A Guide to Buttonholes and Boutonnieres for Weddings

When I first became involved with the world of flowers over twenty five years ago carnations were frequently choosen for the guests buttonholes, white for the men and pink for the ladies accompanied by the usual piece of asparagus fern, sometimes the groom and bestman choose to use a red carnation which broke up the tedious job of wiring and taping a hundred or so identical flower heads. Thankfully nowadays brides tend to co-ordinate the flowers used for their buttonholes with the rest of their bridal flowers and are choosing to use a wider range of blooms in a variety of colours making this task much less tiresome than it once was, plus its no longer common for couples to supply buttonholes for all the wedding guests, most prefering to supply a buttonhole or boutonniere for the principle guests and allow the remaining wedding guests to purchase their own if they want to.


Who should I give buttonholes to and who traditionally foots the bill?

There are no hard and fast rules as to who you should give buttonholes to but in order of importance - obviously first on your list should be the Groom, then the bestman and ushers followed by the fathers of the bride and groom and the mothers who usually have a more elaborate design or corsage, and finally the remainder of your wedding guests if budget allows,

Usual wedding ettiquette stipulates that the groom foots the bill for the costs of buttonholes for the groomsmen as well as flower bouquets for the bride and bridesmaids and sometimes included in this is a gift of flowers for the mothers of both the bride and groom but nothing is set in stone and you should come to an arrangement that best suits yourself and your families individual circumstances.


What is the difference between Buttonholes and Boutonnieres?

Basically they are both pretty much the same thing, but when at college many moons ago my tutor differentiated between the two as below and I've always did like wise.

Buttonholes traditionally are simple affairs consisting of a single central flower either used alone or accompanied by foliage. Incorporating accessories such as pearl loops, beads or feathers are all popular choices at the moment.

Boutonniere is french for buttonhole and rather than a single centre flower consist of a small cluster of dainty flowers, herbs or foliage grouped together, the stems are often left natural and these can look very effective when finished with ribbon or twine and can look absolutely beautiful and the idea accompaniment in a rustic themed wedding

Should I choose Fresh or artificial flowers for my buttonholes ?

Preferences change over time and trends come and go but you need to keep in mind that what ever flowers you finally choose will have to withstand being out of water for a long period of time and tolerate the inevitable knocks and bumps received from being worn.

If choosing fresh flowers choose flowers such as carnations which hold up brilliantly, the traditional rose will also tolerate being wired and is still the most popular flower to use for buttonholes, take a look at dainty gypsophilia and waxflower with hardy foliage such as euculptus, soft ruscus or ivy. succulants and berries are very popular at the moment and would also be good choices.

Alternatively use silk flowers and you dont have any of the problems with bruised petals or wilting flowers associated with fresh blooms. Silk or foam flowers are a lot more robust than fresh blooms, dont bruise or get crushed like fresh flowers and if you want a cluster of artificial wild flowers you can rest assured they will see the day through without wilting, plus there is the added bonus that your guests can keep them as a reminder of your special day, they also tend to be slightly cheaper than their fresh counterparts especially if you are getting married in the winter months when fresh flowers generally are more expensive or you have set your heart on using expensive flowers such as lily of the valley or stephanotis. choose foam or silk flowers and you can rest assured they will look just as good at the end of the day as they did at the begining.


How to wear your buttonholes

Men should wear their flower on their left side and the flower head should be pointing upwards towards the left shoulder, Ladies on the other hand should wear their buttonhole or corsage on their right side with the flower heads pointing downwards. Why the difference? ladies have busts! and if the flowers are facing downward they lie better and dont pull on clothing and make it gape.

Finally at the end of the day its your wedding, just do your own thing and if you want paper flowers and toys incorporated into your buttonholes just go for it and if you decide to do away with buttonholes altogether thats fine too, but please at least get one for the groom.



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