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Royal Wedding Flowers: Sarah, Duchess of York

The wedding of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson, on July 23rd 1986, was really rather floral indeed. We expect all brides to carry a bouquet but Sarah, unlike many women in recent royal history, chose to wear flowers in her hair, too. As she made her way into Westminster Abbey, this royal bride was surrounded by petals and all of them had special meanings for a very romantic wedding.

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Sarah Ferguson packed a lot of symbolism into her outfit with her dress and train embroidered with her and her husband’s initials. And her royal wedding flowers were no different, arranged into an ‘S’ shape. They were designed by Jane Packer. It’s a medium sized arrangement and, because of the shape it had to take, very structured.

So let’s talk petals. This bouquet contained plenty of wedding staples. There are gardenias, roses and lily of the valley as well as the traditional sprig of myrtle taken from the garden created by Queen Victoria. There are also lilies throughout the arrangement which was mostly cream although some of those roses were the palest yellow.

In the language of flowers, so popular with the Victorians, the blooms all had rather romantic meanings, too. Lily of the valley denotes a ‘’return to happiness’ while the traditional myrtle means love and is a symbol of marriage. The lilies represent purity while the rose is a long held symbol of love. Yellow roses are a bit trickier – some take them to mean friendship and joy while others say they denote jealousy.

But the gardenias are perhaps the most interesting bloom in this royal display. The Victorians loved to send them as an expression of secret love while they can also be taken to mean ‘’you’re lovely’’. The white version of the flower also denotes sincerity. Sarah’s floral headpiece also contained these blooms because they were her husband to be’s favorite flowers and that’s a whole other layer of symbolism on its own.

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The flowers that Fergie wore in her hair were removed while she signed the register and this bride emerged wearing a tiara, given to her by the Queen, and seen as a sign that she was now a royal. Her bouquet, meanwhile, was placed on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Westminster Abbey following her wedding, following a tradition started in 1923 by the Queen Mother.

These royal wedding flowers managed to combine the traditional with the bride’s own style and over thirty years on, they have stood the test of time. And they may yet feature in the royal 2018. Sarah and Andrew’s daughter, Princess Eugenie, has an engagement ring inspired by the one her mum wore and she could well take more ideas from her parents’ wedding day for her own marriage to Jack Brooksbank which is set to take place in St. George’s Chapel, Windsor in October this year. When it comes to wedding flowers, it may be that mum knows best on this one.

Featured Photo Credit: By Elke Wetzig (Elya) – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wiki Commons
About author

Lydia Starbuck is Jubilee and Associate Editor at Royal Central and the main producer and presenter of the Royal Central Podcast and Royal Central Extra. Lydia is also a pen name of June Woolerton who is a journalist and writer with over twenty years experience in TV, radio, print and online. Her latest book, A History of British Royal Jubilees, is out now. Her new book, The Mysterious Death of Katherine Parr, will be published in March 2024. June is an award winning reporter, producer and editor. She's appeared on outlets including BBC 5 Live, BBC Radio Ulster and BBC Local Radio and has also helped set up a commercial radio station. June is also an accomplished writer with a wide range of material published online and in print. She is the author of two novels, published as e-books. She is also a marriage registrar and ceremony celebrant.