What Your Wedding Flowers Mean

From romantic symbols to emblems of hope, the historic meanings behind some of the most popular big-day blooms may surprise you

Updated 10/14/19

Photo by Heather Waraksa Photography

If you're planning a wedding with lots of personal touches—you're getting married the same month you and your SO met three years ago. Wearing Mom's veil. Serving the cocktail you had the night he proposed.—think about personalizing your flowers, too. But instead of basing your choices on color and style alone, let the blooms' historic meanings inform your decision, as well.

The "language" of flowers is actually a thing and has been for centuries. During Victorian times, for example, flowers were used to express emotions when words and gestures failed. Today, many couples follow this romantic practice and create bouquets and centerpieces with flowers whose meanings have some significance to them. While flowers with a love connection, like roses and carnations, are popular, there are many other meaningful traits like new beginnings (daffodil), faith (iris), and perseverance (hydrangea) to consider.

While most flowers have good vibes and positive sentiments, you'll want to steer clear of those whose meanings have a negative association—begonia symbolizes "beware" and tansy, "hostile thoughts." Color also plays a substantial role in a flower's meaning. Everyone's favorite wedding flower, the rose, has different meanings depending on the hue. While a red rose symbolizes passion, a white rose means purity, and a pink one signifies joy and admiration. The same goes for hyacinths: The white variety means loveliness, the blue kind represents constancy.

Whatever sentiment you want to convey on your wedding day, there's sure to be a flower to fit your need. Just like every picture tells a story, every flower has its own narrative, too.

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Amaryllis

Amaryllis bouquet

Photo by Christian Oth Studio

Don't call amaryllis a wallflower! With its bold colors and lily-like style, it has rightfully made a name for itself in the botanical world as a "splendid beauty."

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Anemone

Anemone bouquet

Photo by Dennis Kwan Weddings

You don't need a breeze to be charmed by the allure of this delicate bloom, which comes from the Greek word for "windflower," and symbolizes anticipation.

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Anthurium

Anthurium bouquet

Photo by Lillian Haidar

If you're going with a heart theme for your wedding, this tropical beauty, which stands for hospitality, has a Cupid-inspired shape that will fit right in.

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Baby's Breath

Baby's breath crown

Photo by Rebekah Westover Photography

Like an extra in a movie who stays in the background, this popular bouquet and centerpiece filler—which signifies festivity—is often there to support the star flowers. With tiny white clouds for petals, it deserves top billing of its own.

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Calla Lily

Cala Lilly boutenierre

Photo by Jonathan Young

When people think "wedding flower," this bloom often comes to mind. With its trumpet shape and elegant air, the calla lily more than stands up to its meaning: regal.

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Carnation

Carnation bouquet

Photo by Kelsey Thompson

Far beyond being just a lapel decoration, carnations can be massed together for a lush look that's affordable. The pink variety means gratitude, and white is pure love, but stay away from striped, which represents refusal.

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Cherry Blossom

Cherry blossom decor

Photo by Katelyn James Photography

Brides who want to incorporate these delicate pink buds, which symbolize the fragility of life, into their décor better act fast: They're only around for a few short weeks in the spring.

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Chrysanthemum

Chrysanthemum bouquet

Photo by Red Fly Studio

Looking like a cross between a pompom and a daisy, mums are a full-bodied favorite of weddings for their variety of colors, shapes, and sizes which aptly symbolize joy.

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Clematis

Clematis bouquet

Photo by Jose Villa

A climbing plant of the buttercup family with large showy petals, clematis could be considered a brainy flower—after all, it symbolizes ingenuity and mental beauty.

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Daffodil

Daffodil bouquet

Photo by Lisa Warninger

What do marriage and this shapely spring flower have in common? Both represent new beginnings, which is tailor-made for a couple's big day.

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Dahlia

Dahlia centerpiece

Photo by Harrison Studio

A kissin' cousin of the daisy family, dahlias originated in Scandinavia and mean from the valley, perfect for a wedding with a garden theme.

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Daisy

Daisy bouquet

Photo by Michael and Carina Photography

If ever there was a flower that made the world smile, it's this pretty little thing, whose meaning is innocence. The daisy's free spirit vibe goes well with casual weddings.

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Forsythia

Forsythia centerpiece

Photo by Carlie Statsky

If you've been planning your big day for months (years even), why not give a nod to your excitement by including this bell-shaped bloom, whose meaning is anticipation, in your arrangements?

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Freesia

Freesia boutonniere

Photo by Michael Falco of Christian Oth Studio

A sweetly fragrant spring favorite with up to 10 tiny, bell-shaped flowers on each stem, this beauty originated in Africa and represents innocence and friendship.

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Gardenia

Gardenia bouquet

Photo by Natalie Franke Photography

This tropical treasure, known for its fragrance and waxy petals, symbolizes joy. It's earned a reputation as a popular flower for a bride to wear in her hair.

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Gerbera Daisy

Gerbera daisy bouquet

Photo by Alyssa Joy Photography

A wildly popular member of the daisy family, the Gerbera differs from the traditional variety with rows of overlapping petals. With a name that means cheerfulness, its no surprise that it has the same sunny disposition.

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Hyacinth

Hyacinth bouquet

Photo by Figlewicz Photography

If you're athletic and looking for a flower that symbolizes your love of games, look to the highly fragrant hyacinth, which was named after a Greek boy and represents sport or play.

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Hydrangea

Hydrangea wedding arch

Photo by Annabella Charles

If you love full-bodied flowers, this round bloom with an abundance of tightly packed petals is the one for you. Bonus: it's marriage ready symbolizing both perseverance and heartfelt emotion.

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Iris

Iris bouquet

Photo by Red Sparrow Photography

The inspiration for the fleur-de-lis, France's national emblem, the iris represents three important entities: faith, valor, and wisdom. It's best known for its deep purple shading.

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Japonica

Japonica crown

Photo by KT Merry Photography

Also known as camellia, this classic Southern charmer, which grows as a flowering shrub, has lush petals similar to the peony and glossy leaves. Newlyweds choose it because it exemplifies graciousness.

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Larkspur

Larkspur centerpiece

Photo by HA Photography

Let's hear it for a flower that has a dual personality: It symbolizes both beautiful spirit and fickleness. Part of the buttercup family, larkspur is a complex flower like the orchid, with an irregular shape.

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Lavender

Lavender bouquet

Photo by Izzie Rae Photography

Don't just pick this flower for its gorgeous color and scent—give it a place in your arrangements for what it symbolizes: devotion and virtue.

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Lilac

Lilac centerpiece

Photo by Odalys Mendez Photography

Is your SO the very first person you fell for? Awww. Consider walking down the aisle carrying a bouquet of this purple bloom whose meaning is first love.

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Lily

Lily bouquet

Photo by Angie Silvy Photography

The symbol of modesty and virginity, the white variety of this timeless flower is a wedding staple. The other shades have significant meaning also: The orange lily symbolizes passion, while yellow represents gaiety.

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Lily of the Valley

Lily of the Valley Centerpiece

Photo by Beach Productions

Just one look at the tiny petals of this dainty bloom and its symbolism makes perfect sense: sweetness and purity of heart. The flower is also thought to represent a return to happiness.

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Magnolia

Magnolia

Photo by Jose Villa

Generally associated with the south, this large showy flower with a distinctive fragrance is prized worldwide and has been around for 20 million years! Fittingly, it symbolizes nobility and dignity.

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Muscari

Muscari crown

Photo by Jose Villa

Also known as grape hyacinth, this flower develops small, urn-shaped blossoms that are usually purple (symbolizing mystery, calm, and creativity) but also comes in dark blue (for power and confidence).

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Orchid

Orchid boutonniere

Photo by Kelly Hornberger

Carrying a bouquet of this exotic beauty on your wedding day is not only a sign that you love a dramatic touch but that you are a person of refinement and charm, everything that this stunning bloom symbolizes.

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Peony

Peony bouquet

Photo by Lisa Lefkowitz Photography

Romantic couples may love peonies for their lush fluffy petals, but they'll cherish the meaning even more: The bloom symbolizes a happy marriage.

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Poppy

Poppy bouquet

Photo by Lehua Noelle

For your wedding, choose the right color of this eternally cheerful bloom: A red poppy is linked to pleasure, yellow stands for wealth and success. But steer clear of white, which signifies consolation.

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Protea

Protea bouquet

Photo by Elizabeth Messina

Dating back 300 million years, this flower comes in many sizes and colors that symbolize courage and diversity. It was named after the Greek god Poseidon's son, Proteus, who could change his shape at will.

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Queen Anne's Lace

Queen Anne's Lace Bouquet

Photo by Louisa Bailey

Symbolizing delicate femininity and complexity, this wedding favorite of frilly white blossoms comes with a naming legend: Queen Anne was challenged to create a lace as delicate as a flower.

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Ranunculus

Ranunculus Bouquet

Photo by Reese Moore Photography

Well known for its diversity of brilliant colors, this rounded bloom is similar in appearance to camellias, with multiple layers of crepe-paper-thin petals. It's no wonder the flower symbolizes radiant charm and attractiveness.

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Rose

Rose bouquet

Photo by Josh Gruetzmacher

If you want your bridal bouquet to tell the world how you feel about your better half, nothing says it better than red roses, which symbolize passionate love. Pink (admiration) and white (purity) say a lot, too.

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Snapdragon

Snapdragon bouquet

Photo by Linnea Paulina Photography

Though this bloom stands for two vastly different ideas: One, gracious lady, seems more fitting for such a lovely flower than its other meaning, deception. The latter may have come about because if you squeeze it a certain way, the flower looks like a dragon's mouth.

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Stephanotis

Stephanotis Bouquet

Photo by Rachel Solomon Photography

Lots of family and friends will wish you and your partner well on your wedding day. Get a head start by filling your celebration with this flower that's a symbol of good luck.

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Sunflower

Sunflower Bouquet

Photo by Nami Dadlani Photography

Big and lush, sunflowers—symbolizing dedicated love—are beloved for their striking appearance and look-at-me allure, which are often used at rustic, country-themed nuptials.

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Sweet Pea

Sweat Pea Bouquet

Photo by Lisa Lefkowitz

If you want your wedding to be remembered as one of blissful pleasure, incorporate some of this delicate flower into your centerpieces.

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Tulip

Tulip Bouquet

Photo by Dixie Pixel

If it's spring, it's tulip time. This darling beauty comes in many colors, each with a different meaning. Among them: Red means declaration of love, yellow is sunshine, and the variegated kind symbolizes beautiful eyes.

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Tweedia

Tweedia Bouquet

Photo by Emily Wren Photography

Anyone wishing for something blue in their bouquet should check out this pretty bloom known for its blue star-shaped flowers and greenish-gray felted leaves symbolizing peace and harmony.

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Zinnia

Zinnia Bouquet

Photo by Cassidy Parker Smith

Gardeners are wild about this flower because it attracts butterflies, and couples love it for the gorgeous variety of colors like magenta (symbolizing lasting affection) and scarlet (symbolizing constancy).

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