set the mood for your guests. Lavender and rose scents create a relaxed mood while rosemary and citrus scents energize.

For the serving and eating tables, create elegantly informal arrangements of fresh herbs and flowers associated with love and marriage, making sure to add a little parsley to each, since parsley signifies festivity and gratitude. If you’ve chosen lavender as the shower color, select a variety of “green herbs” and accent them with lavender, violets, pansies and white or silver roses.

For each arrangement, make a card with the name of each plant in the bouquet and what each plant symbolizes. This will be fun for guests to read. If you know one of your guests enjoys making floral arrangements, ask her or him to create the arrangements after you’ve gathered the materials.

Instead of using freshly cut plants and flowers, consider using potted herbs. They work just as well, especially in ornamental containers and can be given to the bride-to-be for her garden or to guests as favors. Place one larger container or a group of several smaller containers of potted herbs in the center of each table. Use terra cotta pots (spray-paint the pots silver for a more dressed-up look), then tie a silk ribbon around the top of the pot. Tuck sheet moss all around the base; or use more elegant ceramic containers.

Teapots make sweet, festive containers for arrangements, especially if the shower is a tea or one with a kitchen gift theme. Gleaming silver bowls make more formal containers for potted herbs and look beautiful on a table.

If it’s a spring shower when many plants associated with weddings are in bloom (such as tulips, violets, azaleas and pansies), bring plants from your own garden indoors for decorations.

Flower arrangements

Roses, myrtle and ivy. This classic trio of wedding plants can be arranged effortlessly together for a beautiful effect. Start by placing stems of myrtle into a container, followed by roses. Complete by adding ivy vines to trail down the container.

If you’re using opaque containers, use pre-soaked oasis floral foam or ball up a piece of chicken wire and place it inside the container to help hold stems in place.

Here are additional combination ideas especially for spring and early-summer showers. Add trailing ivy to each arrangement and/or arrange ivy vines down the center of the table around the centerpiece.

• Red tulips, violets and lady’s mantle
• Rosemary and lavender stems
• English, silver or lemon thyme,rosemary, sage, ivy and silver roses
•Catnip, scented geraniums and marigold
• Purple basil, green basil and calendulas Potted plants.

For centerpieces, try either blooming forget-me-nots and violets or groupings of thyme, sage, mints, rosemary and lavender with a white organza ribbon tied around each container. Or, group three containers of differently colored pansies together, ringed by mini-pots of sweet marjoram. Potted azaleas also make lovely centerpieces as they signal spring and symbolize romance and constancy.

An elegant centerpiece for a shower is a rosemary, myrtle or lemon verbena topiary. Use one large topiary for each table, or group several smaller ones together. Herb topiaries, especially rosemary, are available year-round at many garden centers and herb farms.

To celebrate how special each guest is, decorate tables with small, individual arrangements at each place setting. Use a few stems of one kind of herb or a combination of several. Tie a small card onto the container with the name and symbolism of the plant. Try to give guests different plant so they can have fun comparing and sharing information. These decorations can double as favors for each guest to take home.

A tussie-mussie works well as a special corsage for the guest of honor. A tussie-mussie is a Victorian-era message conveyed in the language of herbs and flowers. The bride-to-be will cherish the thoughtful message put together just for her. For ideas and how-to, consult the book Tussie Mussies: The Language of Flowers (Workman Press, 1993) by Geraldine Laufer. One lovely combination is rose-scented geranium (preference), forget-me-nots (true love), rosemary (remembrance), white rose (unity) and lavender (devotion).

Shower games and activities

Games or activities usually are scheduled before the food is served. Though these are traditional, many guests cringe at the thought of having to play certain shower games. Here are a few cringe-proof activities that present a fun way for guests to interact.

Herbs and Their Meanings. Make an arrangement ahead of time composed of wedding herbs and flowers with a card attached to each stem with its name and symbolism. Make sure there is a stem for each guest. Have each guest select a stem, read the card to the group and then pass the plant around for guests to enjoy its fragrance.

Name That Scent. Select about eight to 10 different fragrant herbs and place fresh or crushed leaves and/or flowers into a cup covered with aluminum foil, with a small top opening. Have each guest try and guess what each cup contains. Whoever gets the most correct should win a small prize, perhaps some herb seed packets.

Make-and-Take Bath Salts. Guests will enjoy mixing up their own jar of scented bath salts to take home. To do this, use three large bowls and fill each bowl with one of these ingredients: Epsom salts, coarse sea salt and dried lavender. Place a small measuring cup in each bowl. Instructions for guests to follow in creating their own refreshing.

Bath Salts

Herbs and Plants with Meaning for Showers and Weddings

Maureen Heffernan is the director of public programs at Cleveland Botanical Gardens. A freelance writer and herb lover, she lives and gardens in Cleveland Heights, Ohio.

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