Long before the modern wedding ceremony was embraced by Western couples, there were flower girls. The tradition has been traced all the way back to Ancient Rome, where flower girls carried sheaves of wheat and fecund herbs before the bride-to-be. As it is today, their role in the ceremony was largely symbolic.
The flower girls were symbols of youth and innocence and their wheat and herbs were symbols of fertility. The young attendants also symbolized the transition of the young bride-to-be from childhood to woman and motherhood. But the flower girl did not actually strew rose petals before the bride until much later on.
When Queen Victoria married Prince Albert in 1840, she rewrote many of the old rules of wedding etiquette and created traditions that are followed to this day. The queen is credited with starting a new fashion trend when she wore white on her wedding day. Before that time, royals rarely wore pure white gowns. In time, the color began to symbolize innocence, chastity and romantic love, since Victoria was one of the few royals who had married for love and love alone.
Whether or not her young attendants actually scattered rose petals before her is not a part of the historical record. What we do know, however, is that Victoria inspired Europeans to value the romantic aspects of marriage. In fact, it was during the Victorian Era that men started sending women flowers. The flower soon became a powerful symbol of romantic love.
The Modern Flower Girl
Flower girls are not only the smallest and cutest members of the bridal party, but they are also the only other females that are allowed to wear white. They are typically between the ages of 4 and 8 and are related to the bride or groom-to-be. One fairly modern revision is the number of flower girls that are selected. A formal wedding can have as many as four flower girls, all dressed in white.
While it is not exactly set in stone, most brides prefer their diminutive attendants to wear dresses that mirror their own. If that is the case, then the parents of the flower girls have very little wiggle room. They need simply visit the same bridal salon the bride-to-be used and order a flower girl miniature of her dress. But that is seldom the case. Since the parents often pay for the dress, the bride-to-be rarely insists on a specific dress.
What to look for?
Even if the dress is not a miniature copy of the bridal gown, it should not come out of left field. The parents of the flower girl should remember that she is a member of the bridal party, and as such, she will appear in dozens of formal photographs. Therefore, her dress should not clash with the other members of the bridal party.
Again, there are no hard and fast rules, but at a formal ceremony, the flower girl really should wear white. But at a less formal affair, like a beach or backyard wedding, the flower girl often wears the same color and style of dress as the bridesmaids.
The parents of the flower girl should pay close attention to the material of the dress. More often than not, this will be the first formal gown a little girl will wear and you never know how she will react. Will the fabric itch, scratch or otherwise irritate her skin? No one expects the flower girl to act like an adult, but if she is uncomfortable, it will show during the ceremony and in the pictures.
It is also important to consider the season. Rich, heavy fabrics like velour or velvet are great for winter weddings. They are comfortable and they will keep the flower girl warm. For outdoor weddings in the spring or summer months, lighter fabrics like crepe and dupioni will keep her from overheating.
Footwear is often the key to comfort, which means no high heels or styles that she has never worn before. Most flower girls wear simple ballet-style slippers that are easy to walk and dance in.
When choosing the length of her gown, the age of the flower girl is obviously a factor. A four-year-old child should never be dressed in a floor-length gown, even if that is what the bride-to-be will be wearing. She may trip over it and hurt herself. A shorter dress is always best for young flower girls. Older attendants probably should avoid full-length gowns as well. But tea-length dresses often work out well. These are dresses that fall to the bottom of the calf or the ankle.
Little girls are full of energy and they invariably spend the wedding day walking, running, and dancing. Therefore, it is best to select fabrics that are not wrinkle prone, like velvet or silk.
In the end, the most important consideration is comfort. The flower girl has an important, traditional role to play in the ceremony and she must be comfortable and relaxed to do her duty.
John Johnson is a freelance writer who writes about weddings and specific products such as flower girl dresses.