If you’re in the midst of planning your wedding, whether you just got engaged or had to postpone your 2020 wedding due to the coronavirus pandemic, you’re dealing with the same set of extenuating circumstances as any other couple. In addition to planning during a full-out wedding boom—a year where more couples are getting married than they have in decades—some couples are also having to fight tooth and nail for a very important attribute for their big day: flowers.
Yep. There is currently a massive flower shortage as a result of the pandemic and it seems to be having lasting impacts on the wedding industry. Of course, some people might be wondering how a viral illness can affect flowers. But, what a lot of people don’t realize is that just as airlines shut down and concerts went away, many farms—from California to South America—also had to lay off people, notes Christy "CeCe" Todd of CeCe Designs and Events in Birmingham, Alabama.
How the Floral Industry is Affected
"Most of us know somebody whose business closed during the pandemic. Unfortunately, floral farms weren’t excluded from that,” she says. “Where we might have had 3,000 floral farms, probably one third of them had to close due to the pandemic.” The EU Flower and Live Plants sector and market, for example, lost an estimated $1.2 billion in the first six weeks of the pandemic alone, according to the International Flower Trade Association.
Where we might have had 3,000 floral farms, probably one third of them had to close due to the pandemic.
“During the shutdowns, crops were not tended to properly which had an impact on the production. But, it wasn’t necessarily felt until months later when those crops were being harvested,” explains Joan Wyndrum, florist and founder of wholesale flower company, Blooms by the Box. “Some flowers and greens were picked at the incorrect time just to meet the growing demands, which led to further shortages and subpar products.”
This, coupled with lack of labor, was also a factor for these farms, notes Wyndrum, as it was near-impossible to keep things running without workers and products. But, one of the biggest hurdles farms had to face was transportation—both internationally and domestically. “When we can source a product, getting it to the U.S. or its final destination has been a problem. This domino effect has led to the flower shortage here in the U.S. that we are still trying to rebuild from,” she says.
Even for farms making a comeback, there are still challenges ahead. “Farmers are challenged by crops, which take years of growth, cutting, and seasoning,” notes Todd. “With the pandemic, there was a year where the crops were still producing, but they might not have been cut because there was no place to sell them, or they were unfortunately thrown away. So now, it's going to probably take another year for them to get back in rotation properly.” On top of the pandemic-related issues, South America had the worst rainy season it has ever had in years. “The rain damaged so much crop that, now, they are producing literally half of their regular output,” says Todd.
For all of these reasons and more, florists have a lot to deal with as they scramble to make every single client’s wedding-day dreams come true. The conversations over which flowers will go best with their wedding colors and theme have now transformed into what blooms may not be available on top of slanted price increases. In fact, Bron Hansboro, owner of The Flower Guy Bron in Richmond, Virginia, notes that florists have witnessed double or even triple the cost of product that were relatively inexpensive before COVID. “This has created quite an obstacle for the industry, and many designers are choosing to eat that cost rather than impose a higher price for their clients," he says.
How Couples Can Plan Ahead and Prepare for the Flower Shortage
It goes without saying that couples planning a wedding right now are going to have a unique set of circumstances that couples who’ve come before them did not have to deal with—and much of this will have to do with their flowers. “Offerings will be different, so I think that couples should expect some potential substitutions for unavailable flowers and even expect more usage of preserved and dried products incorporated into their design as appropriate,” says Hansboro. “That said, your florist shouldn't really make you and your partner feel that uncertainty, as we're on top of things and want that trust to make your day look beautiful—flower shortage or no flower shortage.”
Here, floral experts share their best-kept tips for planning a wedding during a massive flower shortage.
Book Your Florist Early
While a florist might not be one of the top vendors you think to hire ahead of your big day, Todd recommends making them a priority. It's not just because of the flower shortage, though. The wedding boom is also making an impact. “We just had a year of weddings that got pushed so you’re competing with couples that booked with us years ago,” she says.
She also recommends doing your due diligence with who you hire for your wedding day. “Yes, there is an appeal to having a fresh and new florist that’s the same age as you, but they likely do not have the same level of experience and that especially is key during a crisis,” she says. “Book seasoned pros who can help navigate inevitable challenges, especially now.”
Be Flexible and Open to Change
You can be precise about what you like in terms of color, palette, and style, but it’s important to leave the nitty-gritty details up to the experts. “There’s a huge difference between being okay with ‘white flowers’ on your big day versus demanding Parisian Ecru and asking that everything match to that perfectly,” says Todd. “Think in broader terms such as, ‘I like this type of design or this style of flower.’”
Trust Your Florist
“Sometimes clients come to florists and try to dictate everything and totally forget the reasons why they hired them—because they loved their style and trust their artistic abilities,” says Kimberly Sisti, owner and lead floral designer at Sisti & Co in San Diego. “There is nothing more frustrating than a client that tries to micromanage a professional, let alone during COVID floral shortages.” She urges couples to trust their florist to make their day beautiful, even if your flower selections have to change. “Don’t forget that we’re on your side,” she adds.
Increase Your Budget
Although this is probably the last thing most couples want to hear, Sisti points out that the increase in flower prices will directly affect couples planning a wedding in 2021 and beyond. “If a couple's wedding was designed pre-pandemic, the costs have increased to produce the same wedding,” she says. “If you absolutely cannot increase your budget, then let your florist suggest alternatives, whether it be smaller arrangements or different flowers.”