Wedding Flower Blues

Spring Manhattan Wedding, photo by Josh Goleman

Spring Manhattan Wedding, photo by Josh Goleman

Hiya love birds … February is a romantic time of year - and even more romantic for those of you who have enjoyed an eventful engagement season. We’ve been hearing from so many couples regarding their upcoming nuptials, and I have to say, while I love hearing all their visions, I hate being the bearer of bad news when it comes to educating couples about the expenses of wedding flowers.  And not simply because I feel like kind of dasher of all dreams wedding related!  But because we talk and talk during our call, and, being an enthusiastic sort, I get all giddy along with my couples thinking about their celebration, until, their gasps of disbelief audible, we get to talking about a realistic floral budget for all that we’ve discussed. And then my excitement plummets with theirs as I realize that this couple – this being the first time and perhaps only time they have thrown or will throw a party involving lots of flowers and décor, had absolutely no idea of what any of this would cost and are, in the throes of all this romance, about to feel very disheartened.


So here I am. Blogging about it. Hoping that these couples will read this before becoming too attached to their visions.

Hoping that it will make them feel better not only about their florists but the myriad other vendors you are working with and wondering why they are charging you an arm and a leg, or why they are requiring that you commit to a hefty minimum in order to garner their attention.

It is not because we want to take advantage of you.  Trust me. I don’t think I have ever not gone over budget for a wedding, or ever not given more than a client has paid for  And I would venture to say many floral designers are in the same boat. Because if I can make a generalization about floral designers with confidence it’s this: We really like things to be pretty!

Spring Brooklyn Wedding, photo by Amber Gress

Spring Brooklyn Wedding, photo by Amber Gress

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The cost of wedding flowers are simply high because there are so many darned labor hours, totally invisible to the eye that encounters only a beautifully finished product, perfectly placed, on the day of.  On your big day, with any luck, you will find your bouquet and centerpieces looking so perfect that you have no doubt they simply fell from the heavens, but I can assure you they did not! As otherworldly as I hope your décor seems, it did not simply appear. There was a huge amount of labor outside of floral arranging itself, starting with proposals, consulting, designing, sourcing, pulling and prepping vessels from inventory, collecting flowers from the market, loading and unloading, processing hundreds to thousands of stems, packing and delivering, setting up and breaking down! ……. Phew, I am tired just having written all that.

So I am writing to give you a lens into it all – to help you wrap your head around these giant price tags. Here is my quick summary about why décor ends up being so costly.

  • Cut flowers are expensive, point blank. Even for florists. Did you know that one stem of Ranunculus, fro example, wholesale, can be anywhere from $1.50 to $3.50 per stem? There is a large range of costs per flower stem, and several factors that affect market pricing for those stems at any different time such as supply and demand, seasonality, whether locally grown or not, or the cultivar of a particular flower. For example, weddings around Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day will have a substantially higher cost per stem.

  • Many more stems go into an arrangement then you’d think.  A medium-sized centerpiece, for example, can easily have 50-60 stems in it, depending on flower/greens types. Plus, the more variety of flower types, the more bundles of flowers needed for purchase. Having heart set on glossy Pinterest photos of bouquets and centerpieces that are completely filled with premium flowers also doesn’t help a couple looking to save on flowers.

  • Consulting for full service wedding design over the course of contract can take many. many hours and is not usually billed for, which is why most florists have minimums for full-service wedding design.

  • Floral production usually begins only 24-48 hours before your ceremony for guaranteed freshness, and so involves long hours, lots of staff, and lots of prep, and often higher budgets than planned due to perishability and/or stem breakage. Usually 5-10% of all flowers purchase are unusable (from being broken, bruised, or spent), and so 5-10% more than needed is usually purchased, a cost your florist absorbs.

  • Delivery, set up and breakdown will cost you in NYC! Once décor is produced, it is then very carefully packed, loaded, and transported . Load ins can be difficult, even at venues with easy access, and unpacking, touching up and placing  décor takes time. The more elaborate your design, the more staff and time it takes to set up. As for break down, if it’s late night as most venues require, it will definitely cost you. I mean, who would go out in the middle of the night for a couple hours work without expecting to be really well compensated. I can’t speak for other florists, but I know that our breakdown prices are break even! Lastly, keeping or renting a van or truck in NYC is neither inexpensive nor convenient. 

None of this means there is no help for those with smaller budgets. I am just trying to give you first-time fancy party-throwers the lay of the land.

 Some florists, including yours truly, offer an A La Carte menu for smaller weddings. In my studio we feel we not only offer this service, but have cracked the code as far as offering great design for a fraction of the cost of full service weddings. But our A La Carte service is not for everyone and will require that you are okay with fewer choices, and less consulting, to enjoy beautiful décor with a smaller price tag.

To inquire about a future wedding or event, click here.

Be sure to sign up for our newsletter, or check back in soon for our design hacks for making your wedding beautiful without breaking the bank!

Top left by Shannen Natasha, top middle by Ein Photography and Design, top right by Amber Gress, bottom left by City Love, and bottom right by Spencer Lum

Fall Manhattan Wedding, photo by Julian Ribinik

Fall Manhattan Wedding, photo by Julian Ribinik

Winter Re-set

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If you're anything like me, you are feeling a bit crestfallen about the false promise of snow this past weekend in NYC. I've enjoyed a thick blanket of calm since the holidays, but I've yet to experience that ultimate quiet - when you wake up to find that everything around you has been silenced by snow - and I find myself craving that right now.

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 I love the way snow looks of course - that dense white purity which covers everything at the same time as it puts it all into relief - so that, for example, a garden's structure might be visible in a way it wasn't in seasons where myriad textures and colors obscured it.  But really I love that first heavy snow fall because it snuffs out all the visual noise of the past year so that we can approach color and texture with fresh eyes, with a renewed interest in the structure and architecture of things.

Snow silences a scape in some ways at the same time as it reveals it in others. We see for the first time, the arc or the reach of a Hemlock limb, the lattice and snarl of vines climbing up a building and made skeletal by snow, we see a constellation of small boulders in a field. And, it is simply beautiful and calming and pure. I can't think of a time we've needed that more.

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Taken by  living.wine

Taken by living.wine

So I say bring the storms. Let's be snowed in for a day!  Let's look at the outside world from behind our windows at first, and notice all the things we've never noticed and that snow fall has brought into high relief. And later, when we've taken those ghosts of summer in, the grasses tumbled by snow, those forgotten and spindly Echinacae and Eryngium now crowned with ice, let's venture out into it for the sensation of cold on our cheeks, that feeling of scraping fallowed by thaw from the snow that slips into our boots and chafes our bare skin. Let's have our slates wiped clean so we can first reflect then go out into the new with clear minds.

 

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Big, Leafy Drama

If you are anything like me, you are just dying to say, with conviction, "spring is here." 

We've had so many false starts in NYC  this year. Everything seemed to be going so well, with February feeling positively balmy - so warm, in fact, that on a mid-February visit to a client's terrace I saw that last season's Gardenias - not even close to hardy in our zone - were still alive. And the star jasmine? Looking positively verdant. A first in my gardening career. But that was before the mid-March snow and freezing weather. And before, with my tail between my legs, I hopped a flight to Florida where I could drown my sorrows in seas of big green foliage.

Four Arts Botanical Gardens

I indulged in the landscape immediately, wandering the sand trails of the Hobe Sound Wildlife Refuge, and then finding my way to the tamer, yet no less glorious Four Arts Botanical Gardens. And there I basked in all that big, leafy drama, feeling a little jealous of the proportions of it all, wishing that every once in a while I had something a little meatier to stick my green thumbs into, a northern equivalent to that mammoth Philodendron that was scaling the rough bark of a native tree. 

Photos, top left and two below, Four Arts Botanical Gardens.

And then I remembered. The little jewel box patio in an UES townhouse we are installing this spring, with palms and ferns infinitum, touches of Chinoiserie and faux bamboo furniture. I cannot wait to make that little hardscape of bluestone and wood into a lush oasis of soft fronds and ferns cascading from wall mounted planters and springing from each corner.

And then there is that June wedding, in a raw industrial space, just begging for strong, architectural fronds, that somehow manage to soften the space while staying in keeping with the modern lines of it all. 

While standing there in the sun, I thought of all that, and remembered why I was there. For warmth, of course, but mostly for inspiration, and hope. Because those are what the growth of green things give me.

A centerpiece sample for an upcoming wedding.

A centerpiece sample for an upcoming wedding.

Follow us on Instagram to see this spring's gardens and weddings! @alexabuzadesign