Six questions brides ask during their floral consultation

And the answers to each one...

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 Rose (champagne and blush) and trailing Ivy in cascading bouquets for the entire bridal party. We described the wedding theme by tossing around the phrase “English Garden.”

Jennifer Morris, owner of J. Morris Flowers, Leesburg, Virginia

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 soulful tunes that helped to set the dramatic tone Heather was trying to achieve. 

A simple cascading bouquet made in the fashion of 1988 in our studio. Click here for more information.

Soon, the florist arrived. The bridal bouquet was everything we had hoped for, champagne and blush Roses, English Ivy and Stephanotis. It cascaded elegantly from the widely used plastic holder and was just the right accessory for her dress. (A smaller version of the cascade Princess Diana had carried.) The bridesmaid bouquets, however, were very disappointing. The florist had used shiny green, tropical leaves as wide as your hand (no ivy) that dwarfed the roses and contrasted with everything else in the wedding. What had gone wrong? I was so surprised and speechless. 

Fast forward twenty-five years later and be assured that wedding consultations have really changed. I love to see a bride's reaction to the stunning display of flowers that she and I have created together. A creative process that begins many months earlier during a thorough exchange of ideas, questions and answers. 

I know that Heather and I did not ask enough questions compared to today’s bride and groom. Modern couples can get even more out of their consultation, however, if they arrive with a few answers to some very common questions. 

Can I see my wedding flowers today?

Imagining your final floral arrangements can be a challenge. Almost all of the brides (and grooms) that I meet with in my studio ask if to see the bouquets 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. 

Garden Roses and Peonies shine in this May wedding at the Thomas Birkby House. Photography by Love By Kate.

As a bride, you may feel a lot of pressure as you search for decor truly reflects your personal style. It makes sense that you want to see the colors and styles under consideration so you can make a thoughtful decision.  

This is where designers run into a small problem. Many initial consultations happen six to nine months in advance of a 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. But, flowers are seasonal. If your meeting is in January, your designer may not have Peony, Dahlia or Queen Anne’s Lace on hand even though those may be the seasonal blooms under consideration for your August wedding.

Choosing the right vase is an important part of your consultation. Raised Gold Pedestal at Red Fox Inn, Photography by Candice Adelle.

In a perfect scenario, we will consult about a year before your wedding when we will have many of the flowers that will be available to you. If you can’t get to us at that point, then rest assured, we can show you a large selection of vases, containers, stands and arches, some floral varieties that will be similar to your choices and many pictures of our work.

Here are some tips for visualizing your floral arrangements:

1. During your consult, ask your designer to show you the stems that are in-house that provide a sense for the shape, size and texture of your flower choices.

2. Bring lots of pictures to the discussion. Clip, pin and post all the things that you love. Your floral designer will have photos of their work as well. We have hundreds of photos on our website. (Click here to view them.)

3. Order a sample for your follow-up visit to get a better sense for how things will shape up.

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 with 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 will capture you.

Are these the right flower choices for my venue?

Garland on wooden farmhouse tables at Stone Tower Winery, Leesburg, Virginia. Photography by Candice Adelle.

Yes. It may seem strange that I generalize an answer to this question, but it’s because there are so many combinations of styles that blend perfectly together. Rustic and dainty, edgy and glamorous, pretty and colorful - it’s my job to make the flowers that you love work for your venue. 

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 a bride or a wedding couple, I listen carefully to their ideas while picturing the venue. One week, I may design around a stone fireplace that amplifies a more rustic theme. The next week, in the same venue, I might choose to build around an outdoor opening, casting a romanitc 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 was 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 would be gorgeous. 

Orchids and Garden Roses at Trump National Golf Course. Photography by Steve and Lily Photography.

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 selected and - presto- she has a proposal for a 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 combination that suddely appears on “Pinterest.” Communicate with your designer about the changes you are considering. You may find that alterations that seem daunting amount to a few simple adjustments in the mind of a seasoned designer. 

Will I get to meet with you again?

Place setting with Rosemary at Red Fox Inn in Middleburg, Virginia. Photography by Candice Adelle.

I think that a second meeting is the key to creating the wedding of your dreams. I recommend the meeting take place no earlier than ninety and no later than thirty days before your wedding date. This meeting is as detailed as the first and you will have so much more information to share. We will discuss your flower choices and colors again, confirm the number of reception tables, corsages, boutonnieres and bouquets and outline the day including delivery, set-up and a review of all the moving pieces. 

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.)

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 the cost of one-of-a-kind floral design.

Stunning ceremony urn with Cafe Au Lait Dahlia's at Poplar Springs Inn. Photo by Lovesome Photography.

Most brides bring us a lot of pictures. (If you’re not into that, don’t worry, we have plenty). The designs are typically very lush and dramatic, filled with lots of stems that are often some of the most expensive in the flower kingdom. Before I quote a price for these arrangements, I explain some options that will allow us to achieve a similar look. For example, it’s possible to scale back on the size of each arrangement without losing impact. Or, we can reduce the number of luxury flowers we use and surround them with gorgeous floral varieties that are less expensive. We can also create two or three types of designs that allow you to use your favorite lush, full design on some tables with alternate centerpiece styles like floral garlands or simple florals and candles. Lastly, let’s make sure your flowers work for you all day by moving them from ceremony to reception.   

Flower power is real. This is the part of your décor that will help you complete your personal style statement. Your dress, the bridesmaid dresses and linens will be tied together by your floral arrangements. 

Realistically speaking, there are a few things that can stretch a flower budget.

1.  A large wedding party.

The hand-tied bouquets that you and your bridesmaids carry will be pieces of art, no two exactly alike. The creation of these bouquets is the most labor-intensive part of designing a wedding and they are so worth it. We can rent you gorgeous vases at a minimal fee and re-use these delightful arrangements during your reception.

Partial Floral Arch in Loudoun County Virginia. Photography by Kaypea.

Partial Floral Arch in Loudoun County Virginia. Photography by Kaypea.

2. Lots of tables.

Twenty centerpieces will fill your space and make a tremendous impact on your decor. Twenty floral centerpieces will also consume a lot of your budget. Don’t fret. Let’s design two or three different types of styles that create a dramatic setting for your day. It may limit the money you spend on other aspects of your décor, but these flowers will make a big impact.

3. An elaborate focal structure.

Arches, Chuppahs, moss walls, birch poles with florals, hanging chandeliers… these are statement pieces that will delight you and your guests. You will need to set aside some of your wedding budget for these specials items. Many aches are designed on site by a skilled floral designer. You can save, however, with a few concessions like doing a partial floral on your arch or Chuppah. Talk with your floral designer about some of your options.

We may have to be creative, but we can always find a way to incorporate your favorite flowers into a budget that works for you.

What can I expect from my florist the day of my wedding?

Each vase and votive must be cleared away, a service that your florist will provide. Gorgeous tall centerpiece in pilsner vase at Rust Manor House in Leesburg. Photography by Birds of a Feather.

Our team arrives at our studio two hours before our departure time and complete a checklist. We examine each arrangements for loose petals or greenery and count every centerpiece, candle, bouquet and boutonniere. We always arrive at a venue little early in case there are any issues with the set-up or weather. The personal flowers will be delivered and the team will begin to set the scene. Then, all boxes, discarded stems and tools will be whisked away. After a quick conference with the venue team, we will disappear only to reappear at the end of the evening to clean up. Your venue will require that all florals be removed at the end of the evening. This is a service we provide. Occasionally, some brides want to keep the arrangements. Because so many venues have more than one wedding per weekend, it is important that we discuss the strike and the removal of all items.

Brides and grooms come to the wedding flower consultation with less clarity than they would have when choosing a menu for their reception (most of us are experts on good food). As we sit and get to know each other, we lay the foundation for what your wedding will 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.