A Boutonniere can be as simple as a flower passed through a buttonhole. More commonly though we think of boutonnieres as a small posy attached to the left lapel of a man's suit jacket at the level of the buttonhole (but not through it) with a long straight pin. They are typically seen in the US at high school proms and at weddings.

For the prom, the girl usually buys the boutonniere. There may be discussion ahead of time to coordinate the type of flower used with the girl's corsage and dress. They are usually small, less than 2 inches in any direction and typically consist of a focus flower (single or cluster of small flowers) and some filler flowers and greens.

For a wedding the groom typically purchases boutonnieres for himself, his attendants, ushers and the fathers of the bride and groom. Other male family members may also be so decorated even if not officiating in some capacity.

Boutonnieres typically cost $5 to $20 apiece when purchased from a commercial florist. The focus flower is often a Rose bud or a Carnation, the filler most commonly is Baby's Breath and the green Baker's or Asparagus Fern. More expensive choices include Gardenias, Stephanotis and Orchids...

I enjoy playing with flowers so I've experimented with making boutonnieres for my sons and for my daughter's dates when they went to their proms. Stems are wired then wrapped in florist tape with a little curlicue being common on the tip. Greenery is added. They look great. But one wants a little originality. Flowers need to be tough enough to last for 6 hours or so without the stem being in water so things like tulips and peach blossoms are not typically used commercially for good reasons. Some of my worst failures were lovely for the first 30 minutes. This year my creations decorated the rented labels of 2 lovely local lads. I used Lily of the Valley and ivy and they were gorgeous as the drooping of the flowery bells just added to the effect. I'm not sure how long they lasted...for some reason dear daughter did not invite me to the after prom party! but they looked (and smelled) good during the obligatory parents-taking-photos-of-teens-in-a-lineup-photo-session.

Remembrance Lapel Poppies, miniature flags and awareness ribbons bear some resemblance to a boutonniere in being worn on the left lapel but also project a message. It is interesting to note that the word "posy" in Webster's NewWorld Dictionary(1988) is defined as originally being "a line of poetry or motto inscribed inside a ring, etc.". Small poems were called posies. Victorians used Tussie Mussies and the language of flowers to express "forbidden" sentiments without words. Today's commercial boutonnieres have lost the ability to speak to the recipient in favor of the ability to last out of water and to coordinate with the formal outfits visually.

More casual use of a flower through a buttonhole or even the suit with a rare flower loop may be seen but not often enough. There is no reason this should be so. More men need to stick a flower in their lapel on a daily basis! Come on guys. Talk to us. Pretty please.

Bou`ton`niere" (?), n. [F., buttonhole.]

A bouquet worn in a buttonhole.


© Webster 1913.

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