...And the answers
The first bridal consultation that I ever participated in was for my older sister when I was 16-years-old. Heather asked me to go with her because I knew more about flowers than she did, despite the fact that I was only a junior in high school. I listened carefully to the discussion, made some suggestions and left the shop feeling like we had accomplished what we had set out to do. We had asked for two colors of Roses and Ivy in cascading bouquets for the bridal party while tossing around the phrase “English Garden.”
The morning of the wedding was a typical Pittsburgh summer day with an overcast sky and a fine mist. The bagpiper was in the garden of our Church belting mournful and soulful tunes that helped to create the mood I knew Heather was trying to achieve.
Soon, the florist arrived. The bridal bouquet was everything we had hoped for, champagne and blush Roses, English Ivy and Stephanotis. It cascaded elegantly and was just the right accessory for her dress. The bridesmaid bouquets, however, were very disappointing. The florist had managed to include shiny green, tropical leaves as wide as your hand (no ivy) that dwarfed the roses and contrasted with everything around them. What had gone wrong? I was so surprised and a little speechless.
Fast forward twenty-five years later and be assured that wedding consultations have really changed. The best part of being a wedding floral designer is watching the bride react to the stunning display of flowers that she and I have created together. A process that had begun many months earlier during a thorough exchange of ideas, lots of questions and plenty of answers.
Now I know that Heather and I did not ask enough questions compared to today’s brides and grooms. But I also think wedding couples today could get more from their modern consultations if they have the answers to some very common questions that come up almost every day.
Can I see my wedding flowers today?
Almost all of the brides and (and grooms) that I meet with in my studio ask if I can show them the arrangements or bouquets that we are discussing during their consultation. I can certainly understand why. Just about everything that we purchase as consumers today can be held, tried on or even road-tested before purchase.
Now add the pressure of planning the look and feel of perhaps the single-most important event in your life. It makes sense that you want to see the sizes, colors and styles that are under discussion so you can make a thoughtful decision.
This is where designers run into a small problem. Most initial consultations happen six to nine months in advance of the wedding. It’s only natural to wait until you have chosen your venue, dresses, linens and table settings before you select the gorgeous flowers that will tie everything together. Often times, the flowers designers are working with in their studio the day of your consultation are the varieties that are in season that month. If you are meeting in January, your designer might not have Peonies, Dahlia’s, or Queen Anne’s Lace on hand even though those seasonal blooms may be the flowers that appeal to you most. You may have even chosen a particular month for you wedding because of the flowers that will be available.
Here are some ways to get around this idea of “seeing” what you are going to get:
1. Schedule your follow-up meeting closer to your actual wedding date (read more about follow-up meetings below).
2. Ask your designer to show you the stems that are in-house that day to provide a sense for shape, size and texture.
3. Bring lots of pictures for discussion. Clip, pin and post all the things that you love. Your floral designer will have photos of their work as well.
4. Order a small arrangement closer to your wedding day that provides a sample of what you are going to get.
Finally, understand that you are hiring an artist. Floral designers are remarkably creative and passionate. If you choose the right designer and fall in love what they have done in the past, you can’t go wrong. Imagine you are hiring someone to paint a portrait of you. While you can see what this artist has done for others, you will have to trust that the artist can capture you.
Are these the right flower choices for my venue?
Yes. It may seem strange that I generalize an answer to this question, but it’s because there are really so many combinations of styles that blend well together. Rustic and dainty, edgy and glamorous, airy but bright - it’s my job to make the flowers that you love work for your event.
An experienced designer has probably worked in your venue before (you might consider this when selecting your florist) and has learned how to capture the essence of the space. When I am meeting with the bride or the wedding couple, I am listening carefully to their ideas while I picture the space that they are using. One week, I may design around a stone fireplace that lends itself to a couple’s style choice. The next week, in the same venue, I might choose to build around an outdoor opening, casting a spell with flowers at twilight.
Your first priority should be to choose the varieties of flowers and colors that you love.
Can I make changes?
I met with a bride a few months ago who is getting married this winter in a ballroom. She told me she wanted to use firs and greenery, branches, pine cones and romantic white blooms calling it a “rustic wintry” style. We loved the ideas and themes and knew it was going to be gorgeous.
One month later she called to tell me that she really wanted a more glamorous look. Her wedding is still many months away and I want her to have a wedding theme that really reflects her personal tastes. So, I changed the types and textures of the greenery and dramatically altered the style of vase that we are using and - presto- she will have her glamorous wedding. Gone are the branches and pine cones, replaced by more white flowers and touches of cedar evergreen.
In reality, brides really don’t make drastic changes after their initial, soul searching consultation. But sometimes they fall in love with a new color or want to add a flower they had never seen until it appeared on “Pinterest”.
Communicate with your designer about the changes you are considering as you may find that they are simple adjustments in the mind of a seasoned designer.
Will I get to meet with you again?
I think that a second meeting is the key to creating the wedding of your dreams. I recommend the meeting should take place no earlier than 90, and no later than 30 days before your wedding date.
This meeting is as detailed as the first, but you will have so much more information to share. We will discuss your flower choices and colorization again, confirm the number of reception tables (can add if needed), corsages, boutonnieres, bouquets and outline the day itself including delivery, set-up and the moving pieces.
Now you will get a chance to see the work that is going on during the same season as your wedding and compare your style selection with the arrangements being made in the studio. (For this reason, and many more, you may want to only consider hiring a floral company that offers this very important second meeting.)
Don’t be afraid to bring any additional images that you have found to solidify the style that you hope to achieve.
Do I have enough money to accomplish what I want with my flowers?
This question comes up all the time. It’s not entirely unexpected. How many people outside the flower industry have a sense for the costs associated with wedding flowers? Let’s face it, the first time you hire a wedding designer will likely be the first time you have ever discussed their cost.
A bride came to see me the other day with a photo of a fantastic arrangement for a display table. She hesitantly handed it to me and said, “Is this something I can afford?” “Of course,” I said. She beamed, and told me that she was sure I was going to tell her that it would cost at least $1000. It certainly looked expensive, but, that is the power of flowers. They are just really stunning. I also explained to her that we could move the arrangement from the ceremony site to her reception making sure that the arrangement worked hard for her all day.
There is always some version of the flowers that you want that can fit in your budget. In fact, I don’t think it is necessary to add flowers that you don’t need. I would rather create something unique for your day than to add extra flowers to an already beautiful piece.
There are three things that I think all brides should consider when setting their budget.
1. Remember you will need to pay your florist to deliver, set-up and pick-up your wedding. This is a critical service that allows you to feel like you awoke and stepped into a glass slipper while somebody else filled your day with flowers.
2. Factor in tax like all other aspects of your wedding.
3. Rely on the industry standard. For decades the wedding industry stated that florals make up 10% of an overall wedding budget. I have to say that it still seems to apply in many cases.
Remember, if you want to create a unique identity for your day, wedding flowers are the decorations that make two weddings in the same place feel entirely different.
I feel that brides and grooms come to the wedding flower consultation with less clarity than they would have when choosing a menu for their reception. As we sit and get to know each other, we lay the foundation for what your wedding could look like. And in the end, if we communicate as we should, the beauty that you are trying to create will surround you on your day-of-all-days.