Maybe you fantasize about a riot of colorful wildflowers—or perhaps you long for all-white bouquets. No matter your wedding style, a floral expert can bring those dreams to life. We asked three floral gurus for their tips and tricks for hiring a florist (or event designer!) who understands your vision. Before embarking on your own search for the perfect florist, read on.
Know Your Expert Options
When you're hiring for your wedding, the options go beyond your local flower shop. Job titles may vary, but you have two main choices: a floral designer or an event designer. If you already have a clear vision of the day, you can go with a floral designer, who will focus on the blooms, including bouquets, ceremony markers, table arrangements, and other décor. For more comprehensive help, consider an event designer, who will aid in selecting all the elements for a cohesive look, design, and theme, says Holly Heider Chapple, owner and lead designer and event planner at Holly Heider Chapple Flowers, in Lucketts, Virginia. That means not only choosing flowers but consulting on anything that contributes to the feel of your event, including stationery, rentals, linens, sentimental touches—even your gown, if you haven't picked it out!
Meet with a few candidates to decide what approach works best for you. Remember, popular vendors book up early, so you'll likely need to start your research soon after settling on a venue. Aim to have a signed contract 8 to 12 months before the big day if you can.
Make a Budget
You'll also need to figure out your budget—a good rule of thumb is for 10 percent of your total to be allotted to flowers. You might lower that if, say, you're going all out on food, or increase it if you want nothing but blossoms everywhere you look. Whatever you plan to spend, it's important to be honest with designers from the beginning, says Diana Venditto, founder and creative director of Eventi Floral & Events, in Towson, Maryland. And if you find a pro you like but can't afford the quoted price, ask if there are ways to work within your limits. For example, if you envision floral chandeliers, perhaps a trade-off, like more-subtle centerpieces, would make them possible.
Of course, there are other ways to cut costs. Opt for in-season blooms—which might mean giving up your beloved peonies for your end-of-summer wedding. Alternatively, use less expensive varieties (like daises!) if you're going for the wall-to-wall floral look; or, find a way to make your ceremony florals work during the reception. Most importantly of all? Avoid choosing a wedding date that coincides with a major holiday, like Christmas, Valentine's Day, or Mother's Day, when flowers are at a premium.
Next up, the fun part: imagining the overall look you'd like to achieve. Your favorite flowers are a natural starting point, as is your color palette, if you've already chosen it. Keep these in mind as you search for inspiration pictures: Do you like wild, over-the-top centerpieces, or do you prefer simple yet elegant arrangements? Are there blooms that you don't want to use? Flag designers whose aesthetic appeals to you. And the more ideas, the merrier—so put that Pinterest board to work!
Potential designers should be able to speak about not only flower varieties and design, but also logistics such as the number of events per day they handle, the people on their team, and their experience. "Established studios get the best blooms, no doubt about it," says Chapple. They simply have more resources—farms or relationships with vendors—so they get first pick of the highest-quality flowers, as well as the greatest variety. Plus, "experienced designers should be able to do any look," says Chapple, even if it's not represented in their portfolios. Don't hesitate to ask for examples in the style you want.
Trust Your Instincts
Your final decision shouldn't just focus on flowers. "It's about the overall vibe. Is the designer easy to talk to? Does she seem excited about your vision?" asks Megan Gray, creative director at Honey and Poppies, in Long Beach, California. The ideal, she says, is to be able to "hire someone whose work you love, and then let her do her thing." That way you can do your thing: Grab your bouquet, walk the petal-strewn aisle, and enjoy your wedding day.
Sign the Contract
Congratulations, you've found your floral match! When it's time to sign the paperwork, make sure that the documentation includes details, like delivery and setup information, dates, times, and locations for delivery, and the expected condition of the flowers (fresh, blooms open). Also make sure that the contract outlines all deposit and payment information—most vendors will ask for some amount, often 50%, at the signing of the contract, with the remainder due a week or two before the wedding. You should also request an itemized breakdown, specifying the price of every bouquet and arrangement and the number and type of flower in each. Feel free to leave flower type out, though, if you want to enable your florist to take advantage of any standout blooms in the market the weekend of your wedding—just in case something strikes his or her fancy.