Flowers have been used throughout history to adorn the body and clothes for special events and ceremonies. The tradition continues today with buttonholes and corsages worn for grand occasions such as weddings, formal dinners and events. They are reserved for the most special soirées, so ordering them is not an every day occurrence. This means that the issue of flower adornment is a little shrouded in mystery and there are often concerns about etiquette.
The language of flowers dates back to Victorian times when meanings and symbolic associations were attached to all kinds of different flowers. The significance placed would have had a bearing on what flowers were used for certain occasion, so the flowers had a language all of their own. The craze of floriography, as it became known, swept Europe and even spread as far as the USA, but there are lots of conflicting meanings which can lead to confusion. Oscar Wilde and his London set famously wore a green carnation buttonhole as a secret symbol of what was called an ‘unnatural’ love in those days. Thankfully, with a more enlightened attitude to love (not to mention the advent of Grindr) a green carnation wouldn’t mean much these days. The language of flowers probably needs updating for the Snapchat generation, anyways.
Poppy Frost, McQueens events manager, sheds a little light on the whole business of buttonholes and corsages.
‘We are much more inclined to offer advice on buttonholes or corsages based on the theme of the occasion and the personality and dress of the wearer. There has been a massive shift from formal buttonholes and corsages, to a new generation that are much simpler. Corsages worn by women these days are much smaller than the ones worn a generation ago. Wrist corsages are becoming much more popular now, along with handbag corsages. We’ve had some brides who request an elegant corsage in place of a classic wedding bouquet. This might suit a second marriage or the type of bride who doesn’t feel as comfortable holding a classic wedding bouquet.
Buttonholes are usually worn by men, and carnations are hardly ever used these days! Although they do have a certain retro charm so they are bound to come back into fashion some time soon. Roses are a very popular choice, as are ranunculus, anemone and miniature orchids. We often select a choice flower and a sprig of seasonal foliage for a smart, understated look. A boutonnière is a more elaborate buttonhole, which can be worn by anyone. There isn’t the same requirement to follow tradition for wedding flowers as there once was and now the choices are now much more open especially with civil partnerships and gay marriages.
It is important to select flowers that will last the duration of the wedding day. Most buttonholes and corsages will begin to fade after a few hours, especially in the middle of summertime. Yes, they need to look their best for the key wedding photo shoot, but they should last the duration, too. We love the tradition of wearing a flower for such a special occasion; it’s a lovely way of making everyone feel included on the big day, and wearing a flower is that special finishing touch that makes you look and feel wonderful!’