We’re just going to put this out there: Carnation flowers might be the perfect wedding flower. They are versatile, inexpensive, and oh, did we mention they’re inexpensive?
Before we get into why we love them for weddings and other events (even your Saturday night dinner party), lets get into the history of them, first!
The History of Carnation Flowers
You might think of carnation flowers as relatively new, but in fact they’re close to 2,000 years old. Their technical name is “Dianthus,” and they are often referred to as “The Flowers of God.”
Scholars are a bit undecided as to their origins (some say they get their name from the word “coronation,” since they were so widely used for Greek ceremonial crowns), while other suggest they come from the Latin word “carnis,” which means flesh, referring to their pink, almost skin-like color.
I, however, like to think they originated in my high school, where every year on Valentine’s Day we would have to go through the embarrassing ritual of going to the auditorium to see if any of the carnations on display had been purchased for us by a secret (or not so secret) crush. Spoiler alert: I never got one. I blame my serious adolescent awkward phase for that.
WGM Says: Carnations are not only the Ohio state flower, but they’re a 1st wedding anniversary flower as well as the January birth month flower.
Types of Carnation Flowers
While there are three main types of carnations, you’ll likely want to use the standard type vs. the spray type for an event like a wedding. Spray carnations tend to have a majorly 1980s vibe, so unless you’re going for that look you might want to opt for the larger, single-stem carnations instead. This is where you’ll see more color variations (known as novelties), such as terracotta, antique pink, and beige.
Large Flowered Carnations:
Also known as standard carnations, these have one large flower per stem.
WGM Says: You might also see terms such as “fancy” thrown around. While this is not an official term (there is no standard U.S. grading for carnations), it can often refer to a standard (single bloom) carnation that has a longer stem and a larger average bloom width.
These feature several smaller blooms on one stem, also known as a spray.
Dwarf Flowered Carnations:
With shorter stems and a multi-bloom spray, these mini carnations are also known as border carnations.
Carnation Flower Colors
Remember when you could only find red, pink, or white carnations? Not anymore! While some carnations are dyed to give them a specific color, they have been bred and engineered to come in a wide variety of different colors. This includes more muted antique colors from pink and beige to lavender, which look beautiful alone or when when paired with roses. A few of our favorite colors include Babylon, Cheerio (one of several bi-color carnations), Bizet, and Lizzy. We also love green carnations (Apsu) as well as purple carnations (Monsenor) for a variety of vintage and modern themes.
Carnation Flower Cost
Carnations are a great wedding flower if you’re on a budget.
In terms of wedding flower cost, you can find 150 dusty pink carnation stems at FiftyFlowers for $194.99, or 150 yellow carnation stems from Sam’s Club for $69.98. When you compare that to $269.99 for 150 Vendela Roses from FiftyFlowers and $149.98 for premium red roses from Sam’s Club, it’s a big savings.
Learn more about how much wedding flowers cost here.
How to Use Carnation Flowers
There are so many gorgeous ways to use carnations at your wedding. (Just check out this gallery for inspiration!) You can use them on their own for your centerpieces and bouquets. Or, you can use them as filler flower amongst garden roses or even peonies.
If you love the look of peonies but don’t have the budget, you can also make carnations look just like the classic wedding flower using floral tape or rubber bands to create stem bunches. This video shows you how.
The Benefits of Carnation Flowers
Aside from the cost benefit of using carnations, they have several other things going for them as well.
First, they’re hardy. That means they’re an easier flower to order online and have shipped to you since they’re not super delicate. Just make sure to cut stems before putting them in cold water (not warm water). Then, keep them happy with some flower food and out of direct sunlight to extend the life of your flowers.
WGM Says: If you’re DIY’ing your wedding flowers you’ll want to have scissors or sharp flower shears, hydration buckets, and lots of fresh water on hand! (Read more about what you’ll need with our DIY Wedding Flower Tips).
Second, they’re available year-round, so you won’t be paying a premium if you have them at a summer wedding vs. a winter.
Carnation flowers are also edible. While we don’t recommending eating them (they don’t really taste like anything, tbh), you can safely use them on your wedding cake or even have petals floating in your cocktails or appetizers.
Carnation Flower FAQ
In general, carnations symbolize love. Their colors can also be interpreted to have their own meaning as well. For instance dark red carnations symbolize deep love and affection, while white carnations can symbolize purity, pure love and innocence (which makes them a great choice for mother’s day!).
You should plan to receive your carnations 2-3 days before your event date to give them time to bloom. If you need them sooner and they’re still a bit tight and closed up, you can gently brush them open using your fingers. Or, one of of our favorite tricks is to use another carnation to brush the petals open.
Looking for more wedding flowers? Read about our favorite ways to use Ranunculus, Peonies, Calla Lilies, and Hydrangeas.