Be upfront about your budget.
Trust us, this will save you headaches (and heartbreaks) later. Before you even make that first phone call or fire off that initial e-mail, know what you can afford. That will rule some florists out of your price range right off the bat, and you won't waste your time or a florist's with a consultation that leads nowhere. Giving your florist a dollar amount also means they can suggest workarounds if that elaborate ceremony arch you have your heart set on just doesn't match up with your bottom line. "That way, when your florist is designing and dreaming up concepts for centerpieces and installations, they'll know what's feasible and can find places to cut back, if necessary, to achieve it," says Alicia Rico of Bows and Arrows in Dallas.
Go beyond what's trendy.
Pinterest is great for gathering inspiration, but if you really want a look that's cool and different, allow your floral pro to express his or her creativity. "There's a real opportunity to take the overall design beyond what's in fashion and create something timeless that feels tailored to the couple specifically," says Berkeley, California, florist Max Gill. A little trust, too, goes a long way. "Give your florist the freedom to create without parameters," says Rico. "If you've found someone that suits your aesthetic then you can relax knowing that that person will be sure to get the best and most beautiful seasonal blooms for you."
Realize that even nonfloral elements aren't necessarily more affordable.
"So many brides lately want garland runners on their tables. The greenery is very beautiful, but not necessarily less expensive than a floral centerpiece," points out Jaclyn Journey, a floral and event designer in Louisville, Kentucky. "Garlands are labor- and time-intensive and you need quite a large amount of foliage to pull off the look." Minneapolis-based florist Jackie Reisenauer of Munster Rose agrees. "I mean, who doesn't want a 30-foot solid-floral runner that spans the length of the head table and cascades to the floor? But something like that is going to be very, very expensive," she says.
Embrace a palette—to a point.
Setting, and sticking to, a color scheme is a great way to make sure your wedding looks chic, cohesive, and pulled together. And having swatches of your shades at the ready is super-helpful when shopping for bridesmaids' dresses or picking out your table linens. But when it comes to things found in nature, a little flexibility is key to keeping your sanity. "It's great to keep a general palette in mind to guide the look of your arrangements, but don't fret too much about the difference between Pantone shade 17-5641 and 17-5642," says Reisenauer. "Each year—each week, even—blooms will change in hue depending on rain, sun, and soil conditions, and a good florist can work with that to still give you the overall look you're after."
Understand that product availability can shift.
Your florist has many talents, but manipulating the weather isn't one of them. "The seasons change of their own accord, and just because it's 'always spring somewhere' doesn't mean their peony seasons overlap," notes Gill. "I can go to great lengths to procure a specific bloom, pulling from any number of resources, and still come up short." His rec? Talk through a Plan B with your florist so you still can get the look you want even if your favorite flower isn't available.
Be smart about where to save and where to splurge.
As a money-saving gesture, we often advise brides to have their coordinators move their ceremony arrangements into the reception—after all, that pretty ceremony backdrop would be equally smashing set behind the cake table. But not everything benefits from a second life. "I cringe when brides tell me they want to reuse the bridesmaids' bouquets in vases on the head table to save money," says Journey. "Because when you plop a bouquet in a vase, it just looks like … a bouquet in a vase!" Instead, she suggests using tons of votive candles, supplemented by small clusters of flowers down the length of the table, to make an impact without breaking the bank.
Know when—and how—to communicate.
The best days of the week to reach out to your florist are Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays, says Shawn Marie Cossette of Beehive Events in Scottsville, Virginia. "By Thursday, we are deep in the flower zone working on the coming weekend events, especially during peak wedding season," she says. "And we want to give our brides our full attention, so an inquiry early in the week is fantastic." Reisenauer also suggests sending e-mails periodically as opposed to every time a stray thought crosses your mind. "Compile a draft e-mail where you keep all those inspirational photos, and wait to send it every few weeks. That way, send images you still love, which makes it a whole lot easier to sift through when making final decisions."