This is a headline that I’d like to see splashed across the pages of a national newspaper! It is a subject that is very close to my heart, and one I don’t believe is addressed enough in the wedding industry. A lack of truthfulness about what wedding flowers actually cost can and does lead to a huge amount of frustration and misunderstanding for florists and clients alike.
The bridal press, blogs and social media are saturated with images of “luxury” flowers, flower walls and sumptuous hanging installations, which all makes great copy. They hunger for beautiful images of celebrity weddings and flower heavy photoshoots to fill their pages, which is perfectly understandable. A serious lack of information however for the client, about the work involved for a wedding florist to create these amazing displays, is not helped by the media and bridal press constantly telling couples that they can have it all on a budget of £500.
When I first started as a florist 26 years ago there were no social media or blogs to inspire. Brides went to their local florist and chose arrangements from a catalogue of commercially produced styles. The designs and flowers available were very limited, and I would often hear a bride say “I’ll have that one, in peach”. Today everything has changed, and it is rare now for me to meet a bride who hasn’t found her inspiration on social media. Pinterest and Instagram seem to be taking over the world and brides bring THEIR Pinterest boards to ME!
I must admit I have a love, hate relationship with Pinterest! While it can be an incredibly useful tool it can also be very misleading. Much of its imagery features incredibly flower heavy American weddings which have been photographed in Californian vineyards or New England gardens and this can lead to an enormous amount of confusion and disappointment when I tell couples that the flower heavy look they want will cost thousands rather than hundreds.
Let's face facts, apart from the cost of buying a home, the cost of a wedding is probably the biggest expense at one time that a couple will have in their lives. It is also a fact that American couples tend to spend more on wedding flowers than couples in this country, and photo shoots tend to focus on the lavish rather than the average.
There are many reasons why florists charge what they charge for providing wedding flowers. Firstly, flowers do cost money. We have all become so accustomed to seeing flowers in supermarkets at discount prices that we expect flowers to be cheap. Supermarket flowers are a completely different ball game and bear no resemblance to the industry I work in. Produced in colossal quantities for the mass market, they are sold with the marketing strategy of "pile it high, sell it cheap".
The vast majority of the flowers that wedding and event florists use are imported from Holland, with only 15% being grown in the UK. In Holland flowers are traded in euros, the exchange rate with the pound is against us, and fuel and transportation costs have rocketed in recent years. Inevitably this has seen an increase in wholesale costs, and florists have to pass these costs on to their customers. Unlike Asda, who can sell a bunch of spray carnations for £2.00 (which is what I used to sell them for in the flower shop where I first worked 26 years ago) we can't!
Of course being British, we’re often brought up to believe that it’s bad form to talk about money. Florists can become their own worst enemies when asking a prospective client about their floral budget, and I know from personal experience that there really is no shame asking a direct question. It can save a lot of time and embarrassment later on, believe me.
Any good wedding planner will advise their clients on how much money to allow for each element of their wedding. A rule of thumb for flowers is 10%. of the overall budget, depending on guest numbers, flowers used, the number of arrangements and work involved. For some couples this might seem an exorbitant amount of money to spend on flowers, to others no. It is however a useful figure to bear in mind.
To give you an idea of costings, here is a scenario for a
Central London venue for the ceremony and reception with a total of 80 guests using seasonal flowers and low table arrangements.
Bridal Bouquet – hand tied bouquet £85.00
Bridesmaids x 3 – hand tied bouquets at £40.00 each – £120.00
Buttonholes x 6 at £6.50 each – £39.00
Corsages x 2 at £15.00 each – £30.00
Ceremony Flowers – 2 large vase arrangements – £150.00 each – £300.00
Registrar’s Table – 1 small arrangement – £60.00
Reception Flowers – 8 tables at £80.00 each – £640.00
Cake Flowers – £50.00
Delivery, installation and clearance £150.00
Grand Total – £1,738.80
Bear in mind that certain flowers of course are always more expensive, more elaborate designs are more labour intensive and additional costs such as hire items, transport, petrol and staff wages, and the dreaded VAT have to be factored in, and can increase the final cost dramatically.
I spend many months preparing for a wedding, sometimes more than a year. The run up to a wedding can involve months of site visits, design meetings, quotes, re quotes, adjustments and mock ups of final designs. A wedding day for me can have a 4 a.m. start to prepare the bridal flowers, and a 1 a.m. clearance because the venue insists on everything being taken away at the end of the night. All this work has to be included into the final fee.
To the uninitiated many people think that my work finishes when I deliver the bridal bouquet. If truth be told many people think that mine isn’t a proper job at all. Over the past 26 years I’ve come to realise that the people who do think that don’t respect my work, attach no value to it and therefore think they have the right to negotiate my prices down. I have also come to realise that I have the right to say no.
Like everyone else, florists are in business to make money; so why should we feel embarrassed about charging what we charge? We work to earn a decent living, pay our bills and provide employment for the myriad of people involved in keeping our industry going.
Every year I take on a limited number of weddings. I don’t work every weekend because enquiries, like buses tend to come along all at once. I often have to turn down work because I’m already booked, and when I’m not I don’t get anything! Such is the nature of the business.
Choosing the flowers for a wedding should be one of the most enjoyable parts of the planning process. Professional florists are highly experienced, skilled and creative individuals who deserve respect for what they do. We work incredibly hard (often behind the scenes) to make a couple’s day look amazing, and what we do is reflected as the true cost of wedding flowers.