My career as a wedding florist came about unexpectedly. I graduated from college with a bachelor’s degree in English, and as I never wanted to teach, my first job out of college was a grant writer at a local community arts agency. I loved the position but the pay was horrible. So through friends I picked up extra part time gigs at a local florist. I soon used the experience at both jobs to land several marketing positions at some of Atlanta, Georgia most prestigious floral and interior design firms.
Being an active and in my early twenties, I became fascinated with floral design as I rubbed elbows with some of the top designers in the South. Within a few years, I departed Atlanta and settled back into my small hometown and within a year, opened my own shop. Many of my ‘big city’ ideas were welcomed but others were not. It is very hard to break in to floral design on a thin dime and a big dream when there are established florists on every corner. I was determined, however.
The Beginnings of Wedding Floristry
I was very ambitious and young. I was the only florist in town that worked full days on Saturdays and the singular one that worked on Sundays. Truth be told, I had to work Sundays to do the floral work that everyone else avoided on that day in order to make ends meet. I also booked a number of weddings and honestly, I learned the ropes along the way. There is one lesson to budding wedding florists that I have to impart and that is not to price your work too low. Sure, you want the business and you want the word of mouth to spread. Yet, there is much entailed in wedding flowers. It is not so much the cost of the flowers but the infinite details. Give a bride an inch and she will take a mile. I learned this the hard way.
For example, one of my very first weddings was for a bride and groom that were quite horsy. I mean that literally. They were nurses by day and rodeo adventurers by weekend. They decided they wanted a western theme to the wedding but they also wanted a lot of pink roses. Excited over the curb appeal of a western wedding, I agreed to more than I should have and that set the pattern for the whole long-drawn out event. I gave a price quote at what we originally discussed.
When booking a wedding, you should always draw up either a handwritten contract or preferably, a typewritten one that outlines everything ordered and by price, down to the tiniest boutonniere. At this particular wedding, they went with pink carnations, which was the cheapest option. By the end of the wedding every carnation had been changed to a pink rose, which was double the price. They wanted to pay the first quoted price for the carnations. I learned early on to secure a contract stating that any changes or additions to the original quote would increase the final bill.
Another episode from this particular wedding came about when the groom showed up at my floral shop two days before the wedding with two lassos, that he wanted fashioned into wreaths for the front doors of the church, complete with pink roses. If you have never handled a heavy rope lasso and tried to fashion it into a wreath filled with delicate pink rose heads, then just don’t. Will it come as any surprise to you, that although the mother of the bride simply loved the wreaths, she refused to pay for them? She did not personally order them. She assumed, with half the add-ons that came on a daily basis that they were just “little extras” I had decided to throw in.
I ended up losing money on all the weddings I did that first year. There is no substitute for getting brides and whoever is responsible for the bill to sign on the dotted line. I took a deposit for weddings. However, it is absolutely correct to demand half upfront before agreeing to the wedding. This is simply an insurance policy that so many florists do not undertake. Weddings involve large orders of specialty flowers, ribbons and gear to make it all come together.
The Endings of Wedding Floristry
After the first year, I dove into both catering and providing the floral designs, because I was able to use my artistry skills in the kitchen as well. It helped my bottom line when I partnered up with another designer. One of the most incredibly technical weddings I did was a hippie type wedding in a backyard. That may seem strange but I had to construct a huge arch that stood on a small rounded hill. It fell four times. The ground was wet from a recent rain.
The mother of the bride, who was from out of town and whose teenage daughter was to be married barefoot underneath it almost went into convulsions because it would not stand up due to the weight of the flowers. Mercy finally intervened with the help of the stepfather, who fashioned long pins out of wire coat hangers to anchor into the ground. It worked. When I arrived the next morning to take it down, it was steadfastly holding to the hill. The marriage did not. They split after six months.
I was in business a total of about six years. When I met my husband, I sold the business out to a once rival florist and began planning my own wedding and concentrating on my new life. Yes, I made all my own wedding flowers. No one would actually think I would pay someone else to do that, would they? Today, in retrospect, when it comes to wedding flowers, charge above what you think is fair and do not blink for a second. Without a doubt, you will earn it.