Wedding flowers in ancient Greek and Roman traditions


Ancient Greek wedding flowers

Flowers have always been an important part of every Greek tradition, celebration and special occasion. Weddings were no different. However, ancient Greeks were not using wedding bouquets. Instead, the bride and groom wore garlands which symbolized new life, hope and fertility.

Olive branches were woven in wedding crowns and garlands

Olive branches were woven in wedding crowns and garlands

Another important part in the wedding ceremony belonged to the wedding crowns. At the end of the ceremony the priest would pick up the crown, bless the groom three times and place the crown on his head. Then he would do the same for the bride and finally switch both crowns three times.

The wedding crowns had pretty much the same meaning as the wedding rings have today – they symbolically tied the couple together for the rest of their lives. The crowns would be later displayed at the reception and the couple would preserve them in their home.

Traditionally the garlands and crowns would be made of delicate white flowers and different evergreen. Most commonly used were orange blossoms and white roses, both symbolizing purity. Olive branches and different herbs such as thyme and basil were woven in the crowns as well. Herbs were used to honor the goddess Hera, mother to all and goddess of family and fertility. The added benefit of the strong smelling herbs was that the smell kept away the evil spirits.

Ancient Roman wedding flowers

Although ancient Romans put more emphasis on decorating the bride’s house with flower than ancient Greeks did, the bride still wore flower wreath on her head. Wedding bouquets as we know them today did not exist, however the brides would sometime carry a small green branch from their groom’s tree. They never took branches from trees around their father’s house because a part of the ceremony was leaving their childhood lives behind.

Marjoram was used in ancient Roman weddings

Marjoram was used in ancient Roman weddings

The ancient Romans used small amount of simple flowers but mostly herbs and evergreen, same as the Greeks did. The flowers used were white and most commonly used herb was marjoram. That was because pretty much everything in the wedding ceremony was white or green. The only colorful thing was the bride’s veil in orange-red colors.

The meaning of the flower decorations and wreath was the same as well. Wedding flowers and wreaths honored the God Gaius and Goddess Gaia and symbolized prosperity, fertility and happiness. Warding from evil spirits and bringing good luck was divided between the wedding flowers and different knots tied along the path of the procession and on the clothes of the bride and groom.

Besides using flowers that symbolize happiness and fertility, ancient Romans had another tradition that we still honor today. When the newlyweds arrived to the groom’s house at the end of the ceremony, the groom would carry the bride over the threshold. This was done because it was considered a very bad omen if the bride would trip while entering her new home.

Only the close relatives entered their new home to honor the couple in a form of a reception. During that time all women from both his and hers family would decorate the wedding bed with garlands and bouquets made from herbs that would bring the couple marital happiness and a big family.