Demystifying Your Florist — A breakdown on the value and worth of floral design
Ask an artist what their most challenging experience is as an artist, and they will most likely tell you that advocating for their own self-worth and the value of their services takes the cake. Unfortunately, the majority of consumers think of art as an unnecessary luxury or someone’s fun past-time; and no wonder, for how can you put a price tag on something that is as subjective as time, or a feeling, or a social movement inspired by a particular piece of art?
We all work hard for our money and with ever-increasing economic costs, it’s important to understand where your money is going, which is why education on the inner-workings of art and the artist’s process is integral to understanding the value of these services.
Below, I share information about how the floral industry works and explain what is involved in designing and executing a wedding. I can only speak for myself and my experience as a floral designer in Victoria, B.C and recognizer that every florist has a different approach. I hope that in sharing this information, some questions may be answered and doubts dissolved.
So, where does your money go, when you invest in a florist?
If you enjoy gardening, in any capacity, you know that it’s not all blossoms and bumble bees. There is tedious planning involved in mapping the garden beds each year, sore muscles from preparing beds, tending to fiddly young seedlings, constantly worrying about temperature drops and droughts and endless battle with pests who, in one fell swoop, can destroy a crop.
On a local level, flower farmers are often a small team of committed nature-lovers or a determined family who has turned their passion into a small business. They often include local florists in the planning phase, working tirelessly to predict trends and provide product that is unique and valuable. Preparation of the plots begin in the cold, early months and spring is reserved for planting hundreds of seeds, tubers, corms and seedlings. The threat of frost, drought and pests weighs heavier on these micro-farmers; if a crop fails, it’s not just the investment that is lost. Farmers rely on the profit from these crops to provide for their families and reinvest back into their gardens, one crop failure could mean the loss of hundreds of dollars.
The journey of imported product is downright whack — growers in the Netherlands, Israel, Ecuador, Australia, and Kenya (to name a few) ship their product via cargo plane to wholesalers across the country. It’s expensive (and extremely wasteful) to package living product that is meant to go on a cross-continental journey, not to mention the cost of jet fuel, and sometimes the shipping charges cost as much as the flowers themselves.
Once in Canada, product is trucked to various auctions where wholesalers wake up at ungodly hours to brave the crowds (and risk being crushed by flower racks) in order to purchase inventory for their distribution. Wholesalers often rely on a combination of product grown on their own property and imported product. It’s from these wholesalers that florists finally make contact with these blooms, after the cost of growing, shipping, and wholesaler mark-up is added to each stem.
Everyone has their own unique design process, so I can only speak for myself here, although I do believe that the fundamental principles governing design and creative process are similar across varying creative professions.
During the initial consultation, I note what the clients envision and create a design outcome using specific details and elements that reflects the desired — the bride’s grandmother loved sweet peas, the colour palate is peach, orange and blush, the groom hates roses, they want a lingering romantic fragrance, a 30 foot garland or a floral wall made from locally sourced seasonal flowers.
The time it takes to actually create depends on size, scale, flower prep and quantity. A typical bridal bouquet takes about 45 minutes, a bridesmaid bouquet about 30 minutes, a standard centerpiece about 30 minutes, a large ceremony arrangement about 90 minutes, and a large installation can take up to 3 hours!
There’s a lot more involved, hidden beneath the blooms. Materials include floral wire and tape, ribbon, knives and shears, pins, buckets, chicken wire, wood, or metal for various installation infrastructures and vessels for centerpieces and arrangements. I typically rent vessels to keep costs down, however this means I have to make arrangements to get them back, once the event is over.
I must have a clear understanding of what the client envisions. I do this a number of ways after the initial inquiry; I ask couples to work together to complete a personalized questionnaire that asks specific questions about colour, texture, quantities and, perhaps most important, how the client hope the event will ‘feel’. When possible, I invite clients for coffee to further discuss these details and, because the transaction of money for service is based on trust and a mutual agreement of the value of exchange, an in-person meeting helps to foster a positive relationship.
From these meetings, I present a design proposal and quote, which is tweaked until the cost is acceptable. I follow up one month prior to the event and offer to meet again to finalize details.
Based on the scale of the project, sourcing flowers can be a florist’s most time consuming task. We take the design proposal and quantify everything to create a ‘recipe’, which we then use to order product from, usually not just one grower, but many, since each grower will specialize in certain items and may have crops blooming at different times. If the design calls for a flower that is not in season or available locally, the product will be ordered from the wholesalers. If there are specific flowers and colours requested by the client, these are pre-booked at an additional charge to the florist.
I don’t charge for any correspondence or in-person consultations; the kilometres and time burned during these tasks are well-intended sacrifices I make to ensure the clients feel supported and happy with their experience. But this is not the only time I use my car. I trek all over Greater Victoria, picking up blooms from multiple growers and foraging for unique and quirky additions, taking great care in delivering every project well hydrated and free of broken stems and bruises, dropping off the bouquet for the first look before dashing to the ceremony venue to set up the arbour and then sprinting to the reception to adorn the tables, only to come back the next day to pick up vessels and installation infrastructure.