Turns Out, You May Not Want Peonies in Your Wedding Bouquet After All—Here's Why
Yellow roses could be out, too.
We let flowers do a lot of talking in our lives. Blooms can express love and admiration. They can convey condolence and sympathy. They can even speak for you when words simply fail, after bad news or following a big fight. Certain types of flowers have meanings beyond just what you intend for them to say for you. For example, red roses exude romance and passion. White carnations, a inexpensive choice for a simple arrangement, express purity and luck. Camellias, a quintessential Southern blossom, symbolize love and adoration.
Many of these meanings have been passed down through generations of superstition and legend, folklore and flower company marketing. For some, their connotations have been carried across generations of storytellers and garden masters.
The peony is one such flower with a lengthy history. Indeed, many types of peonies are prized in various countries with Eastern traditions. China and Japan, in particular, hold the flower in great reverence. There, it’s closely aligned with royalty and honor. But in western cultures, especially those heavily influences by Greek tradition, the peony has an entirely different meaning.
Greek mythology holds that nymphs used to hide their naked bodies in peonies to shield themselves from the prying eyes of gods, goddesses, and mortals. This led to an association between peonies and bashfulness.
What’s more, one particular Greek myth says that the peony was created as a result of shame. The nymph Paeonia (coincidentally, also the flower’s scientific name) was caught flirting with the Greek god Apollo by his wife, Aphrodite. The angered partner turned the petite Paeonia into a red peony, a symbol of her blushed cheeks when she was caught and her shame for having risked flirting.
Even in the Victorian era (the mid-1800s to early 1900s), people avoided peonies for their association with shamefulness and dishonor. Of course, people living in that era also avoided yellow roses, which they believed stood for jealousy and infidelity. Those are perhaps not the most uplifting qualities one should bring to a floral wedding bouquet or arrangement, especially one that will be in attendance at your nuptials.
WATCH: 12 Surprising Facts All Peony Enthusiasts Should Know
The good news, for eager brides who’ve dreamed of a peony bouquet, with their blush pink tones and crimped petals, is that flower meanings change over time, perhaps at the behest of florists who aren’t eager to suss out which florae are a no-no and which are appropriate for each specific occasion. Today, FTD says peonies stand for romance and prosperity, good fortune, and a happy marriage, all wonderful attributes for a wedding and happily ever after.
Yellow roses, too, have had their reputations restored. Teleflora says they stand for friendship and caring. An arrangement conveys warmth and care. A dozen of these beautiful flowers certainly feels like sunshine in a room. Yellow carnations, too, carry a bit of a loaded meaning: disappointment or rejection.
If you’re a bride looking for the most beautiful wedding flowers and bouquet ideas for your special day, you can’t go wrong with the blooms that speak to your heart. Flowers are a special part of your day, so whatever you pick—historical or mythological references aside—will be perfect.