Herbs, wheat, and the evolution of the flower girl

From the e-mail archives comes a question about flower girls from my lovely friend S. Consider this post a shout out to raincoaster and Glinda, editors of our blogging family’s new addition, Teeny Manolo!

I was thinking about Manolo for the Brides the other day when I was with my sister and my daughter looking for flower girl dresses. Katie is in my sister’s wedding and we are all slogging through dress hell. Mine is ordered and thankfully NOT orange. In fact, it’s wine and, if hemmed, could actually be worn for other occasions, which is good as it cost almost $200.

Katie was kind of freaked about the dresses, which were all puffy and dainty. She was getting worried she might end up looking like a cupcake. At eight years old, she seemed almost too old for the dresses we found, until she picked this totally sophisticated coffee colored dress. It seems so odd to me that flower girls are made to look like wee brides (ew) or cupcakes. Though I had a flower girl at my own wedding, I did not delve too deeply into just what the heck this traditions means. Can you offer some clarification?


So, flower girls. Gosh, aren’t they just so cute when they are creeping down the aisle? When they aren’t absolutely petrified of walking alone through a sea of extremely tall staring strangers, that is. The Beard and I made sure that our flower girl — his niece — was walking toward someone she knew and had a reserved seat so she could sit down after releasing her load of dried rose petals. She wore this embroidered taffeta dress:

Good for tots, but what about older FGs?

The tradition of the flower girl doesn’t really date back as far as the tradition of having a gaggle of girls or guys stand at your side while you got hitched to help you dress (England), protect you from demons (Rome) and the evil eye (India), wail profusely, fulfill the ages old obligation to heckle the groom (China), or prevent unexpected bridenappings. But like these other honorary roles, the origins of FG lore vary by locale. In ancient Greece, kiddies of both sexes scattered herbs and grains symbolic of fertility in the bride’s path. Sheaves of wheat were waved by minors in medieval weddings. In Germany, a young girl would accompany the bride to church, sprinkling flower petals in her path to bring luck and ward off eeeeeeevil spirits. In England, some little girls (but more often little boys) got the way-boring job of carrying the bride’s train. In some cultures, the FG and ring bearer were representative of the youth and innocence and virginity (HA!) of the bride and groom.

Why do brides and grooms include children in their weddings in the present day, when the associations between fertility and agricultural products has faded? And when was the last time you saw an evil spirit, anyway? What it boils down to, IMO, is that Kids make awwwww-worthy props, so the cute factor likely had something to do with the development of the modern version of this tradition. Plus, sons, daughters, nieces, nephews, and so on are valued family members in modern times, and it’s nice to be able to include them in the festivities.

That said, I am so with Katie on the fact that most flower girl dresses are fugly and lame. Mini-brides kind of give me the heebies, considering that little girls were married off without a second thought through a great deal of human history. At eight, Katie is really old enough to be a junior bridesmaid, and they make lovely dresses for young ladies that are as sophisticated as can be without all the flounce.

2 Responses to “Herbs, wheat, and the evolution of the flower girl”

  1. Pencils says:

    Mini-brides give me the heebies also. As do a LOT of flower girl dresses, which are just bridesmaids dresses with little straps, as if that makes them appropriate for little girls. It does not. They look like little hootchie wannabees.

    Except for my older sister, the matron of honor, my attendants were all children. Why? Because my peers all felt too old, in their mid-to-late thirties, to be bridesmaids, and I don’t blame them. And I knew the little girls would love the chance to dress up, hold flowers, have their hair done, and be made much of. My three oldest nieces were bridesmaids, ranging from ten years old to thirteen, and my youngest niece was the flowergirl. I had a hard time finding “junior” bridesmaids dresses that weren’t hootchie. The flower girl and the youngest bridesmaid wore dresses from Pegeen, which is a wonderful company. They’re not cheap, but they’re totally custom, and the quality is very high. Their styles run from “cupcake foofy” to the more sophisticated. My girls wore a plain, sleeveless silk dress with a wide sash, the younger in a buttercream yellow with a navy sash, the older in navy with buttercream sash. They looked wonderful. I chose Pegeen initially because my youngest bridesmaid is a plus size and it’s hard to find a nice formal dress for a plus size child. But Pegeen has two levels of size customization, and she looked beautiful. I’m very grateful to Marj at Pegeen.

  2. Never teh Bride says:

    That sounds awesome, Pencils. You rock for taking the time to find dresses that looked nice without being inappropriate. Too many flower girls (and younger bridesmaids) end up looking like overdone hootchies. What’s wrong with letting girls and young ladies dress their age is what I’d like to know!

    And the Pegeen dresses are BEAUTIFUL. For the most part, they are formal without being too poufy.