Herb Love: A Wedding Tradition

A wedding tradition steeped in symbolic meaning, fresh herbs are a beautiful addition to any wedding.

| February/March 2000


Fresh herbs have been essential to the language of love for centuries, used profusely in adorning bridal couples as well as bridal chambers. Ancient Athenians wove mint and marigolds, which they believed to be aphrodisiacs, into bridal garlands and wreaths. Roman brides carried wheat for fertility, rosemary for the groom’s virility, and myrtle for long life. European brides in the Middle Ages carried pungent herbs such as garlic and chives to prevent jealous spirits from disrupting the couple’s happiness. And Victorian brides carefully chose a combination of herbs that expressed their sentiments and hopes, perhaps roses for love, lavender for devotion, pansies for happy thoughts, and marjoram for blushes and joy.

Herbs are especially appropriate for weddings because they bring centuries of tradition, loving sentiments for the bridal couple, and wonderful—some say therapeutic—fragrances. If prepared properly, they hold up well, and they are versatile enough to add a special touch to everything from the guest book to the dessert plates. Herbs can be understated or elegant, equally suited for the most modest of ceremonies or the most extravagant reception.

Do it yourself?

Probably no other wedding decorations are as important as the flowers carried by the wedding party. They are the center of attention through much of the day and will be preserved in photographs for many years to come. For this reason, many brides call in a professional. As herbs have become more popular, many florists use them regularly. Some are even willing to use herbs from your garden if they have been conditioned first. If a conventional florist can’t help you, check with a local herb farm or herb bed-and-breakfast; many employ florists to work with their herbs.

You can, of course, create your own bridal bouquet and wedding party flowers. If you are not experienced, be prepared to practice, practice, practice before the big day to gain skill and confidence. Line up a few friends or family members to gather and prepare the herbs the day before the ceremony, and give yourself plenty of time to complete the arrangements.

Bridal bouquets

Let the bride’s bouquet set the tone for the other wedding flowers, and choose herbs associated with the sentiments that you’d like to convey. Elizabethan brides carried lots of rosemary to ensure faithfulness and keep spouses from “forgetting” they were married. Gilded sprigs were handed out to guests to prevent friendships from being forgotten. Brides in the Middle Ages carried sweet-smelling herbs in hope that their marriage would be sweet.

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