When I was planning my wedding I phoned up a florist to find out how much they’d charge for a small bridal bouquet.
She told me that it would “only cost around R5 000”, at which point I hung up and threw the phone across the room. On the day, I tied a few roses together with some ribbon and that was that.
The bouquet is somewhat of a pointless addition to a wedding. Once you’ve spent large sums of money on one, you carry it around for five minutes, hold it in a few photos, and then throw it at your guests during the reception.
You might as well just throw the money at them. They’d probably prefer it.
Back in the day, however, it served a different purpose, and – fair warning – it isn’t pretty.
Per the Huffington Post:
Back in the 15th Century, most people got married in the month of June because they took their yearly baths in May and didn’t smell too bad a mere month later, the time it took back then to plan a wedding.
Just to be on the safe side and not drive the groom back out the door gasping for fresh air while holding a handkerchief protectively over his nostrils, brides began carrying bouquets of flowers to hide their body odour. That was preferable to the groom’s cries of “Oh My God, What’s that Stink!” at the alter.
Unlike the bride’s, his bath had been taken only the day before the wedding.
That also accounts for why every rom-com ever has someone vying for a June wedding.
We don’t do that in South Africa because winter isn’t the best time to get married.
Back to those annual baths:
The annual baths themselves consisted of a big tub of hot water. The man of the house got the nice, hot, clean water, then all the other male members of the household from sons to servants, followed by the lowly women and, last of all, the baby.
By that time, the water was so filthy, you couldn’t see into it and tiny tots could actually get lost in it, hence the expression, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.” We’ve come a long way baby.
And you thought shorter showers during the Day Zero water crisis were bad.
The use of flowers to hide body odour extends past the bridal bouquet into everyday life. We deodorise everything from our cars to the cat’s litter box.
On some level we must be aware of what’s going on in the bathroom, or are we supposed to think the person who preceded us was in there squeezing lemons?
We’re bombarded daily with bouncy guilt-inducing ads convincing us we’re supposed to smell like a wooded glen, a fresh flower or a tangy fruit. Our hirsute, cave-dwelling ancestors were doubtless a little gamy, but mightn’t we have gone too far in the other direction?
Yes, advertising has kept the tradition of the bouquet alive.
Moving on the Bustle for more weird traditions that landed modern brides with an awkward stack of flowers to lug around.
A popular custom that dates way back in the world of bridal bouquets is carrying them to ward off evil spirits. In this scenario, the bouquets were odoriferous not due to strong-smelling florals but, rather, because they were created using highly pungent herbs — think spices, dill, and quite possibly lots o’ garlic and chives.
Instead of flowers, you smelled like a baked potato, but at least you weren’t possessed.
In Roman times, brides carried floral garlands designed to make the couple a little frisky with the cunning use of edible aphrodisiacs like dill and marigold.
In Victorian times, we get a little closer to discovering why we use bouquets today.
It was during this time florigraphy, or the language of flowers, came to be, whereby specific flowers took on specific, significant meanings. If a groom wanted to send his bride a sweet, coded message, he would choose a bouquet using flowers that conveyed his message of love.
Similarly, brides would choose flowers to relay their feelings to their future husbands as well.
The Royals tend to make a big deal out of this. There were feature-length articles about how Meghan and Kate chose their flowers.
Most of us just match the flowers to the colour scheme and be done with it.
My advice to brides in the midst of planning a wedding is to remember all of the above before you EFT a few thousand rand to a florist.
Just take a bath on the day and you’ll be fine.
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