Wedding ceremonies in the United States typically include flower girls. While flower girls are dressed in beautiful dresses and accessories and look very cute, there is more to the significance of the flower girl than appearance. The custom, though common in the U.S., actually began in ancient Rome and was adopted in England during the Elizabethan period. Both the Romans and the Elizabethans are known for their rich ceremonial symbolism. The significance of the flower girl is multi-faceted.
Symbolism of Herbs and Flowers
Centuries ago, couples often married for political reasons, rather than romantic love. In some cultures, marriages were arranged by parents, and the bride and groom did not meet prior to nuptial ceremonies. Procreation was a primary purpose of arranged marriages; therefore, fertility was a great concern for the newlywed couple. To symbolize the blessings of fertility and prosperity for the bridal couple, flower girls carried sheafs of wheat and bouquets of herbs. In the U.S. today, fertility symbols are replaced by the flower girl carrying flowers or sprinkling flower petals ahead of the bride.
Passage from Childhood to Womanhood
The flower girl historically directly precedes the bride in the wedding procession. Significantly, the flower girl is prepubescent, younger than 10. The innocence of childhood is embodied in the young flower girl. The flower girl's youth contrasts with the bride's passage from childhood to the duties and roles expected of a mature woman. Often, the attire of the flower girl closely matches the attire of the bride, intensifying the contrast between childhood and adulthood.
The selection of wedding attendants is a very important responsibility of the bride. Attendants are generally selected from among both the bride's and grooms family and friends. Although it is the groom's prerogative to select the groomsmen, the bride selects the maid of honor, the bridesmaids, the ring bearer and the flower girl. Each of these positions is a place of high honor. The flower girl is typically a young girl between the ages of 3 and 8 who is close in kinship to the bride or groom.
A Family Affair
Formal ceremonies often exclude children; however, weddings are an exception. Marriage itself is a symbol of family, so including children in the marriage ceremony is commonplace in the United States as well as other countries. The flower girl is a reminder of the significance of each member of a family. The duties of the flower girl, preparing the way for the bride, is a reminder that children make meaningful contributions to the family.
For Judy Kilpatrick, gardening is the best mental health therapy of all. Combining her interests in both of these fields, Kilpatrick is a professional flower grower and a practicing, licensed mental health therapist. A graduate of East Carolina University, Kilpatrick writes for national and regional publications.