The Insider: Destination Floral Designer Kiana Underwood Shares Her Wedding Essentials
Underwood, the creative visionary behind Tulipina, talks floral budget, world-wide market access, and her all-time favorite bloom.
If you're in the thick of wedding planning, you've likely already discovered the importance of prioritizing a select few vendors or details. This priority list, of course, varies by couple. The same is true for the vendors who actually bring weddings to life—they have priority lists of their own. The difference? Theirs come backed with years of industry experience. To help you shape up your own big-day musts, we've tapped the biggest names in the wedding sphere—from planners and photographers to florists—to share their three wedding must-haves. Follow along with The Insider to learn which wedding-related details professionals can't live without.
Kiana Underwood didn't launch Tulipina, her San Francisco-based floral design studio, until she had three kids—all under the age of five. "I was always looking for something more. I wanted to have something for myself," she tells Martha Stewart Weddings. At the time, she was a stay-at-home mom; she'd recently left a job at Stanford, where she was working in human rights research ("I wanted to be a diplomat!" she explains). Over the next few years, she turned to flower arranging as a creative outlet—an art that was in her blood, the Iran native explains. "Iranian culture is very much a flower culture (our New Year is the first day of spring and revolves around flowers)," Underwood adds. "As a young girl, I grew up in my grandfather's garden—his staple was geranium. We always had fresh flowers at home; my mother kept a beautiful garden of her own. It was always there, and I took it for granted."
Her career budded, funnily enough, over a few playdates: "Preschool moms would come over and admire my flowers and ask me, 'Where'd you get these?' When I told them I'd made them, they said, 'Can you show us? Can you make them for my event?'" At her husband's urging, she funneled her passion into a small business, operating out of her garage while simultaneously raising her children. She booked her first wedding, a friend's, in New York; she says it was "the scariest thing I've ever done." "I had to make 70 arrangements by myself in two days. I was working in the back of a refrigerated truck for three. Once I did that, I realized I could do just about anything in my life," she recalls.
Eight years later, Underwood brings her colorful, monochrome flower aesthetic to events all over the world—and has learned so much about weddings along the way. Ahead, the floral designer shares her big-day essentials, which have been curated over the course of her global experiences.
A floral budget that allows the vendor to create.
If you want bespoke, artful wedding florals, says Underwood, make a larger flower budget a must-have. "I can't work with clients who don't have a budget, because I can't bring to life their dream or vision in the style I work in," she explains. "It's not in excess—but my style is abundant, and because I bring art into my events, it's more of a couture experience, versus something that is mass produced." Allocating more funds toward your blooms, however, doesn't have to increase your total overhead—but you'll need to make flowers a priority (and consolidate elsewhere!) in order to give a floral designer with a big, colorful aesthetic room to breathe.
A myriad of floral, foliage, and fruit varieties.
"I'm only as good as my ingredients," explains Underwood, which is why she says a florist who has access to multiple markets all over the world is an absolute must—especially if you're in the midst of planning a destination event. "I go out of my way to pull from different alleys—I use farms, locate different sources native to the area, whether that be the Netherlands or Italy. I go as far as shopping for fruits in the grocery store to find these ingredients."
Lots of ranunculus.
"The variety is beyond—there are so many different types," she says of ranunculus, her all-time favorite flower. "Their colors are the most beautiful; there are so many different shades and textures. Plus, they have flexible stems—they create a dance party in the arrangement."