What is a Boutonniere?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

A boutonniere is the male equivalent of the female corsage. The boutonniere is usually a collection of one or two small flowers, with perhaps an accent of a bit of baby’s breath or fern. Most often, the boutonniere is worn for formal occasions, such as weddings or proms. It is always pinned to the left lapel of the tuxedo or suit.

A boutonniere may feature white roses.
A boutonniere may feature white roses.

The boutonniere tends to be less expensive then the corsage, and they are actually one of the simplest floral arrangements to make if one is trying to save money at weddings or proms. A man’s floral boutonniere may range in price from 10-40 US Dollars (USD), depending upon the flowers chosen, and the florist’s mark-up. Sometimes boutonnieres are included in the price of a large order of bouquets.

A boutonniere may be called for for a trip to the opera.
A boutonniere may be called for for a trip to the opera.

The groom, groomsmen, ushers, and the fathers of the bride and groom wear boutonnieres at weddings. If someone other than the father is escorting the bride down the aisle, he should also wear a boutonniere. If a woman escorts the bride, she wears a traditional corsage.

A good florist will have an keen eye for aesthetics when creating a boutonniere or corsage.
A good florist will have an keen eye for aesthetics when creating a boutonniere or corsage.

Color choice of the boutonniere is important. Flowers chosen should match the general color scheme of the wedding. Generally, the bride’s family orders the boutonnieres and has them ready for the groomsmen, though this can vary depending on the formality of the wedding. Traditionally for proms, the woman purchases the boutonniere for her date, and thus can choose colors appropriate to her dress. When in doubt, a boutonniere made with a white rose, can usually go with virtually any other color, or any tuxedo style the man chooses.

By ordering the boutonniere in advance, the female attending the prom is able to discuss with her date what would be most pleasing. She is also able to suggest what her own colors will be. The couple may choose the flowers together, or the male has time to obtain a tuxedo that will best match his date’s dress and corsage colors.

While the boutonniere is generally restricted to use on formal occasions, it is certainly reasonable for a couple planning a formal date of any kind to present each other with a corsage and boutonniere. A trip to the opera, dinner at a high-class restaurant, or a date on any occasion where a tuxedo and formal eveningwear is required is a good excuse to add the extra touch of a boutonniere.

There are boutonnieres available in silk flowers, which the male can of course wear again. However, the fake flower boutonniere is generally only considered acceptable if the man wearing it can claim severe allergies to flowers. Otherwise this variant is considered to not have the appeal that a fresh flower holds.

Boutonieres can be created using a variety of flowers.
Boutonieres can be created using a variety of flowers.
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments

anon32034

what side does the chairman in a formal ceremony put the floral boutonniere on his suit?

petebran

The boutonniere (as correctly described by blacktieman) is not limited to formal attire. It is an appropriate decoration for a suit lapel at any time other than a funeral.

blacktieman

The truly elegant boutonnière is a single flower, inserted in the lapel hole. Pinning is less elegant, as is the modern lumping-together of several flowers with baby's breath. In days of yore, style experts accepted only four flowers for the boutonnière: the white gardenia, the small red or white carnation, and the blue cornflower.

I once used a small yellow pansy from a planter on the sidewalk as a boutonnière. It received compliments.

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