Bringing with them associations of freshness, vivacity and endless cultural coding, flowers have featured in bridal designs and rituals throughout history.
Wearing flowers offers a bride the chance to both inject colour into her wedding outfit, and to carry with her, at that most important moment, traditional tokens of luck, love and fertility. Today the bouquet is generally the floral focus of a bride's ensemble, but they only became traditional from the 1840s onwards. Before then, it was more common for brides to carry or wear sprigs and wreaths made of flowers, particularly orange blossom, a symbol of virtue and fertility.
Floral additions in the shape of sprigs and wreaths were fashionable from the last decade of the 18th century, and had become traditional by 1840, when Queen Victoria married Albert wearing a wreath of artificial orange blossom.
Orange blossom designs were not consigned only to accessories, but made their way onto shawls, dresses and even underwear.
Orange blossom proved popular into the 20th century too. Baba Beaton accessorised her Charles James dress, designed for her society wedding to Alec Hambro in 1934, with an orange blossom choker. This choker, nursing the high neckline of the bias cut satin gown, represents a modern interpretation of the Victorian tradition.
A floral headdress from the 1960s shows the continuing trend, brought up-to-date with modern, post-war materials. It was designed by the bride herself, Wendy Ramshaw, for her 1962 wedding to David Watkins at Christchurch in Sunderland. The headdress is made up of a shower veil of nylon net studded with faux pearl beads, flowing cream satin ribbons and three artificial flowers – not orange blossom this time, but two large white roses and a pink camellia.
Some of the ribbons were probably also used to tie the bride's bouquet. Wendy's choice was influenced by the wedding dress worn by French actress and style icon Brigitte Bardot a few years earlier. The floral motifs complement the lightness and youthfulness of the short, 'ballerina-style' dress, a marked departure from the formal full-length gowns of previous decades.