It's best to book your florist at least six months before the day, especially if your wedding is slated for a popular month like June. But though you may be eager to contact florists immediately after you announce your engagement, you should spend some time assembling ideas and information before scheduling those all-important interviews.
The location of your ceremony and reception will influence the number and size of your floral displays, so you will want to make a decision on the venue before speaking to a florist. A church wedding, for example, may call for a decorated altar and pews, while a ceremony in a flower garden may require little more than a few clusters placed in prominent spots.
Next, move on to your budget. Generally, flowers represent about 10 percent of the overall wedding expenses. Deciding how much you can spend will help the florist be creative within your price range. "Once I know the couple's budget, I can really begin to play around with ideas and options," says Meredith Waga Perez, owner of Belle Fleur in New York City. Prepare a preliminary list of all your flower needs, beginning with the basics: Nearly every bride carries a bouquet, but you may also want a floral headpiece; bouquets for the bridesmaids; florets or petals for the flower girl; boutonnieres for the groom, groomsmen, fathers, and grandfathers; corsages for mothers and grandmothers; and decorations for the ceremony.
Also think about your requirements for the reception, such as a bouquet to toss; flowers for the cake and cake table; centerpieces; arrangements for a buffet table or seating-card table; and any other floral adornments. At this stage in the planning, it's fine if these are estimates; you can generally adjust quantities up to a week before the wedding.
A good way to convey to the florist the kind of botanical statement you want your wedding to make is to talk about your personal style. "Come up with some words related to how you'd like your wedding to feel," says Lewis Miller of LMD Floral Events Interiors in New York City. "Are you looking for a wedding that is clean and modern, or lush and gardeny?"
Start a wedding scrapbook, and fill it with things that appeal to you. Bridal magazines and horticultural design books are useful places to begin, but don't be afraid to look further afield. Visit parks and gardens for inspiration, and think about restaurant or hotel interiors you find attractive. Give thought to the fashion designers and even the kind of furniture you favor most. Carry a camera; when something appeals to you, take a picture and add it to your book. "I like clients to show me what they like as well as what they don't like -- both are equally important and useful," says Miller. "Once the overall mood is set, the flowers will fall into place."
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