A formal event tradition, the giving of corsages and boutonnieres never goes out of style. Homecoming dances may be semi-formal, as compared to their more formal cousin, prom, but many dates still give the gift of a personal flower to be worn on the wrist, or attached with a pin either at the shoulder of a homecoming dress or to the lapel of a suit or tux. As with all flower gifts, the blooms in a boutonniere or corsage have traditional meanings. While fewer people are familiar with the language of flowers these days, it would still be nice to have an idea of what you might be saying to your date, right?
Historic Context of Corsages and Boutonnieres (‘Cause you know you’re curious)
According to FTD, one of the world’s largest providers of personal flowers, in the Victorian era men and women wore flowers attached to their formalwear to ward evil spirits way. Blooms also helped mask the odors that could be associated with dancing folks in stuffy costumes who didn’t yet make bathing a regular activity! Trust that no corsage or boutonniere will adequately mask body odor these days, so great personal hygiene is a most for homecoming in the 21st Century!
What Do They Mean?
Wikipedia calls the language of flowers, “floriography,” and defines it rather grandly as, “a means of cryptological communication through the use or arrangement of flowers.” So, by giving your date a boutonniere or corsage, you’re doing more than just observing a tradition. You’re taking part in a long-standing form of secret communication. Makes it sound a lot more exciting, doesn’t it?
The Victorians became a little obsessed with floriography and had flower dictionaries on hand in case they ever received a bouquet or nosegay that they needed to decode. Shakespeare featured the language of flowers in his writings, and included names of flowers over 100 times in his sonnets. To further confuse the issue, most flowers mean different things depending on their color. Worry not – we’ve included the big ones below (and Google is your friend). Following are major flower meanings according to Almanac.com.
White rose – purity or innocence
Red rose – love or “I love you”
Pink rose – grace, happiness
Yellow rose – friendship
Orange rose – desire (watch out!) and enthusiasm
Lavender rose – love at first sight (aw)
Coral rose – friendship
Carnations: They can mean love, but carnations, being economy flowers, also have modern social connotations and specific affiliations with some sororities. If you decide to go with a carnation, choose your color wisely.
- Red carnations: My heart aches
- White carnations: innocence or pure love
- Pink carnations: I’ll never forget you
- Yellow carnation: rejection
Daisies: innocence or hope
Black-eyed Susans: justice (now there’s a fun message for homecoming)
Lilac: joy of youth
Calla lily: beauty
Peony: bashful, happy life
Sunflower: adoration (think size and scale!)
These are just some of the many interpretations of each flower’s meanings, of course – and should you make a mistake and accidentally pick a bloom that means the opposite of what you’d hope, don’t worry too much. Most people know little about floriography past red roses meaning love, so you probably won’t experience too much social backlash for a questionable selection. However, better safe than never!
And don’t forget that in the modern era, simply picking something that won’t clash with one’s homecoming dress is probably valued over any other symbolism or tradition!