By Brenda Eubanks Burnette
The orange blossom has been part of wedding culture for centuries. Incorporating orange blossoms into the bride’s trousseau originated in ancient China where the white blossoms represented purity, chastity, innocence and fertility.
In the article, “To Gather Orange Blossoms – History of Wedding Flowers Bouquets,” Cornelia Powell wrote, “There are few trees so prolific as the orange; it is one of the rare plants that blooms and bears fruit at the same time, thus becoming symbolic of fruitfulness.”
During the time of the Crusades, the custom was brought from the East first to Spain, then to France and England in the early 1800s. By then, many enchanting legends had spread throughout the continent of maidens entwining fresh orange blossoms into a bridal wreath for their hair. The influence became so indoctrinated into the culture that the phrase “to gather orange blossoms” took the meaning “to seek a wife.”
Royal brides are associated with the orange blossom. This began with Queen Victoria when she married Prince Albert in 1840. The UK Royal website notes that “For her wedding to Prince Albert on 10 April 1840, Queen Victoria did not wear a tiara, instead wearing a wreath of orange blossom, an emblem of chastity. Between 1839 and 1846, Prince Albert presented Queen Victoria with a number of pieces from a beautiful orange blossom parure (matching set of jewelry) to mark significant moments in their lives. In 1845, Albert gave Victoria an orange blossom brooch and matching earrings, and the following year his gift of an orange blossom wreath celebrated their wedding anniversary.”
Victoria’s love for the blossom went on to influence generations of royal brides into the 20th century (including Queen Elizabeth) who “all had orange blossom as part of the design of their wedding dresses.” There is even a Royal Albert English china pattern called “Orange Blossom.”
This led to many other orange blossom china patterns that were quite popular in the early to mid-1900s and went on to encompass silverware and wedding rings. Some wedding rings had the phrase “Orange Blossom” or “Flowers of Love” etched on the inside of the band and were advertised as “Love in Bloom.”
Sheet music showcased orange blossoms and pretty women, with a number of titles such as “Orange Blossoms Waltz” by G. Ludovic, “Orange Blossom Time is June” by George Spink and W.R. Williams, and “When It’s Orange Blossom Time in Loveland, I’ll Be Waiting at the Church for You” by Jeff Branen and Arthur Lange.
Selected as the Florida state flower by the Legislature in 1909, the orange blossom symbolizes Florida’s abundant agricultural heritage and fertility.
So now, if you know of anyone getting married, I hope you will think of “Love in Bloom” and the far-reaching history of orange blossoms in a bride’s wedding!
Brenda Eubanks Burnette is executive director of the Florida Citrus Hall of Fame. Pieces of the Past is presented in partnership with Florida Southern College’s McKay Archives Center in Lakeland.