The Perfect Buttonhole

The other day, I read an interesting story that on their wedding day Queen Victoria presented Prince Albert with a small posy of flowers and he had a hole cut in his lapel, so he could immediately wear it. How romantic is that? Further investigation of this lovely story suggests it isn’t true. Prince Albert wore his uniform for his wedding on which there are no lapels.

Still, it got me thinking about buttonholes and the etiquette around them. So, here is a handy guide to help you plan the perfect buttonhole.


There are several suggestions of where buttonholes originated. One is they came from ancient Greece. The men in a bridal party wore fragrant flowers over their heart to stop evil spirits from turning the groom’s heart against his new bride.

Another is that flowers were first worn in Britain by medieval knights to represent their everlasting love for their lady, replacing their traditional coloured ribbons. I love both these stories, they’re so romantic in their own way.

And Today?

Well, today wearing buttonholes or corsages is a matter of choice and can depend on whether your budget will stretch to them.

As the bare minimum, just the groom should wear a buttonhole. This marks him out as special, he is the groom after all. And if it’s what you want, you can stop there.

A more formal approach is to give them to the bridal party. That is the groom, and best man, bridesmaids and flower girls, and the mothers of the bride and groom. If you do have other men wearing buttonholes, make sure the groom’s is bigger and unique so he continues to stand apart from them.

Don’t go any further than that for two reasons.

The first is cost. Not everyone will want a buttonhole and you could end up throwing money away at the end of the day.

The second is colour. Your buttonholes should match your chosen colour and incorporate your flowers. As the bridal party are co-ordinated on this theme, there’s no problem with clashes. But your guests will be wearing various colours and the buttonholes could look out of place.

Buttonhole or corsage?

This is an easy one. Men wear buttonholes on their left lapel, flowers pointing up.

Women wear corsages, bracelets of flowers, on their right hand. The material of women’s clothes is less forgiving than men’s and may not recover from having things pinned on it. A buttonhole could also ruin the lie of the clothes and no one wants a saggy dress on the pictures.

So, there you have it. The mysteries of buttonholes laid bare. It’s quite simple really