Unique Wedding Ideas Around the Clock

Herbs for celebrating morning, noon or night.

| February/March 2004

  • A flower girl's basket adorned with rosemary and filled with rose petals and lavender blossoms, adds fragrance and color to the occasion.

Throughout history, herbs have played a leading role in wedding traditions. Today’s bride may ornament her wedding with herbs to echo a sense of tradition, enhance the symbolism of the day or simply to appreciate the subtle grace of fragrant herbs. A happy consequence likely will be that stress is reduced even as memories are created.

With planning, any wedding can be filled with herbs — whether the occasion is intended for morning, afternoon or night — in a style that’s casual, eclectic, traditional or formal. Each leaf or flower invokes a symbol, a blessing or a pledge for the couple embarking on a shared journey.

Herbs for a Traditional Morning Wedding

A traditional morning wedding is surrounded by family and ties to the past. A family heirloom prayer book, a white lace wedding gown handed down from the mother or grandmother to the daughter and the wispy bridal veil with its echoes of ancient symbolism, all point to observed traditions. Dried herbs play a part in the traditional wedding, perhaps a potpourri made in part with petals saved from the bride’s parents’ 25th anniversary bouquet. “Something old, something new,/ Something borrowed, something blue,/ and a sixpence in her shoe,” was written for the traditional bride.

Envision such a wedding held mid-morning in the bride’s parents’ home, trimmed entirely with traditional white flowers and silver and green herbs. A white glass loving cup holds the centerpiece on the mantle, and groupings of glass bud vases gracefully are filled with rosemary, white roses and artemesia. A little niece strews rose petals and rosemary from her basket; then the bride, preceded by her maid of honor, enters the room where the groom awaits amid strains of Richard Wagner’s Wedding March from the opera Lohengrin. Family and friends look on as the family minister, priest or rabbi officiates, and family rings are exchanged.

What flowers does the traditional bride carry in a morning wedding?  Rosemary, the herb of remembrance, is required, along with myrtle, used since Greco-Roman times for fertility. The silvery leaves and delicious aroma of lavender soothe the bride and bring luck and devotion into the mix. Sage is a traditional symbol for domestic virtue, along with marjoram for blushes and sweetness. White roses signifying love and unity are the traditional bridal flowers, along with the intensely fragrant waxy white trumpets of stephanotis. Victorian brides wore crowns of fragrant orange blossoms, either fresh or made of wax, keeping in mind the tree bears flowers and fruit at the same time, a harbinger of youthful beauty along with fecundity. Lily of the valley and white pinks were added to spring weddings, set off with dark-green ferns (fascination) and trailing strands of ivy (friendship and loyalty). Thyme for courage is tucked into the bouquet and tied with white satin ribbon.

Herbs abound on the sideboard. China and silver is borrowed from family and friends. The punchbowl is filled with a rosy hibiscus herb tea mixed with fruit juices and ginger ale. Ice rings have been made ahead of time, filled halfway, then frozen; then laid with lemon balm, peppermint tips, rosebuds or rose hips, tiny alpine strawberries and oregano; then filled with a final layer of water and frozen solid. Shortbread cookies are laced with minced lemon balm, and melt-in-your-mouth butter creams compete with homemade mints garnished with candied violets. Cayenne pepper cheese straws add a savory tang to the menu; cucumber sandwiches contain both cucumber and chopped salad burnet; fruit salad is garnished with angelica; and the chicken salad has green grapes, parsley, walnuts and lovage.

The pièce de résistance, a white bridal cake with a tiny bride and groom on top, is made by a relative or a favorite baker, trimmed with white icing roses, and the platter is set on a bed of green herbs. The cake knife has been tied with a white bow and fresh herbs, and the bride and groom playfully cut the cake, then toss the bride’s bouquet before leaving on their trip.

Herbs for a Casual Afternoon Wedding

When the handwritten wedding invitation arrives in a bright envelope, a casual, outdoor, afternoon wedding is announced. An informal wedding abounds with personal touches and reliance on good friends. Wedding guests are asked to R.S.V.P. by e-mail and to participate in the ceremony by each contributing a flower or herb. These will make a circle on the ground that the couple stands inside, or will decorate a trellis the couple stands under to say their vows. The invitation includes a map to an open-air setting; perhaps a field of daisies (May) or sunflowers (August), a favorite woodland glade or a flower garden that will be the site of the casual afternoon wedding.

The bride’s dress is short or tea-length, or perhaps it is a caftan or silk kimono. Dispensing with a veil, she wears a rosemary chaplet like a crown. A few of their closest friends or their support group stand up for them in non-matching outfits designed to put everyone at ease. A musician or singer friend of the couple adds music to the scene, and handmade, non-traditional rings are exchanged.

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