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The phrase flower girl is commonly used to refer to a young female participant in a wedding who scatters flower petals (usually roses) down the aisle during the wedding procession. However, the term can also be used to refer to girls who sell flowers, such as the fictional characters Eliza Doolittle or "Flower Seller Uniqua" (a character in the Backyardigans), or girls who have flower-related powers or themes, like Lun Lun the Flower Girl. Employing a flower girl for a wedding is usually optional, however it is widely considered to be a pleasant traditional gesture.
Flower girls in weddings
In a wedding procession, flower girls are usually members of the bride or groom's extended family, or a friend of either family. Flower girls are usually between the ages of 3–10 years old. During the wedding procession, a flower girl walks down the aisle with her partner, called the ring bearer or page boy. These roles are traditionally gendered.
Typically, a flower girl walks in front of the bride during the entrance processional of a wedding. She 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 is provided by the families of the bride and groom. However, most couples today expect the parents of the flower girl to pay for her clothing and other expenses related to her participation. In fact, oftentimes the outfitting of a flower girl's dress can be quite expensive, especially at stores like Kleinfeld Bridal, which is featured on the TLC series, Say Yes to the Dress, or other high quality gown shops.
Some brides decide they want to have a flower girl in their wedding to enhance the appeal of the aisle with flower petals. But there is also a significance behind the role of the flower girl. Her purpose is to lead the bride forward and symbolize the end of her innocence, and the transition into the role of a mother and wife.
The flower girl proceeds down the aisle just before the maid of honour, scattering rose petals along the bridal path. She follows the ring bearer (if there is one), and sometimes even precedes the bride. Traditionally, she totes a basket full of petals, but other alternatives include wrapped candies or confetti. Sometimes a single bloom, a pomander (a lush ball of flowers), or bubbles are substituted.
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.
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.
In the Roman Empire, flower girls were young virgins who carried a sheaf of wheat during the wedding ceremony. It was believed that this would bring prosperity to the bride and groom. Throughout the Renaissance, flower girls carried strands of garlic, based on the belief that garlic kept away evil spirits and bad luck.
During the Elizabethan era, wedding guests would scatter petals from the bride's home to the church. Flower girls followed musicians in the wedding procession, carrying a gilded rosemary branch and a silver bride's cup adorned with ribbons. The cup was usually filled with flower petals or rosemary leaves as an alternative to a basket. Other alternatives include a small bunch of rosemary sprigs, used as a sweet posy, or a small floral bouquet incorporating sprigs of fresh rosemary.
The Victorian flower girl was probably the one who most resembles the flower girls of modern day. She was traditionally dressed in white, with perhaps a sash of colored satin or silk. Her dress was likely made of muslin. It was intentionally left simple and intended for future use. The Victorian flower girl carried an ornate basket of fresh blooms or a floral hoop, and the circular shape echoes that of the wedding ring, symbolizing that true love has no end.
In Western Europe, the tradition of having child attendants in weddings was not limited to the flower girl and ring bearer; but to the entire group of attendants in the wedding party. This tradition has carried forward to present times in many royal and society weddings, as well as in weddings around the world where it is common to see two or more flower girls.
As the flower girl is typically a young girl, she may symbolize the bride as a child. She may also symbolize wishes for fertility for the couple and the forming of their new family.
- Flower Power (episode)
- Post, Peggy (2006). Emily Post's Wedding Etiquette (5th ed.). New York: HarperCollins. pp. 84–85. ISBN 0-06-074504-5. OCLC 57613405.
- "History of Flower Girls".
- Chesser, Barbara Jo (April 1980). "Analysis of Wedding Rituals: An Attempt to Make Weddings More Meaningful". Family Relations 29 (2): 204–209. Retrieved 5 February 2015.
- Kathy Merlock Jackson (2005). Rituals and Patterns in Children's Lives. Popular Press. pp. 142–148. ISBN 978-0-299-20830-1.