This is a special guest post from one of our favorite Washington DC Wedding florists, Meredith Wallace from Rocking Bird Flower Co. This post is on How to Choose Flowers for a Wedding! Want to see more wedding planning tips? Visit our Wedding Planning section here!
As a wedding florist, the first thing I hear from couples is usually that they don’t know anything about flowers. How to choose flowers for a wedding? If you’re not super into floral design (and sometimes even if you are) wedding flowers can be overwhelming! There appear to be endless choices – colors, textures, styles – endless price points, endless decisions. Finding someone to guide you through the process also presents a range of options. In densely metropolitan areas like Washington DC and the DMV, we have LOTS of florists, but when you’re searching for that perfect vendor, the plethora of options can morph into a curse.
So how do you choose a florist?
How do you choose your wedding flowers?
After lots of conversations with couples, here are a few pointers I’ve developed to help with the process:
Identify Visual Quality
Most folks don’t have a giant pile of money to throw at a wedding. Hats off if you have the means to execute a Kardashian-style party but most of us live in the real world of limits and budgets. So unless you’re planning on hiring a professional design team to completely fabricate a space, your wedding florist is going to play a major role in decorating your venue.
Flowers are the primary visual tool for communicating your personal style and aesthetic, so you want to be sure that your florist understands who you are and what you’re trying to do. Do an aesthetic deep dive on your prospective florist. Stalk their Instagram. Comb through their website.
When you’re looking at a floral portfolio, ask yourself two questions. First, regardless of style or feel, what’s the visual quality of work. Personally, I’m not into tightly structured arrangements – they’re just not my thing – but I can appreciate a cleanly photographed balanced bouquet even if it is a tight ball of (healthy) roses. However, if you’re considering a florist who is not visually consistent, I’d be very cautious. You do not want to compromise on visual quality with flowers because that’s the only thing they’re bringing to the wedding. This is a little different than other aspects of your day.
For example, you may hire a cake maker who doesn’t make the world’s most beautiful cakes but they tastes so good so you’re willing to compromise on the visual component. Or you might buy a pair of shoes that aren’t visually fabulous but you know you can survive the night in them so that’s what you’re going to wear! With flowers, there is no compromise. You’re not tasting them, they don’t have to pass the “do these give me blisters” test. They just need to look good. And if you hire a florist who doesn’t consistently produce and advertise visual excellence, you may find yourself paying for work that isn’t worth it or even worse; detracts from the event.
Find an Aesthetic Ally
A wedding is a great opportunity to get to know your own taste. Do a mini-exploration into what you and your partner find beautiful. Use all the tools – magazines, Pinterest, Instagram, design blogs, museums, architecture, etc. What styles and moods are you drawn to? Once you distill that style into a few key elements – “we love funky colors” or “we love wild resplendency” – you’re ready to parse those visually excellent florists into categories.
Does this prospective florist present a lot of creativity with color palettes? Do they tend towards a natural look that maintains a sense of intentional design? Find the person who is regularly producing your type of work. Every few photos in their portfolio should speak to you, better yet, take your breath away. What we think is beautiful is deeply personal. Find someone who shares your sense of what’s attractive.
Know Your Budget
Flowers themselves are pricey, but the actual cost of the flowers in wedding arrangements usually constitute a fairly small portion of the actual cost of your proposal. What’s really valuable to most florists, and thus expensive, is their time. A lot of couples think that throwing candles on their reception tables and then strewing a few greens about with some loose rose heads and daisies (you know you’ve seen that Pinterest photo) is going to save them tons and tons of money. I can see the calculus flash by their financially-stressed minds: “We’re not ordering an actual floral arrangement, so this will be much cheaper!” It’s true that the material costs in these ‘greenery and candle’ scenarios are quite low. But don’t forget the labor. Who is going to do all that strewing? How long is it going to take to decapitate all those roses? Instead of spending money on actual florals, you’re going to be paying someone to strew the greens and place the rose heads. You’ll probably end up with something that looks cheap even though you paid a lot versus getting a proper floral arrangement that looks incredible. These are tough choices when you’re working on a budget, but you get what you pay for and your wedding only happens once.
Here in DC, we’re surrounded by a very diverse agricultural area and it’s great for flowers. Farms in Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania grow a variety of blooms throughout the year. I strongly recommend using local seasonal elements to my couples for a couple reasons. First and foremost, the product is usually superior to that of flowers flown or trucked in from other areas.
Perishable items like flowers are heavily refrigerated when shipped. A deep chill keeps flowers alive for a long period of time, which is great if you’re trying to supply different varietals all over the world, but it leaves you with a somewhat botox-esque product: frozen in time in a pretty obvious way. If the types of flowers you’re using for your wedding are in line with what’s seasonally available in your area, they’ll be gorgeous and radiant in a way that shipped flowers never are.
Building a wedding around completely imported flowers is also very risky. I’ve known florists whose entire orders of specialty blooms have been incinerated when they hit US soil because they had issues with customs. There’s a lot more room for disappointment with imported out of season elements. Refrigerated shipping is pretty awful for the environment and it’s also costly, so locally available seasonal elements are usually cheaper too. All good reasons to go seasonal!
Flowers can be overwhelming but if you’re working with the right person, they can be really fun and make your wedding day look great! A good aesthetic ally will create blooms that are at once personal and expressive. Amidst the chaos of wedding day, your flowers will remind you of what is beautiful, what you value and who you are.
Meredith E.S. Wallace is the creative force behind Rocking Bird Flower Co., a boutique floral design company based in the heart of Washington, D.C. She specializes in free-form natural arrangements that use as many locally sourced products as possible. A Montana-native, Meredith has always been interested in natural beauty and loves making D.C. just a little bit wilder.
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