Collecting the folklore and uses of plants

Orange blossom at weddings

Orange (Citrus sinensis), usually artificial, was frequently used in wedding bouquets, brides’ headdresses, and to decorate wedding cakes.

In her Wedding Customs and Folklore (1977) Margaret Baker suggests that this custom dates back to the Crusades:

‘The orange tree, simultaneously bearing golden fruit, sweet-scented flowers and leaves – typifying fertility, through this abundance – is a traditional ingedient of love charms and marriage luck.  Saracen brides wore its flowers as a sign of fecundity and crusaders are said to have carried the custom to the west.’

Although this seems unlikely, it appears that orange blossom was associated with weddings from the mid-nineteenth until the mid-twentieth century.  Thus on 10 February 1840, The Times reporting on the wedding of Queen Victoria to Prince Albert of Saxe-Corburg and Gotha, stated that ‘Her Majesty’s dress will be of rich white satin, trimmed with orange flower blossoms, and over this a beautiful veil of Honiton lace …’  The following day, it was reported that Victoria ‘wore no diamonds on her head, nothing but a simple wreath of orange blossom’.

Similarly orange blossom was worn, or carried, by Princess Augusta of Cambridge at her wedding in June 1843, the Princess Royal in January 1858, Princess Alexandra of Denmark to the Prince of Wales in March 1863, and other royal brides.  However after the marriage of Princess Augusta myrtle, (Myrtus communis), ‘as the emblematic flower of Germany’, rivalled it as the flower for royal brides.

Postcards provide evidence for the continued association of orange blossom with weddings in less exhalted circles.

Thanks to Charles Nelson for providing information on the use of orange blossom by Victorian brides.

Images:  main, card posted 17 July 1937 from Birmingham to and address in Woolwich, London, with the message: ‘Dear Brother, Wishing you both the best of luck and better health in your new life, hoping that the path you have taken will be brighter than any you have trod.  Love from Rose.  Come and visit me sometime’; upper inset, card written 30 September 1913, ‘Wishing you both Dears very [sic.] Happiness from Mother & Father’, and sent to an address in Sydenham, southeast London; lower inset, Elsie May Fry wearing artificial orange blossom at her wedding, Mosterton, Dorset, October 1945.

Updated 27November 2023.