From table arrangements, to the bridal bouquet and bridesmaid bouquets, to garlands and centerpieces, wedding flowers play a starring role in weddings. And when it comes to picking out a florist for your big day, there are many factors to consider. Florists are creative people who want to help make your wedding beautiful and memorable and will often go out of their way to work with a client to help them achieve the experience they dream of.
But not everyone understands the full scope of their work. Florists have a lot on their plate—sourcing flowers, coming up with designs, assembling arrangements, coordinating with venues, setting up and breaking down the event, and more.
However, when it comes to finding a florist, there are also some larger misconceptions couples have about the overall job they do. “There is a misconception that florists are just executors and just put flowers in vases. That couldn't be further from the truth. Floristry is a craft, with a steep learning curve. So much of this industry relies on connections and relationships built over time,” says Corrine Bryson, owner of Flora Good Times in Beacon, New York.
When it comes to the pricing of events such as weddings, you aren't just paying for the flowers, you also have to keep in mind the labor, sourcing, design, and other elements. “It is very important to remember that the cost of event floral design stretches beyond the blooms. There is a lot of labor and artistry involved behind the scenes to make it all happen. My advice is if you are looking to feature flowers as a major component on your wedding day, be sure to set aside a decent budget for the floral decor... or be prepared to compromise,” says Byrson.
Keeping the larger artistic element in mind is important, because as Byrson notes, it’s the florist's job to help translate your vision into reality. However, sometimes what you have in mind may not work out exactly as you expected. If that’s the case, being able to compromise on certain details can help make things easier in the long run and also help make your wedding floral experience go more smoothly in general.
“Clients often underestimate the amount of time required to properly plan, design, and produce floral designs and the overall event production,” says Bill Cotcher, display director of Planterra Events in West Bloomfield, Michigan.
When it comes to the big day, each florist has their own approach but often employs the same industry standards to make sure you get flowers that arrive looking stunning. But when it comes to your wedding, florists all bring something different to the table—which is why it’s so important to choose wisely.
Look for someone who works hard to channel the couple themselves, the season, the venue, and the mood. Flowers have such transformative powers and can really elevate the day. Your florist should be able to create a unique experience not ruled by trends or what's been done before. They should also be clear communicators, so everyone will be on the same page in terms of floral design and budget.
On the day of a wedding, there are a lot of elements to track. This means getting flowers delivered to the venue, decorating, setting up and breaking down, and everything in between. However, there is also the preparation that goes into sourcing your flowers, designing the arrangements, and putting everything together.
At Flora Good Time, things begin about three to four days ahead of time to allow for enough prep time. The team first gathers and processes all of the flowers from various local growers. Then, any centerpieces are assembled the day before and transported to the venue the day of. Typically all wedding party flowers are also assembled the day before and touched up day-of to keep them looking super fresh.
The day of the wedding starts quite early for Byrson, with her and her team usually arriving at the venue site four to eight hours before invite time to set up. While on site, all arrangements are refreshed, touched up, and set on tables along with candles and other table wedding decor, and any installations are assembled.
If the installations are very large or complex, this can sometimes be a multiple day affair, with the floral team starting as soon as they have enough time to create the full experience. They then wrap up about an hour before the start of the event and return later to break down and retrieve all of our vases, candles, hardware, and structures from the site. Breakdown can happen either late at night after the reception once everyone has left or the following day.
Unfortunately, there are some things couples do that can affect the kind of flowers you get. Here, some of the biggest missteps couples make:
Often people will start looking for a floral vendor closer to their wedding date versus booking one sooner, which can present some problems.
“One of the biggest mistakes we’ve noticed is that couples tend to start looking for florists too close to their wedding date. Good florists are booked for months in advance. Supplies are becoming difficult to obtain and are costing more. The more time we have to plan, the greater the success rate in being able to have the items we need to achieve the desired outcome,” says Hodge.
Booking in advance gives you peace of mind that you have your florist in place, plus gives them enough time to plan for your big day, order the necessary flowers and items, source what they need, and create beautiful arrangements in a timely fashion.
It’s important to allow your florist some artistic interpretation. Of course, you should share your vision with them, but you should also allow them to be inspired and come up with something unique.
“One of the biggest mistakes that I believe couples make when hiring a wedding florist is coming in with very strict design rules and a completed vision of what they want already in place. Florists work with flowers and botanical products every day and have so much knowledge and insight to share,” says Bryson.
Although the Internet can be a great tool for research and finding imagery for your perfect floral arrangements, try to have realistic expectations. Platforms such as Pinterest are inspiring, but don’t believe everything you see on them, says Cotcher. If you go into your floral appointments expecting something to look exactly like it does from a photo you found online, try to adjust your expectations.
Over the course of a florist’s career, they will do hundreds—if not thousands—of events, but some are really special. Here are a few that stand out:
“Most of my favorite weddings happen when a couple reaches out and just says ‘go for it.’ There is nothing better, as an artist, than to have someone trust in you and your process enough to give you and your creativity room to play. The best and most wonderful designs come when the boundaries are opened up and I have room to explore all of the possibilities,” says Bryson.
“My most memorable wedding experience was one that we set up in Chicago. We delivered the 10 bouquets to a hotel downtown, then delivered the ceremony flowers to a huge Catholic church. They allotted only a half-hour to deliver and set up the flowers (with no street parking)! Then on to the reception at The Mid-America Club. We had carts of flowers to take to the top floor, through a series of service elevators. It was all very exciting. The best part was placing the most beautiful dahlias on the three-tiered cake! It was on a pedestal, smooth as glass frosting. I had to have a steady hand. It was the most elegant event I’ve experienced. The view, the décor, the color palette, and the flowers! Oh, my heart was full that day,” says Hodge.
“We did an elaborate white-on-white wedding—no color other than white. It was so large we had to rent refrigeration trucks, because our coolers could not accommodate all the flowers. The bride was very insistent that the flowers be pure white, even though this is not a realistic possibility. We advised her that the flowers would be varying shades of white, and some may come with hues of pink, violet, or green. When the wedding day arrived, a significant percentage of the flowers had pink hues in the center. We were all concerned that our bride would be disappointed—she didn't even notice the pink. The overall design was so strong and fit her vision so well, that it was a huge success.”
Finding the right florist is important and may take a little time. You want to find someone who you work well with but will also understand where you’re coming from and what you and your partner’s style is.
“Shop around to find someone who resonates with your values and your aesthetic. There are many design styles in floristry, so seek someone out whose style is already closely aligned with what you are picturing for your day. It will be easier to trust that you will be getting someone who can execute your vision naturally and smoothly,” says Bryson.
While you may want to shoot for the moon, it pays to be realistic about your must-haves. This can help you stay on track for the overall planning process and also on budget.
“You can work with your florist to edit the necessary components to stay within your budget. Is it necessary to have that over-the-top ceremony if you'll only see it for 30 minutes, or would you rather use that budget towards amazing table decor or an installation for the reception? What are your ‘must haves,’ and what could you edit out? Is your choice of venue already very natural and lush? Focused and finessed designs carry a big impact!” says Bryson.
Try to think about the bigger picture and how the elements like your flowers will enhance it—but remember that it won't ultimately define it. Keep your focus on your big day and try to be adaptable.
“A good floral designer is like a good chef. Great, fresh ingredients from the best farms is always our desire, but sometimes there’s a surprise and we get a leather shoe instead of a steak. A good chef can make shoe leather a gourmet meal, and a good floral designer can adapt in a similar way. This is the skill that is needed for a live event. There are no redos on a wedding.The show must go on, and true wedding florists know how to adapt and think on their feet no matter what,” says Cotcher.
Always try to schedule a consultation with your florist. If you aren’t able to do so face-to-face, doing it over Zoom, Skype, or another platform is also an option—just make sure you see your potential florist’s work. This will give you a sense of their wedding designs, but will also give you insight into how they approach a wedding and what it would be like to work with them.
Remember to ask questions and come armed with wedding floral inspo to help give them a sense of where you want to go visually with your flowers and also spark conversation.
People often underestimate the cost of flowers. If florals are important to you, then making enough room in your budget is important. “Having a flower budget helps to match expectations with real flower expenses. An average budget for flowers should be about 8 percent of total wedding costs,” says Hodge. Try to plan accordingly, so you can get everything you want and not have to sacrifice other elements.
Florists play an essential part in the wedding planning process. As you’re looking for one, remember: working with someone you’re comfortable with and understands what you want is important. Also be prepared to spend more if you’re looking to go all out with flowers. And always try to keep an open mind—the florist you’re working with is trying to bring you and your partner’s vision to life, but you may need to make some compromises to help make this part of wedding planning go as smoothly as possible.
At Zola, we’ve worked with 1 million couples and have talked to tons of vendors to develop smarter, more efficient ways for you to find and connect with each other. From florists to videographers and beauty pros, get all your questions about wedding vendors answered with our expert wedding advice!