"I can't think of anything more stressful than weddings." And that's from someone who isn't even going to be walking down the aisle. Brent Pritchard, an independent wedding floral designer, wants the flowers at a wedding to be perfect. If the flowers aren't gorgeous, Pritchard says, people will overlook them, and you've missed an opportunity to enhance your wedding.
According to florists, the easiest way to end up with spectacular wedding flowers is to have a give-and-take relationship with the florist you choose. Meaning: You give the florist an idea of what you like and want. You consider suggestions from the florist and take the ones that suit you. You give the florist some flexibility on varieties of flowers.
Michael George, a New York florist whose work has been featured by Martha Stewart and Oprah Winfrey, says that half of his clients know what they want, and his company makes their dreams a reality. The rest of his clientele is more challenging. He estimates that 20 percent turn all the decisions over to him, based on his reputation; 20 percent have bad ideas that he and his staff try to dissuade them from; and the remaining 10 percent he calls "impossible." "They say nothing," George says. "They know nothing. They have no personality. It's like pulling teeth to deal with them."
Louis Guerra, a floral designer with Takashimaya, an exclusive department store in New York City, says it's useless to ask a florist for a bid unless you know some basic details: how many people are coming, for example, and where the reception will be held (so the florist has an idea of the kind and number of arrangements needed).
Brent Pritchard echoes the sentiment. "I want to take a person's ideas and elaborate on them to the fullest," he says, "whether that means using almost nothing but baby's breath or using hundreds of roses." But the person needs to offer a starting point for him. And sometimes he guides a person away from what he considers bad ideas.
Flexibility figures in when it comes to choosing specific flowers. Takashimaya's Guerra points out that having your heart set on a specific flower may prove expensive if it's not in season during your wedding. "A classic is lily of the valley. But if you're not getting married between the last two weeks of April and the beginning of May, it will cost a lot," he says.
Dawling recommends that brides give their florists some leeway on which flowers end up in arrangements. She explains that sometimes the flower she discusses with a bride isn't the best-looking flower in the shop when it's time to prepare a wedding's flowers. "Sometimes the product will look better with a substitute," she says. "If we have the flexibility to do that, we can make truly beautiful bouquets."