In this article, we will take an intimate look at the symbolic flowers of Italy, especially when it involves a wedding setting up.
I have never met a flower that I didn’t love! Sure, some get more fanfare than others, but they all have something wonderful to offer. Some offer heavenly aromas and some are total show-stoppers, while others offers an understated elegance or perhaps are important for culinarily or medicinally purposes. The point is, that in nearly every culture in every corner of the world, flowers hold a very significant place in society.
Brief History of Wedding Flowers IN ITALY
The tradition of brides carrying bouquets of flowers dates back to 800-600 BCE when the Moors invaded Sicily. While, in these ancient times, most of the bridal flowers were white, to signify purity and innocence, today, bridal flowers come in every color under the rainbow. Let’s take a look at some of the meaning behind some of the most popular flowers used in Italian weddings.
Generally speaking, Italians tend to fall under the heading of being a bit superstitious and this extends into the plant kingdom, as well. Certain types of flowers are viewed as funeral flowers and others are said to ensure either good or bad luck. And don’t forget the ever important rule that flowers should never be given in an even number, as an even number of flowers signifies mourning.
Must-have Flowers in an italian bridal bouquet
- The white lily is the national flower of Italy. It is said to have traveled directly from the holy land and is thought to be the first flower planted for ornamental horticultural reasons. This magnificent flower signifies purity, hope, innocence, rebirth and goodwill. Though lilies come in a wide array of colors, all with playful and happy symbolism, the white lily remains the favorite among the Italian people and use it widely on holidays and significant days of the year.
- Roses thrive in the hot, low humidity environment that Italy provides. Roses carry an overall significance, but of course, their color is more than just for show. For example, red roses, signify passion and love, white roses symbolize pureness, yellow roses denote jealousy and the new blue roses imply mystery.
- Lilacs are among one of the sweetest and most fragrant flowers around. Every time I smell a lilac in bloom, I am transported back in time to my grandmother’s garden. Her lilacs were huge – like full-size trees to a child. I remember picking a fresh bouquet each day and sitting there as their heady scent wafted through the house. Lilacs, I suppose quite appropriately in my case, signify the innocence of youth.
- I have to admit, since moving to Italy the peony has quickly become my absolute favorite flower! It is called “the rose without thorns” and because of the incredible variety of sizes, shapes and colors, though tend to be a bit more delicate than roses. The peony symbolizes eternal love, discretion and are often gifted as the sign of a true and significant romance.
- The ‘fleur-de-lis’ is the national symbol of Florence (and many other locales) and is (controversially) a representation of the Iris. The iris is a mesmerizing, odd-duck of a flower. It has three spreading petals and three upright petals held up on high stems with blooms typically lasting only for a day. Their long grass-like leaves and fibrous rhizomes make it a challenge for bridal bouquets, but are perfect for larger arrangements. However, the secret is finding a fresh, local source since these temperamental beauties do not always cooperate.
- The happy gerbera daisy signifies purity, innocence, and playfulness. These cheery, showy flowers are a perfect addition to a wedding bouquet. The come in a myriad of different colors and despite their tender looks, are actually quite hardy. Gerberas are gifted to friends to help lift spirits and to spread cheer.
- Orchids have long been associated with love, vitality and opulence in western culture and because of their finicky requirements (light… but not too much light, water, but stop… not too much… you know the drill) they are a relative newcomer to the wedding flower collection. Orchids come in a myriad of colors, each having their own meaning. White orchids are associated with innocence and purity while rose-colored orchids symbolize love and affection.
- Tuscany is synonymous with sunflowers. In June and July, nearly every field is covered wall-to-wall in these delightfully colorful sentinels. It is not hard to see why sunflowers are given as a sign of happiness and cheerfulness. They are often given to friends as at the culmination of a milestone in life. While sunflowers are grown to harvest the seed for oils and the long stem and leaves for livestock feed, the real reason they are so popular is because they are absolute workhorses in the incredibly heavy, dense clays of our fertile basins. These pretty flowers are instrumental to keeping the heart of Italy running smoothly.
- An equally happy yellow flower is the Mimosa. These fine, delicate flowers rose to significance in the 1950’s when it became the symbol for International Women’s Day (March 8th). I love to see a little pop of color in wedding arrangements and because of their association with strong independent women, it is the perfect addition for those that lean a little more towards the feminist side of the aisle.
- Let us not skip over the lowly carnation. They symbolize affection, good luck and deep admiration. While they themselves may not exactly be a showstopper, they are the perfect addition to any bouquet or arrangement. They come in almost every color under the sun and add volume while not taking away from the big, showy botanical stars of the day.
Flowers with less-romantic symbolism
The chrysanthemum is a perennial favorite through much of the world. Their fall, riotous and colorful displays are always eye-catching and a sentimental favorite. However… in Italy, this is definitely not the case. “Mums” are regarded as strictly a funeral flower and are offered to families during a period of morning. Not to say you cannot have mums mixed in your wedding flowers, there are several other flowers out there that look similar and do not have the superstition handing over their colorful little heads.
Who doesn’t love the large pom-pom size bouquets of pink and blue hydrangeas? Well, if you are Italian, odds are you would fall under this category. While big, bold and beautiful the condone the feeling of coldness and distance.
Another flower that gets a bad rap is the beautiful yellow rose. Personally, it is my favorite color ros, but after learning that symbolizes jealousy, suspicion and mistrust, I think I am going to need a little time to process this information.
The oleander is another favorite of mine, with flowers (either white, light pink or fascia) which are born in lush bouquets on this large woody perennial. They make lovely gifts for the yard, however, they symbolize mistrust and caution. It is important to note that great caution must be taken around this plant. It is said that the ingestion of a single leaf is potent enough to kill a healthy, adult man. (Let’s not test that theory!)
Another flower that epitomizes the agricultural landscape of Tuscany is lavender. This heady herb has been used in perfumes and soap for centuries and looks just a beautiful dried as it does freshly picked. However, it sends a very clear message of distrust to the recipient. So, if a neighbor offers you a lovely lavender bush, personally I would take it, but keep an eye looking back over your shoulder. You just never know.
This is just a tase of some of the most popular wedding flowers in Italy (as well as a few that should steer clear of). This fanciful article is meant for entertainment purposes… If you want a bouquet of yellow roses for your wedding bouquet, then by all means go for it! I think the people of Italy would be willing to turn a blind eye so that you could have the perfect wedding.
Did I leave some important symbolic flowers off the list? Please let me know in the comments so that we can continue to build on this article and our breadth of floral knowledge.