The shape and variety of colours, and the sweet scent of the fragrant varities make some species of lily the ideal symbol of femininity. This symbolism dates back hundreds of years, originating with Ancient Egypt. Greek and Roman brides were often given a garland of lilies to wear in their hair, signifying the promise of a pure and fruitful life.
Fast-forward to the Victorian era, where emotions in all their raw fullness were frowned upon. As a solution to the problem of self-expression, a secret language of flowers called floriography was developed. The Victorians gave a meaning to every flower, so that they could communicate their feelings with a bouquet. The lily was no exception. The Romans had used lilies to fill pillows and quilts because of its lovely scent, making the fragrance synonymous with love-making. Taking their cue from the ancients, they decided that if a lady was given a lily, she would know it was from her lover.
White lilies are often used at Christian weddings. The reason for this is that, just like in ancient times, white lilies symbolise virginity and purity. The white lily is sometimes known as the Madonna lily, and is often depicted in religious art as the symbol of the Virgin Mary.
Just like the Victorians, when words fail us, we find it easier to say things with a bouquet of flowers. Lilies in particular aren't just for expressing when feel happy or cheerful. They are the flower that we use the most at funerals and memorials in the United Kingdom. The whiteness stands for peace and serenity, while the inherent transience of cut flowers, which bloom and die, are symbolic of life's passing. At times of mourning, it's comforting to know that beautiful lilies can speak of the sadness of our emotions for us.