Boutonnieres are a gorgeous way to incorporate fresh flowers into the wedding party and tie the groomsmen into the wedding colors. Today, the boutonniere is all about color and looks, but it’s a tradition with roots in the medieval period.
Back in the day of knights and damsels in distress, boutonnieres or the medieval version of them was all about chivalric ideals of love and winning a woman’s heart. Knights going into jousts would look to their lovely lady for literal tokens of their appreciation. This would often come in a ribbon or…wait for it…flowers tied to their jousting pole for competitions or to give them courage in battle. As the ribbon or flowers was something the lady herself had been wearing that day and thus (of course) color coordinated to her outfit, it was referred to as “wearing the lady’s colors.”
When wearing this gift, the knight demonstrated that he was supported in competition and in battle by a particular woman’s affections. However, wearing a woman’s colors meant more than the knight was a lucky guy. It also meant that when he went into battle, he specifically fought for her. If he lost, she would share in his loss and his humiliation. The knight represented her honor and his fight became about more than just himself.
Many times, if a ribbon or flowers weren’t available, the lady would detach her sleeve (a convenience available to medieval clothing) and he would pin her sleeve to his shield arm. Hence the saying wearing your heart on your sleeve. The simple token represented the woman’s heart and it was his job to cherish it, and to defend it against harm and disrespect.
Suddenly it means so much more for a groom and his men to wear the bride’s colors, doesn’t it?
Now when a groom and his men wear a boutonniere, they are saying the same thing. They support the bride and she supports them. They are all on the same team. Team bride. It’s a beautiful piece of symbolism.
Having said that, it’s ok to break with tradition. You don’t have to use the bride’s sleeve, ribbon, scarf or even flowers. There’s so many nontraditional styles of boutonnieres. Take a look at some of these examples.
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*Click photographs for original sources