Many centuries ago, couples married for reasons other than love. In some cultures, marriages were arranged by the couple’s parents with the bride and groom meeting at the ceremony and not before. Since fertility was the primary purpose for the newlyweds, flower girls carried sheaves of wheat and bouquets of herbs to symbolize the blessings of fertility and prosperity for the couple. Fast forward to present day United States and these historical fertility symbols have been replaced by flowers or flower petals.
There are four different historical influences on the role of the flower girl.
Roman Empire (753 BC-476 AD)
In the Roman Empire (Roman Kingdom (753–509 BC), Roman Republic (509–27 BC) and Roman Empire (27 BC–476 AD), flower girls were young, innocent adolescents who carried a sheaf of wheat during the wedding ceremony. The belief was that this custom would bring prosperity to the bride and groom.
Renaissance (14th Century -17 Century)
During the Renaissance, flower girls carried strands of garlic based on the belief that garlic repelled evil spirits and bad luck.
Elizabethan era (1558-1603)
The Elizabethan era saw the advent of scattering rose petals along the path the bride would walk, although in this time period the petals were often scattered along the path from the bride’s home to the church.
Victorian era (1837-1901)
The Victorian era is when flower girls began to look similar to modern day flower girls. Victorian flower girls often wore simple white dresses made with the intention of wearing more than once. The white flower girl dresses were sometimes accompanied with a colorful sash made of silk or satin. They often carried a basket of fresh flowers or a floral hoop that symbolized that true love lasts forever and is without an end.
Royal Influence on the Modern Era
The style of the flower girl dresses changed throughout the twentieth century. In the 1920s, in lockstep with the times, the flower girl dress was, in part, a flapper dress. Beginning in the 1940s, it was not uncommon for there to be more than one flower girl in attendance. This was most obvious in royal weddings, such as the wedding of Princess Grace in 1957 and the wedding of Princess Margaret in 1960. The latter part of the twentieth century incorporated several different fabrics such as lace, satin, and organza.
In a traditional wedding procession, flower girls are usually members of the bride or groom’s extended families or a friend of either family and are usually three to ten years old. In a wedding procession a flower girl walks down the aisle with her partner, usually the ring bearer.
A flower girl typically walks in front of the bride during the wedding procession and scatters flower petals on the floor before the bride walks down the aisle. Her outfit usually resembles a smaller version of the bride’s wedding dress. Traditionally, a flower girl’s clothing was provided by the families of the bride and groom. Today, most couples expect the flower girl’s parents to pay for her clothing and other expenses related to her participation.
Some couples want a flower girl in the wedding party to enhance the aisle with flower petals. She symbolically leads the bride forward, from childhood to adulthood and from innocence to her roles of wife and mother. The flower girl follows the maid of honor, and may carry wrapped candies, confetti, a single bloom, a ball of flowers, or bubbles instead of flower petals.
The flower girl may symbolize the bride as a child in her innocence, as she is typically a young girl dressed similarly to the bride. She may also symbolize wishes for fertility for the couple and the forming of their new family.
Flower girls have had their place in weddings for many centuries.