This LA-based celebrity florist recently designed Ashlee Simpson's wedding and coauthored the book Fabulous Parties. Here are some of his secrets for throwing a chic celebration.
How do you describe your floral and design style?
It's very full and bountiful: We use flowers en masse, but in a streamlined way. Lately we're choosing flowers that are larger and more sculptural, such as calla lilies and cymbidium and Phalaenopsis orchids, with limited filler so the look is very clean and not at all fussy.
What's a big wedding trend you're seeing?
All of a sudden, I'm seeing more themed receptions. For Ashlee Simpson and Pete Wentz's, it was “Alice in Wonderland,” which was a unique request but turned out great. It was all black and white, with red flowers, and the head table had a tea party design with black teacups and pots. For another couple who wanted a beachy feel at a nonbeachy hotel, we used coral-colored manzanita branches and shells, and panels of water with floating flowers.
Any dramatic details you suggest for fetes?
I love to create an entrance to the reception that says, “Something fabulous will happen here.” For a recent wedding, this meant gigantic gates covered with manzanita. Sometimes it's giant boxes of flowers on each side of the entrance, or drapery tied back with blooms. A beautiful candlelit exit is wonderful, too, so you end the night on a strong note—it's like dotting the last “i” on your way out.
What's a common mistake you see brides make?
One mistake that brides make is to not have a budget in mind when they first meet with their florist. You should give your florist an idea of what you want to spend on flowers so that you aren't wasting your time or his or her time. I do get people that come in, and they want the world. Then I'll do the estimate and they'll be like, "Oh, no, we only want New Hampshire."
You've worked with everyone from Fergie and Josh Duhamel to Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi. What is it like designing weddings for celebrities?
I think it's a little different because most celebrities know that the wedding is going to be photographed and will usually be seen by millions of people. They want to put their best foot forward and present themselves beyond just having a romantic ceremony. So if it's someone like Gwen Stefani, she has such a specific sense of style that we have to reflect that in what we do. For Fergie's wedding that we just did in January, I think the design reflected not only what she wanted, but also the way she and Josh live their lives.
Is it important for a bride to have a vision in place before she meets with her florist or wedding planner?
I think it depends on the bride. I have brides that come in who have a pretty good idea of what they want and what they don't want. I had one bride who had been planning her wedding since she had been five years old! There are other brides that may come in and say, "I don't know what I want." So we start that process and it's interesting—people do know what they want. They know what they like and they know what they don't like.
Has there been a celebrity wedding that you especially enjoyed designing?
Ellen and Portia's wedding was very interesting because it was a true original. Portia had very specific ideas about what she wanted color wise. I think we did something very original in the design by using very faded pink tones with amnesia roses and faded pink garden roses. It was also something special to be part of that particular wedding because it really made a statement. I think it was the first really major celebrity gay wedding that was out there.
Are there ways to get a luxe look for less?
You can do this by using tall centerpieces of silver candelabra with long ivory tapers rather than a big ball of flowers. Not only is this better for your wallet, it's also better for the sightlines of your guests since it's a slimmer setup. Hang a simple garland from the tapers, and add flowers in small vessels to the table. With the room dimly lit, this looks very elegant and dramatic, and it's easy to pull off with a limited budget.
Do you have any last advice for brides and grooms?
It's very important to enjoy the process of planning. This is a huge milestone in your life. It can be fun to put the details together—to think of the ideas and then watch it all develop. It's like building a house! Get the best people, work within your budget, then let go of it and enjoy.