While every aspect of your wedding is important, few pack as much of an immediate visual punch as the florals. Not only do they instill a space with a sense of romance, they also convey that your wedding day is one of excitement and celebration.
“Florals change environments,” says designer Shean Strong. “And the investment you put towards your flowers will dictate how your guests experience the day.”
Meet the Expert
Shean Strong is an Atlanta-based floral designer and wedding and event planner. His work has appeared in Brides, Veranda magazine, Architectural Digest, Martha Stewart Weddings, and more.
This means, of course, that you’ll want to take special care when selecting the pro that will create the floral moments for your big day. Read on for Strong’s expert insight into how to pick a wedding florist—including how to talk budget and address bad reviews—and you’re sure to match with a vendor that will make your wedding dreams come true.
Some people start sourcing wedding inspiration years before they get engaged, while others come into the planning process with a ring on their finger, and well, not much else. There’s absolutely no shame in either approach, but if you are starting with a totally blank slate, it’s best to first consult your on-the-ground resources. Got friends or colleagues that married in the same area? Ask them for recommendations. Even better: If you’ve selected your venue, request their list of recommended vendors. The floral designers on that list will be familiar with the space, and thus will know how to maximize its beauty and make the most of your budget.
Recommended vendor lists don’t always prioritize diversity. If you notice a lack of BIPOC-owned businesses in the group, be sure to expand your research beyond what’s suggested.
Finally, if you’re working with a wedding planner, put your trust in their suggestions. It is their job, after all, to bring your wedding vision to life.
Know the difference between a floral designer and a florist.
“A floral designer is going to be curating a design, and knows how to work with a vendor team,” explains Strong. A florist, on the other hand, is more likely working out of a brick and mortar shop selling arrangements a la carte. If all you need is a few small elements that can be picked up ahead of time (think: bouquets, boutonnieres, a small number of table arrangements), a florist can work just fine. But if you’re looking for someone to provide expertise on how to activate a space or bring a theme to life, and hope to include larger elements that need to be built on site, such as floral arches or floral chandeliers, the services you’re after will more likely align with those of a floral designer.
Match your aesthetics.
Floral designers are creatives at heart. They got into the business because they love making beautiful things, but beautiful means something different to everyone. So, for the best results, don’t try to fit a round peg into a square hole when it comes to selecting your vendor. If you love ethereal, loosely composed designs, don’t hire someone with a portfolio filled with tight, traditional styles. The “compromise” you’ll arrive at while working to meet halfway will likely only disappoint both parties—and that’s the last thing anyone wants on an occasion as momentous as a wedding day.
Don’t rely solely on Instagram.
Once you’ve found a floral designer whose style resonates with yours, it’s time to dig a little deeper. An Instagram grid is a great starting point, but it’s often dominated by self-selected moments of a designer’s best work and outtakes from styled shoots, which don’t always reflect what can be created while working on a budget.
To get a more multi-dimensional sense of a vendor, Strong suggests switching over to their “tagged” photos for a quick look into a less curated version of their work. The next step is to peruse full galleries of weddings they’ve worked on. If you fell in love with a vendor’s bouquet, this will help you understand what their style looks like when carried through other elements of a wedding. It will also help you understand what they’re able to create with different budget levels.
Talk about budget.
Speaking of budget: pricing compatibility is a huge part of picking your floral vendor. Floral service costs vary widely and can increase dramatically based on a number of factors, including guest count, flower preferences and seasonality, and design choices. All that to say: It’s pretty much impossible for a designer to put blanket prices on their services—hence why you rarely see them publicly listed. To get an initial feel for where you might land, start with 10 percent of your overall budget. (If you’re after an especially lush look, or know you want to incorporate off-season blooms or major statement displays, up that amount to 15 or 20 percent.) Share that number with the floral designer, along with your guest count and any must-haves. From there, they can give you an honest take on what they’ll be able to deliver with the funds available.
Ask more questions.
Beyond budget, there’s also a few logistical matters to clear up. How many weddings does the vendor work on per weekend? Will they personally be present to oversee your event installation, or will they send someone else from their team? Who will be handling clean-up? “An experienced designer will give you those answers ahead of time,” says Strong, who notes that these initial conversations are also the time to inquire about communication preferences as well as the amount of control you’re able to have over the final vision.
Couples booking a floral vendor a year out or more may have the option to do a real-life mockup of a table design or bouquet, but that will come with an additional cost.
For most couples, working with a floral designer will not require as much regular collaboration as working with a wedding planner, so you don’t have to be perfectly in sync. However, having clear, agreed-upon expectations will go a long way in ensuring both sides are satisfied with the final product.
Read their reviews.
But treat them as a barometer, and not the deciding factor. “I think reviews are another tool, but not necessarily the only go-to,” says Strong. “They’re not always a fair or even truthful assessment of someone’s work.” If a vendor's reviews are mostly negative, that’s definitely a reason to shy away, but what do you do with one or two unsatisfied clients in a sea of happy appraisals? Strong’s advice: Ask the vendor directly about what happened in those situations. “If they were in the right, they won’t have a problem explaining,” he says. “If they’re apprehensive about it, though, that might be a red flag.”
Keep sustainability in mind.
Along with catering, florals present one of the biggest opportunities for waste on a wedding day. If minimizing your environmental impact is a top priority, there are a few additional components to consider when picking your floral designer. Opting for someone who works predominantly with locally-grown blooms is your best bet, but if that’s not possible, there are ways to mitigate additional energy consumption. “Ask how they dispose of their blooms”—composting is best— “and what materials they use when designing,” suggests Strong. “Chicken wire and floral frogs can be reused, but floral foam is more of a one-time thing.” You can also inquire about the possibility of donating the blooms after the event.