How to Choose Your Wedding Flowers
Start Interviewing Pros
Most couples meet with at least three florists to compare styles, prices and personalities. The manager at your reception site can most likely recommend reliable and talented people. You can also obtain referrals from your house of worship, or recently married friends and family members (especially if you were present at their wedding and witnessed their florist's handiwork firsthand).
In order to present you with his or her ideas, a florist will need to know three things:
Your budget: Most brides and grooms allot about 3 percent of their total wedding budget to their flowers and décor. It's okay if you don't have much to spend — most floral designers will be willing to work within the parameters of your budget and suggest smart ways to save, like using full-bloom flowers to decrease the number of stems you need.
Your numbers: To determine quantities and, consequently, total prices, the florist will need to know the number of guests you expect, how many bridesmaids and groomsmen you're having, and the number of children, grandparents, parents and stepparents who'll need flowers, too.
Your style: First, have a general idea of the look you want (lavish, simple, mod, romantic). Next, compile an "idea file" of photographs from magazines or books that exemplify the kind of floral designs you like. And have a color scheme in mind. At a loss? Use the design details on your invitation, the color of your bridesmaid dresses and the interior of your reception space as reference points.
What to Bring to Your Appointment
When you attend appointments, you should be ready to show florists:
Your idea file: Visual aids are essential (just like when you're trying out a new haircut at the beauty salon).
A bridesmaid dress fabric swatch: This important item will help the florist to suggest coordinating flowers. (It's not enough to say "lavender," for example, because there are so many variations.)
A photo of your wedding dress: This way, the florist can suggest bouquet styles that are complementary in terms of size, color and grandeur. Remember, too, to specify whether your gown is white or ivory.
Photographs or a brochure of your ceremony and reception sites: The layout, wallpaper, ceiling heights, windows and room and carpet color will greatly affect what your florist dreams up for your décor.
What to Ask Prospective Florists
Don't forget to ask:
"Do you offer any other decorations, such as candles, lighting and linens, and how will these affect the cost?"
"What flowers are least likely to wilt over the course of a four-hour wedding? Can I afford them?"
"If I order specific flowers and they're not available on my wedding day, how do you handle substitutions?"
"Can you guarantee that the flowers will be fresh and arrive on time?"
And ask any other questions that will increase your confidence in, and comfort level with, the florist. At the end of each meeting, be sure to get an estimate — in writing — based on what you've discussed.Now it's time to narrow down your selection. When the florist begins to get a sense of your vision, she'll set out to impress you with her ideas and suggestions. During each meeting, it's important that either you or your fiancé take notes while the other listens carefully. The florist should point out examples in her portfolio (if she doesn't, ask to see it) and will likely make a few quick sketches. There might even be "live" bouquets or arrangements on display that you can check out.
Booking a Florist
When you've finally committed to a florist, set up a second meeting to finalize the details of your order, in terms of the specific types of flowers that will be used, as well as the colors, style or composition, and quantity. This is the time to make adjustments: Do you really need an arrangement for the head table or can you use the bridesmaid bouquets as decoration? Can a similar look be achieved with lilies instead of those pricey cattleya orchids? Can you skip the pew decorations at the ceremony? Trust your florist's knowledge and expertise, and be willing to mix and match your ideas and desires with her recommendations.
The booking process will be complete when you sign a contract. Typically, florists will ask for a 50 percent deposit at that time, with the balance due the week of the wedding. The payment schedule should be clearly stated in your contract, along with: the number and descriptions of each item, with prices; the date, place and time that the flowers will be delivered and assembled; any rental fees for vases or decorations that the florist is providing, along with pickup and return procedures; and any additional labor charges, taxes and other fees.
Florists agree: It pays to use flowers (and fruit) that are in season. Here are a few of our favorite ideas:
Winter: French tulip, amaryllis, hypericum, protea, quince.
Spring: Hyacinth, tulip, daffodil, lilac, peony, sweet pea, lily of the valley, cherry blossom.
Summer: Hydrangea, lisianthus, snapdragon, sunflower, tuberose, cornflower, zinnia, cosmos.
Fall: Calla lily, dahlia, bittersweet, celosia, mum, scabiosa, pomegranate, cranberry.