Despite the ever-changing landscape of planning all-things-I-do, we’ve stuck to it. More so now than ever before, we’re getting creative with ways to stretch money, skip expenses, and make really smart spending choices all while still making things gorgeous. However… we aren’t magic. We can’t make something from nothing. We can’t give you Wedluxe-inspired centerpieces for € 20 per table …and we mostly can’t bully your florist into doing it for you either.
Once upon a time when we first started planning weddings, much like everything else, things were cheaper. This included vases, flowers, vase filler, candles, gas, donuts etc. Unfortunately, it’s how the economy works, prices creep up year after year.
Some wedding vendors allow you to book services a year in advance and they’re willing to honor 2013 pricing in 2014, etc. but most of the time the same can’t be said for flowers. It’s not because your florists are evil and have some cruel vendetta against your wedding budget. Like those delicate blooms themselves, floral quotes are incredibly sensitive little beings. Here’s why.
We all know that time = money. When you email a floral stylist with all the details of your big day, the clock begins to tick. They’ll read (and undoubtedly love!) your bridal dream gushings, check to make sure they’re available for your wedding date, do some research on your venue and visit all the Pinterest inspiration boards you sent over in your note.
Before your florist can offer a quote, they’ll have to connect with their suppliers and wholesalers to verify availability and pricing. They’ll call around and check to make sure they’re getting the best-of-the-best for you before they respond. They’ll start a preliminary estimate form for you and attach your inspiration photos, your list of must-have’s, and will work out pricing options to make it happen.
With preliminary research in hand, your stylist then replies to your message. A great vendor will share in all your excitement and offer advice and suggestions on how to spend your budget, stretch your budget, stay within your budget – whatever it is you’re hoping to do. They’ll chat with you back and forth about vision and ideas and previous weddings so that you know that they know that you know they’re on the same page.
Then there’s the meeting
Some brides are comfortable working exclusively digitally to review floral design estimates, while others prefer to visit showrooms and floral shops. Depending on the setup of the studio, some will meet with you personally while others will join you on Skype. Either way, your florist will spend time preparing for your meeting, a couple of hours chatting all-things-blooms with you, and then time summarizing all your notes and visions (not to mention the travel time to and from your get-together).
Well-styled and thorough floral estimates can take hours to craft: beautifully worded bridal bouquet descriptions, comprehensive wedding party flower details, family florals, ceremony decor, centerpiece design and reception decor. They’ll search for and include inspiration photos to help give you visuals and work out a variety of prices for extra details like the vases you love and the right candles to give the reception room that enviable, romantic glow. By the time that floral quote hits your Inbox, your designer has spent well over an entire day’s worth of work on making it perfect for you.
Or, so they hope. Then there’s revisions. Little changes. Different flowers. Tweaks in colours. Extra corsages. Double-faced satin instead of burlap. – need to check on satin pricing. The silver mercury glass instead of the gold. – need to verify availability. Hanging mason jars with floating candles to line the garden path after the sun goes down: measure mason jar opening, determine candle pricing, confirm shepherd hook rentals and verify what time the sun sets. Phew. Updated estimate – complete. A few final rearrangements and adjustments and one last calculation – then, voila! Your contract is booked.
….. but now, multiply that by a dozen inquiries a week. If a floral stylist didn’t account for time spent generating quotes and booking contracts, they’d go out of business pretty quickly.
Fast-forward to a few months before your wedding
Verifying contracts, confirming changes, ordering flowers, ordering vases, picking up vase filler, scratching product stickers off of every single candle holder (sometimes having to soak them in soap and hot water first!). All they need you to do is confirm whether or not your number of tables has changed or whether Aunt Ingrid prefers a pin-on corsage or wrist… while behind-the-scenes there’s a flurry of activity to make sure that all their floral-design-ducks are neatly in a row.
Cue: the week of the wedding
Confirming order delivery with the wholesalers, picking up the flowers, checking and re-checking to make sure that everything that’s needed is there. Bringing hundreds of dozens of blooms back into the studio – processing every single one of them by hand (note: wholesale flowers come straight from farms – usually in foreign countries – packed super tight in refrigerator temperatures so they stay super fresh until well after your wedding is over). Processing means de-thorning roses, trimming leaves off hydrangeas and cutting every single stem on the perfect angle to dip in hydrating fluid and arrange perfectly in oversized buckets in a temp-controlled room so that they open just enough to be gorgeous but not enough that they over-bloom and die before you walk down the aisle. No pressure.
A half dozen bouquets, meticulously styled and finished with gorgeous stem wrap to accentuate your dress. A half dozen boutonnieres carefully arranged and finished to match. Mom’s corsages. Dad’s boutonnieres. Oversized altar arrangements, a dozen pew decor pieces. Rose petals for the aisle that need to be plucked from perfectly-processed roses, separated from their seedy, unattractive centers, and stored in refrigerator temperatures to ensure the perfect amount of … perk … when they’re carefully arranged in swirly patterns down your ceremony aisle the next day.
Centerpieces are often arranged into floral foam and can’t be put together more than a certain number of hours before show time (some flowers really, really don’t like floral foam). Your florist needs to cautiously time out their schedule (as well as the schedules of all their helpers) to make sure that painstakingly specific timing is maintained. What keeps your florist awake at night? Fear of waking up on the morning of your wedding day, to find four buckets of wilted hydrangeas|roses|peonies on the studio floor. Knock on wood.
As much as it would be awesome to teleport your flowers from the design floor to the reception venue, unfortunately each individual arrangement needs to be delicately packed, carefully loaded, safely transported, and gingerly placed. The job goes faster with extra sets of hands, but those hands need to get paid for their time as well.
Finally, some venues have pesky delivery requirements: certain times of day, within certain hours, through questionable back doors that require the dismantling of pre-packaged arrangements to fit through the frame. Perch the altar pieces, spread the petals, hang the pew decor, place the centerpieces, arrange the head table arrangements, deliver the girls’ bouquets before scheduled pictures and make sure all of the men’s bouts are pinned properly. All in a wedding florist’s day!
Oh. And those rented pillars that you used during your ceremony – they need to be picked up and brought over to your reception, then brought back to the studio at the end of the night.
So, an hour for research, half hour response, a three hour session, a few hours for changes, another half hour for updates, an hour of phone calls, two days of processing…. well… I mean… you get the picture. Beautiful blooms take time and love to plan, arrange, and make gorgeous on the day-of. But then there’s the stuff itself…
Of course, you have to pay for the stuff you buy. Yup – seasonal flowers are usually cheaper than imports, and buying local is usually cheaper than foreign…. but supply-and-demand is an illustrious minx. Dreaming of red roses around Valentine’s Day? Looking for pretty much anything white around Easter?
The prices of flowers per stem, even at direct wholesale, fluctuate with the tide (pretty much literally) ranging anywhere from € 0.50 to over € 20.00 (yup: per stem). Floral prices are affected by climate, rainfall, minimum wage, and even the price of gas used to transport them.
Then there’s the other stuff – vases, candles, mirrors, cellophane, vase filler, ribbon. Not only does your floral stylist need to cover his costs on acquiring these items, they need to cover the time it takes to get them from straight-from-China condition to perfect-picture-ready.
All of this to say….. “this stuff ain’t cheap”. Unfortunately, flowers don’t cost pennies-a-stem. Sadly, those beautiful 24″ reversible trumpet vases you saw online last week aren’t available at the Dollar Store. A floral designer that knows (and loves) his industry can offer you oodles of options – believe me – they all want to see their lovelies gracing the pages of all-things-inspiration….. But they need to eat. And pay their rent. And make sure their water doesn’t get shut off the day before your wedding.
This is why centerpieces aren’t € 20 per table. It’s why wedding flowers have pricetags and why the brag-worthy styles that grace magazine covers seem to be “outrageous”. It’s why, when your floral designer tells you they can’t lower their prices anymore… they’re probably not lying.
Be creative. Be excited. Be willing to trust your expert. Be sure of what you like, but be open to suggestions. Be honest about your budget. Be amenable to money-saving ideas that a great florist should always offer you.