by Darlene McCarthy Barnfield

There is only one grand entrance per wedding, and the bride makes it. Resplendent in white as she appears in the aisle and begins her magical walk toward the groom, all eyes are upon her, her dress and her bridal bouquet.

“That’s the wow factor,” says Marguerite Clark of Petals Flowers in Bermuda. “And the flowers are a big part of that.”

“There is not a perfect bouquet,” says Bermuda floral designer Suzan Sickling, “but there is a perfect bouquet for a specific bride.”

The wedding bouquet is an accessory, so its size should complement the bride’s figure. A petite bride should choose a small and simple bouquet that won’t overwhelm her or hide the wedding gown. Conversely, taller or fuller-figured brides can choose more detailed, larger bouquets. A bouquet with a long trailing design will flatter a fuller figure as it draws the eye downward rather than across. Complexion also plays a part in flower choice. Brides with fair skin should avoid dark, bold flowers that can make them look washed out. Flower colours can reflect the makeup palette: ivory and dusky-pink flowers enhance pink tones in makeup. The shape of the wedding gown also dictates the shape of the bouquet. An elaborate, full-skirted dress calls for a full bouquet that won’t get lost in a sea of fabric, whereas the slim silhouette of a contemporary column would be complemented by the elegant simplicity of a single, dramatic stem.

“Everything needs to be in balance,” says Sickling. “Europeans like red flowers or, in the fall, yellow and orange. This side of the world, most brides want white with a touch of pink. Just imagine in your photographs a white dress and a red bouquet. It could be very beautiful, but [your eye] goes straight to that bouquet, doesn’t it?” Which is not the point of being a bride. The day is about you.

Of course, the bride’s personality comes into play in choosing the bouquet. Shy and reserved brides might save the feathers and sparkly crystals for the bridal shower, but bubbly, outgoing types might be happier with a statement bouquet.

Bermudian event planner Jane West advises brides to budget amply for flowers. “I think the elegance of flowers really makes it,” says West. Marguerite Clark of Petals agrees. “Absolutely, the flowers are the attention to detail,” she says. “Everything is doable within boundaries. Most brides have had an idea of the bouquet they want since they were five. The girls who are getting married in the winter want richer colours. Jewel-coloured flowers. Whereas in the summer they’re going for something lighter, like blues, pale pinks, or a white-ivory bouquet, which can set off any background beautifully.” All ivory is the latest trend in flower design. “The white-ivory tones are just pure elegance,” says Clark.

Brides have been carrying bouquets for centuries. Celtic women carried aromatic bunches of herbs and spices to ward off evil spirits. In ancient Greece and Rome, the bride and groom wore garlands around their necks, symbolizing new life, hope and fertility. Edible herbs were also used in bouquets. To increase desire, the bride and groom and their guests consumed dill, also known as the herb of lust, from the bride’s bouquet.

Both the Turks and Victorians believed that flowers communicated emotion; their study of flower meanings was known as floriography, and they assigned underlying meaning to the sending or receiving of flowers. Even today, certain flowers are associated with feelings. A bluebell, for example, connotes constancy, amaranthus means immortality and undying love and stephanotis suggests happiness in marriage.

Some flowers are thought to bring bad luck. “When people say they want a calla lily bouquet, I sort of go, ooooooh,” says Sickling. “It’s just an old superstition.” But Sickling quickly adds that she has done bouquets containing calla lilies for many brides who are still happily married. So brides should pick what makes them happy encourages Sickling. “Ninety-five percent of people know what kind of flowers they like or what flowers they don’t like. That is more important,” she says.

Some brides still throw their bouquet. “It depends on the age bracket,” says Clark. “If she is the last of all her friends to get married, she probably will not toss her bouquet. The younger the bride, with a lot of single friends, [the more apt] she is to toss her bouquet.”

Sickling says brides sometimes will create a second, smaller bouquet for tossing, so they don’t have to part with the original. In the past, many brides dried their bouquets after the ceremony as a keepsake, but it is not done much anymore. If a bride wants to keep her bouquet for posterity, she might consider an alternative, such as silk flowers and ribbon. Not only will it look lovely, but it also keeps forever.

Clark suggests talking to a florist before choosing a bouquet as well as reading magazines and browsing the Internet. There are thousands of images. “Do your research,” she advises. Even if the flower a bride has her heart set on is out of season or beyond her budget, Clark says a good florist can help find something similar that will satisfy just as much. Flowers enhance any event, but a beautiful bouquet, no matter how simple or ornate, means this is an event of monumental proportions. It’s the symbol of a wedding as much as the dress and the veil are. Sickling says it makes a woman feel like a bride. “I cannot imagine a bride without a bouquet, can you?”

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