If you haven’t read Part 1 of this blog then backtrack and get to reading! I outline 4 reasons why you should go down the DIY path. In my professional experience as a wedding florist and my personal/anecdotal experience as a DIY bride, I really believe you need to start by asking yourself “Why do I want to DIY my flowers?”
Now let’s get into it! I will talk about 1. Flowers and Foliage (where to get them and how to prep them), 2. Non-floral items you’ll need to get the job done, 3. What you’ll need in your workspace/set-up, and 4. What the time investment will look like. This is not a step-by-step tutorial about how to make a centrepiece or bouquet. This is all about getting your ready to organize and run this *big* DIY project.
Flowers and foliage:
You’re going to have to figure out where you will buy your flowers from. I’ve heard a few people who have had success buying bulk flowers from a place like Costco. Big box discount chains have huge volume deals with their own suppliers so you can expect to get a good price but a very basic selection. If you’re looking for basic roses (in basic colours) and economical foliages/fillers then great. On the flip side, if you love the kinds of designs I create using lots of different tones, textures, speciality blooms and foliages – then this probably won’t meet all your needs. Be ready to get flowers that are wrapped in bunches of 10, 12, or 25 stems depending on variety. They’ll be full of dirt, thorns, and tattered leaves. This is exactly how pro-florists get them. TIP: Be ready to take a few hours to unwrap everything, check and clean all the stems and recut them into fresh water. Some varieties are more delicate and subsequently more complicated to deal with. Make sure you do some research so you know if there are any special instructions to keep your blooms looking their best. TIP: Also get ready to scrub your fingernails for a while once you’re done – you’re going to be dirty. Goodbye manicure!
If you want a step above basic, you’ll probably have to find another source. A possible option is asking a florist if you can buy bulk flowers from them. If the florist agrees to give you better-than-retail pricing be ready to do all the mental work yourself, i.e. coming up with the stem count for each flower variety and researching any special care the individual varieties might require. Do not expect the florist to tell you how many stems you need to complete your wedding or what should go into each arrangement unless you are paying them to do this work. It can take hours to create recipes for each arrangement and come up with the appropriate amount of flowers for a given budget.This is a labour-intensive part of the design process and a florist shouldn’t be expected to give that away for free.
TIP: Make sure you order extra stems in case of breakage or product failure. A pro-florist’s full retail pricing helps cover these extra stems when they’re doing a wedding so if you’re not paying the full retail value, do not expect the florist to cover this for you. You might also be surprised to find out how expensive some items are even with “bulk pricing”. For instance, garden roses are PRICY AF. Don’t even get me started on it. If you are after specialty or premium flowers like garden roses understand that (1) they might be difficult to source given seasonality or other factors that affect any global commodity market (2) they might be way more expensive than you expect. These are issues that pro-florists deal with all the time. TIP: Be ready to accept substitutions if your first choice isn’t available/feasible. Trust your florist when they make recommendations based on seasonality.
TIP: Finally, local farms are a great option too. Just know that your bulk order will be completely at the whim of the local weather. You might not get exactly what you wanted so being zen/easy going is extra important if you go this route.
Have a think about what else you’ll need besides flowers. Where are you getting the vases from? Are you also going to have to buy a bunch of bricks of floral foam? What about a handful of floral clippers for your helpers to use? How are you going to transport the arrangements once they’re done? When I say this I mean both transporting them from your workspace to the venue but also packing them up so they are easy to transport. Are you going to have to borrow or rent ($$) a big vehicle that will accommodate the boxes? TIP: Remember that cardboard gets soggy fast so line boxes properly or plan on using plastic bins. Keep in mind, those big rubbermaid bins cost around $5-15 each and all the other stuff really adds up too. Don’t forget ribbon, pins for boutonnieres, and buckets, lots of buckets! This stuff adds up. A lot.
If you are getting married in the peak of summer heat, you’ll need to make sure you have someplace cool(ish) to work and store the flowers. TIP: A cool basement or garage or an air conditioned spare room will be necessary. You’ll also need access to running water. Since I got married in Toronto an hour from my studio, I decided to rent an AirBnB from Wednesday to Monday. The space was big enough to accommodate all the flowers and was nice enough that my hubby and I felt a little bit pampered too. Make sure you have space for all your buckets, counters/tables to work at, shelves to place finished arrangements…etc.
Since flowers are perishable you’ll have to pick them up a few days before your wedding. TIP: If you’re getting married on a Saturday, aim to pick-up on the Wednesday or Thursday. Depending on how many pieces you need to make and how many helpers you have, you should expect to spend all day Friday making your arrangements. I used this as a pseudo-bachelorette party with my friends. We drank sparkling wine, made arrangements and ate pizza – basically exactly what I would have wanted in a bachelorette party anyway. If you’d prefer to spend the day before your wedding at the spa, you will want to rethink this DIY project.
Tip: Also consider who will be delivering and setting-up all of your flowers the day of the wedding. There is no way I’d recommend the Bride commit to doing this herself. It can be sweaty and tiring work schlepping heavy boxes full of glassware, water and delicate flowers (especially if it’s August). I would also count bridesmaids out – they’ll likely be getting dressed with you and taking bridal party photos with you before the ceremony. You don’t necessarily want them sweaty and stressed out! Make sure you’ve found yourself a set-up crew that can take this off your plate completely. For my wedding, I was *so incredibly lucky* to have my then boss, Becky, the owner and creative director at Blush & Bloom, and Alysia, a beloved friend/co-worker, deliver and set-up my flowers as a wedding gift. If not for them, I would have had to wrangle other friends to help out. TIP: Whoever takes on delivery/set-up, make sure they have a vehicle that will accommodate all those boxes without spilling water! If they don’t have a van with lots of floor space, multiple trips might be necessary – plan your timeline accordingly.
The bottom line is taking care of all of the florals for a wedding is a huge undertaking. Once you account for all the time, mental and physical labour and the extra purchases (clippers, buckets, potentially renting a vehicle or workspace) you might find that DIYing isn’t actually going to save you as much as you first thought. That is exactly why wedding florists do this as a business – it is a specialized set of skills needing a specialized set of tools/set-up and it must be done on a very tight timeline.
If you are still totally excited, have a happy crew of helpers who are equally excited, a relatively simple vision and you are feeling zen and easy going, then I say go for it! Cost out the whole job, be thoughtful about your flower order, make a detailed plan/timeline and my final TIP: Practice, practice practice. In the months before your wedding give yourself a few opportunities to make some arrangements and bouquets with no pressure. You will feel so much more comfortable when you are doing it for real.