The white rose symbolises purity, innocence and secrecy, perhaps due to its pristine beauty. Myths and legends across several different cultures suggest that all roses were originally white, but were transformed into other colours as a result of being stained by blood or blushing from a kiss. This reinforces the white rose as something pure.
Although white roses have always maintained their connotations of innocence, they are now used to express a variety of different sentiments as w
ell. White roses are traditional wedding flowers – hence their nickname of ‘the bridal rose’. Like white wedding dresses, they represent the purity of new love. They are also symbolic of young love, which further reinforces their association with marriage. Anyone getting married for the second (or third, or fourth, or fifth…!) time might prefer a different colour, but for a first wedding, white roses are the perfect choice.
White roses are also a fitting tribute for a departed loved one, because they are associated with honour, remembrance, heavenliness and respect. This is why funeral and sympathy arrangements often contain lots of white flowers. The fact that they look quite lovely also helps.
Other meanings of the white rose have been somewhat lost over time. For instance, white rosebuds were traditionally a symbol of girlhood and being too young for love. Although nobody tends to think of white roses in this way any more, it’s still very much a part of their history.
The key thing to remember with white roses is that (unlike other colours), they tend to mean different things to different people. They can signify a new beginning or be a way to say goodbye. They can express love or friendship, hope or respect. A bouquet or single white rose can convey a complex and thoughtful message, and will always be appreciated – above all, white roses are truly beautiful. The underlying message, however, is always the one of innocence and purity with which the white rose has become synonymous.
So if you’re tying the knot for the first time any time soon, make sure you have at least some white roses in your flower scheme. Even if people aren’t as aware of the meaning as they are with red roses, the white roses will certainly look gorgeous anyway.