The ballet features a French provincial wedding at the beginning of the twentieth century. The central character is the slightly demented Julia, who, in bygone days, has been ‘ruined’ by the rakish Bridegroom and is now an embarrassment to him. After the festivities are over, she is left disconsolate, with only her dog to comfort her.
A Wedding Bouquet was the idea of Lord Berners, who wanted Frederick Ashton to make a ballet pantomime out of one of Gertrude Stein's plays, and who both wrote the music and designed the "decor" and costumes. The name of the play was They must be Wedded to Their Wife, but this was thought too long for advertising and was changed to A Wedding Bouquet. Lord Berners went to visit Gertrude Stein in Bilignin and she liked the idea and he found in her house a carpet which gave him the pattern for the backcloth for the ballet.
The ballet was first spoken of as a choral ballet, but although the opera chorus did sing or chant the words at the early performance, it was entirely unlike any other choral ballet before or since. The words explained the action, introduced the characters, made utterly irrelevant comments, worked themselves into a frenzied rhythmical accompaniment or injected on occasional apt phrase that devastated dancers and audience alike. Not all of the words have ever been really intelligible but gradually the audience got to know certain phrases by heart and the ballet has a devoted public, although inevitably it has always been a rather special one and to this day there are people who detest the whole affair, don't 'understand' it, and think it an absurd waste of time and talent.