Today we are continuing with our series ‘What Do They Do? Tasks In The Life of The Wedding Supplier, focusing on the wedding florist.
As a big fan of all things floral, I completely understand the thrill and excitement of choosing wedding flowers. There are so many options, colours, styles, smells and a plethora of different ways they can be incorporated into your wedding to make it an absolutely stunning affair. One of the areas that isn’t so obvious, however, is the price at which these come. The cost of wedding flowers can come as a real surprise to couples planning their big day, and in recent years I feel there are two things to blame; massive American weddings, and social media (especially Pinterest and Instagram!). We’ve seen and are continuing to see an explosion of wedding blogs and shared images of utterly stunning, grand floral displays. I see them every single day via the pages and businesses I follow on Facebook and Instagram and it is hard not to be in awe of what can be achieved where your wedding flowers are concerned.
So why is it when you meet with your potential wedding florist for the first time or make an initial enquiry, you cannot have an 8ft floral arch, six 3ft hanging pomanders and all your bridal party bouquets, buttonholes and corsages for £200? I was lucky enough to have Joanna of Joanna Carter Flowers and Charlie of The Flower Fairies – two florists I have admired for a long time, take some time out of their busy schedules to answer my questions and find out more.
I asked about the start of the process, from initial enquiry to after the big day to find out what the ladies get up to in the planning of an average wedding.
Joanna explained; “The first thing we do is confirm whether we are free on the wedding date and whether we cover the area the enquiry comes from. We get enquiries from far afield and it isn’t always practical for us to travel to more distant venues. After that we send images from the venue if we have worked there before or if the Bride and Groom have given us lots of details of what they would like we will send pictures of similar pieces we have made before. We also send Pinterest boards, a price list and links to our Facebook pages. We try to be really thorough so that our couples can get to know us a bit”.
Charlie adds; “I always encourage a face to face meeting as choosing your flowers is not only a visual process but the number of designs and options is endless so it’s far easier to explain this in person. They can also then see all the props, vases, urns etc. that we have available to use too. Sometimes an initial idea of costs is needed so I offer some broad averages for key items and explain the various factors that can influence price. If they haven’t seen any examples of our work I always direct them to our website and social media pages where they can see lots of examples of our work and get an idea of the style and quality of the arrangements we produce”.
This initial meeting stage is highly important for the wedding florist in order to gain an insight into the couples requirements and offer options and styles to match their preferences.
Joanna; “We definitely try to meet all enquirers unless the couple are abroad. We spend at least an hour with our couples looking at images and discussing their flowers. Wedding flowers are a really visual thing and looking at pictures together helps me understand what a Bride loves or hates, so it is key. It also gives a couple an hour with me where they can decide if they feel comfortable with us and our approach. We recognise that we are being trusted to help create the vision for their day and they need to get to know us”.
Charlie; “From initial enquiries nine times out of ten we would meet either at my studio or at the venue, it’s rare that we don’t meet before the wedding as choosing your flowers is a very personal process and I really like to get to know a bit about my couples so that I can reflect who they are in the flowers too. I also think it’s important for them to get to know me too so they can have trust and confidence in the service they will get. Building a relationship is so hard over email and is so much better face to face. I don’t charge for consultations but if subsequent meetings are required at the venue or alternative places I do charge for expenses such as travel”.
How much time on average do you spend responding to an enquiry, including meetings, telephone calls, emails, etc before the business is confirmed to you?
Joanna; “An enquiry, meeting, quote and follow up emails will take on average 6 /7 hours to complete before a couple decide to book”
Charlie; “This varies a lot, sometimes a couple can book off the back of one phone call, other times I can spend an hour or so with initial emails, between one and two hours in a consultation, up to two or three hours on the initial quote, another hour or so revising or tweaking the quote and sometimes even another meeting before the booking is confirmed”.
The initial enquiry process is time consuming, as we ascertained in our last post about the Cake Maker. Many hours can be spent collating information, meeting potential clients, drawing up quotes and designs for what may or may not result in confirmed business. For the wedding florist, this process is absolutely necessary, as it is the information gathered and relationships formed at this stage that eventually assist the florist in the creation of a work of art that is individual to each and every couple they work with. I asked the ladies what they do to remain competitive in a busy and demanding industry
Joanna; “It is a combination of providing excellent service by responding quickly to enquiries, preparing thoroughly for meetings, having a contemporary website, being active on social media and having fair prices. We also keep up to date with floristry and fashion trends by attending events, searching the web and working closely with our wholesalers and suppliers to know what’s new”.
Charlie; “I try to convey the kind of service and end product that my couples will get is above and beyond, it’s a very personal approach and that if it is just about cost I am not the best choice of florist, although I will always offer ways to manage their budget. However I recognise that I am not the cheapest but it’s not my aim to be, as I believe I offer a service and product that commands a slight premium. At the end of the day flowers are a creation, it is a form of art and a style that therefore appeals to some but not all, I have certainly learnt over the years that I can’t be everything to everyone and be confident in what I offer”.
As discussed initially, the cost of flowers isn’t cheap when it comes to weddings and what couples typically like to incorporate. But it is not just the cost of the individual flower that makes up the prices charged, as explained by Charlie;
“My quotes include the cost of the materials used, the time to arrange each item, any items hired, delivery and set-up. It also includes what I believe to be a high level of customer service, and my availability to answer questions, solve problems, provide alternative designs and solutions is endless. These days Brides are more involved in their wedding flowers and the number of ways flowers are being used at a wedding has also increased. The demand to provide the next big idea, something different that their friends won’t have seen before is higher than it’s ever been. Therefore the follow up conversations and communication is much more involved in the planning and organising of any wedding these days”
Joanna adds; “We have a policy of no hidden costs so we tell Brides the cost of each piece we are making, not just a vague package total. We include vases/equipment in those costs. We are also clear about VAT and delivery and we detail all this in a quote for all our Brides and Grooms”.
How much have you invested in your equipment, marketing and training? In what ways do you continue to invest?
Joanna; “We have a really comprehensive range of vases, rose bowls, plinths, candelabra and trees that are worth several thousand pounds. Without these items we wouldn’t be able to provide the broad range of choices that our Brides want. It also makes it so much simpler if they can source as much as possible from one source rather than having to go to another place to get tea lights or trees etc. Our biggest investment is in the brilliant team of staff who work for us. They are all fabulously talented florists who I am really lucky to have. They are really great!”
Charlie; “Over the years we have invested a huge amount in capital; three years ago we built a new workshop that not only gave us space to accommodate the growth in our business but also gave us a beautiful environment to welcome clients in for consultations. We are continuously investing in new containers, urns, stands, vases etc. I actually dread to think how much we have spent in the sundry area over the years buts it’s definitely £000’s. In terms of marketing we mainly invest in the development of our website as this drives most of our business and I think is crucial for that initial point of contact. There is the usual office equipment investment too as two to three days a week are spent sat in front of a computer (definitely worst part of the job!)”
In the same way as it is for the Photographers in one of our previous posts in the series, equipment and investment formed a huge part of the prices quoted to couples, and this can be one of the hardest areas for those working outside of the industry to understand. All the background work, investments, staff and more amount to thousands and many are costs that are required to be spent regularly, such as the need for annual Public Liability insurance, licences and subscriptions.
Joanna; “Sometimes we are asked to reduce our price or negotiate a rate and where we can make changes to a piece to make it more affordable we will. We try to find a balance between the look and cost of a piece to help our brides with their budgets. Sometimes we are asked to provide arrangements that are very large or very elaborate for an unrealistic price and then we have to say no”.
Charlie; “We are sometimes asked if we can reduce our prices and I will always offer different designs or solutions to either meet or get closer to their budgets but sometimes the requests are unrealistic. My quotes however also include lots of different cost options for each arrangement so they can see what the preferred design would be and how they can par it down or up”.
Have any couples ever declined your service due to price?
Joanna; “Yes, we love flowers and tend to work with brides for whom the flowers are a really key element of their day. This means that we are usually chosen by couples who want to invest a little bit more in their flowers rather than having a budget look or style. Having said that we try hard to be realistic with our pricing and to do as much as we can to help couples use their flower budget to best effect by moving ceremony arrangements to use in the reception etc”.
Charlie; “Yes they have and I accept that when it comes to price I am not the cheapest but this is where the product and service we provide is not just about price. For some clients flowers play a vital part of their day and are willing to perhaps make sacrifices elsewhere to get the flowers they dream of. For others they are not so important and are prepared to sacrifice on quality or a certain look to reduce their costs. I think it must be very hard for clients to really compare two florists’ quotes on a like for like basis as each florist will interpret the brief so differently and use a very different number of flowers in each arrangement which can significantly affect price. That is why it is so important to really get a good feel for your florist’s style and quality of work by viewing an extensive portfolio and building a relationship with them that ensures there is a good rapport and communication. They can be confident in trusting that what they get will reflect the price they are paying”.
How much time do you spend working on a wedding, and what do your tasks entail?
Joanna; “Most large weddings where we provide bridal work, ceremony flowers and reception arrangements will take 2 days for the team to produce. In addition there is the time choosing and ordering the flowers, buying sundries and cleaning vases / stands etc as well as collecting items we have hired for the Bride and Groom . This doesn’t include the time in the run up to the wedding liaising with the Bride and Groom over the details of their order and the delivery arrangements. We are normally at a venue for 1 to 3 hours on the day after clearing away. We then wash everything and clear up our workshop ready for the next event”.
Charlie; “Two weeks before the wedding final tweaks and adjustments to numbers will be made with the client. Then ten days before a full stem count is done, working out exactly what flowers and materials are needed for each arrangement. The flower order is then placed and I will liaise with my wholesaler to ensure availability is good and there are no problems with supply. Sometimes adjustments to varieties are made which involves more communication with the client. Any sundries required are then ordered and checks are made with staff. Calls are also made to the church and venues to check delivery and set-up times. Two to three days before the wedding the flowers are delivered to our workshop and a day is spent conditioning the flowers and prepping delivery boxes, cleaning vases, preparing props. A final email to the couple is also made at this point confirming final costs. One to two days before the wedding the arrangements are made (these are long days often starting before 8am and finishing in the early evening) The morning of the wedding is always an early start usually 7am to do any wiring and finishing of bouquets with ribbons etc. Packing the arrangements for delivery often takes an hour in itself and then unloading and putting everything in situ ensuring it looks perfect following transportation can take between one and three hours sometimes more depending on the number of delivery points and arrangements ordered. Some items can only be arranged on site on the day so this builds additional time into the day.
Following the wedding a full clear down of the workshop is required, washing of buckets, sweeping and cleaning the floors and benches, emptying bins etc. The day after the wedding all items hired are collected from the venue and washed and cleaned ready for the next one. Downloading pictures and managing our social media platforms is also a task that has now been included into our post wedding task list”.
It is clear from the description of the work that goes into an average wedding that not only does your wedding florist have to be good at what they do, but also highly organised, on the ball and committed to each and every occasion they are involved in. Joanna and Charlie in particular run their businesses to the highest standards, taking on this all-encompassing role and seeing each wedding through with a high level of detail and dedication.
Joanna adds; “My team is made up entirely of experienced florists with over 10 years each in the industry. We have been in business for 10 years this year and worked on over 600 weddings in that time. We have brilliant relationships with the major venues in the 3 counties we work in. All this helps ensure the weddings we work on run smoothly and brides feel confident in their choice of florist. In addition we are not a high street shop but are wedding specialists so there is nothing to distract us from the event we are working on”.
What do you love most about the wedding industry and what encourages you to work within it? What is the greatest pleasure you get out of your job?
Joanna; “That’s easy. The variety of gorgeous flowers we work with to create a different look for each Bride’s day. I never fail to get excited by a new rose or new flower combination we use. In terms of weddings I love the moment when you hand over a box of bouquets to a Bride and you see the wonderful reaction on her face when she sees her bouquet. I love the sheer delight that we see and have had tears on a few occasions from Brides who have been overwhelmed by their bouquets. Its lovely!”
Charlie; “My biggest love and joy is actually working with some of the most beautiful creations the world has to offer; flowers. There is nothing like a delivery on a Thursday morning and excitedly opening all the wraps of flowers, even now after 9yrs of being in the business I am still discovering new varieties. It goes without saying too that the moment I hand over a bouquet to a Bride is also a pretty special moment, happy tears are always a real joy! It is always at this point when everything is set-up and I finally hand the bouquet to the Bride that I am humbled they have let me play such a privileged part of their day, it is truly an honour! It is a job that continues to inspire and challenge me and after 9 years that’s saying something”.
Is there anything you dislike about the industry?
Joanna; “I am sometimes envious of people enjoying a lazy summer Saturday picnic or walk , while I dash round Oxfordshire and would love the traffic wardens to be more understanding when you are trying to deliver in central Oxford but other than that any downsides are more than made up for with a lovely feeling when you know you have delivered someone’s ideal vision for their wedding day”.
Charlie; “The only thing I struggle with is when you can see clients getting too caught up in the details of the day, allowing the stress of organising such a big event to overtake the real reason behind the wedding”.
The main point that struck me when talking to the ladies is that as business owners they have had to learn and adapt to become all-encompassing where customer service and correspondence, social media presence, administration and marketing are concerned; these ladies are not just florists and the need to be and do everything well is testament to their abilities and the reasons why they are so highly renowned.
It is clearer to me since speaking with Joanna and Charlie that aside from the expenses and commitments of running such a business, what they do and stand for is the art of floristry. Flowers can help create the entire design and theme of a wedding day; they are a centrepiece, a focal point and their colours, styles and smells help to create the lasting memories of such special occasions. Without the talents of florists, weddings would look entirely different, and I have an increased appreciation of a florist’s work as an artist; with the ability to create something beautiful and individual time and time again.
Joanna made an important point that is relevant to all couples seeking a florist for their big day:
“Sometimes customers will see images online that they ask us to recreate for them. It can be hard to do if the colours have been altered using photo shop or the flowers they want aren’t in season. We try really hard to be precise and accurate about issues like colour, durability and availability and will always say right from the word go if a flower is out of season or there is a danger we cant source it. Trust your florist to do the very best they can and listen to their advice about alternatives or colour and I think we can add real value. Try and use someone who knows your venue and can make suggestions about the best use of flowers there. We are very honest with our brides and try to use our knowledge of their venue to help them make good choices”.
Interested in contacting these fabulously talented ladies for your big day? Visit their websites and find out more:
Charlie, The Flower Fairies – www.theflowerfairies.com
Joanna, Joanna Carter Contemporary Flowers – www.joannacarterflowers.co.uk