During a phone call this morning with a client in the throws of planning her 2017 wedding, we had a rather frank and refreshing chat about MONEY (insert ominous-sounding music here?). Now, British folks are not generally great at talking about it, and I think I often startle customers with my openness to cost-benefit discussions. Basically, I’m open to discussions about anything really, and I don’t like hiding things!
Since you’re probably here because you’re planning a wedding and need help with your flowers, I thought I’d take the opportunity, while it’s fresh in my mind, to let you know my stance on all this scary budget stuff. I’m gonna put it all out there. I can’t speak from a photographers perspective, a wedding planner’s perspective, or that of any other supplier, but when it comes to flowers, I know a fair bit. Please excuse me in advance for what will inevitably be a long post!
You know it, I know it, it’s obvious- not all wedding pros are created equal. Some have a stack-it-high and sell-it-cheap approach (and that’s A-OK, so long as you/they can manage your expectations and you get what you require from them in terms of service and product), and others put huge emphasis on service and what that means to their clients. I’m in the latter category. I don’t price myself out of the market… I need to work to earn money to pay my mortgage right? But I do need to charge enough to account for the level of service I provide and my time spent doing that work.
And make no mistake, the level of service you receive is a MASSIVE part of what you’re paying for. Let me explain…
Before you see your flowers on the big day itself, in fact before they are even in our workshop, a lot goes on behind the scenes at JP-HQ… welcome to the wonderful world of being a wedding florist!
Initial enquiries: This is the emails, phone calls and social media messages that arrive almost daily from prospective clients. In January, a busy time for bookings, I spend almost half of each working day replying to these and arranging appointments.
Meetings and consultations: Whether in person, on Skype, or on the phone, these can be anywhere between an hour and three hours in length depending on the size of the wedding and complexity of the couple’s requirements. These meetings are often in the evening or at weekends to fit around the couple’s own work and family commitments. Now, I do around 60 of these meetings per year at the moment. And not everyone books (that’s ok, I’m not to everyone’s taste). It’s a lot of hours though!
Quoting: On average, I spend 2-3 hours compiling a wedding quotation, pricing up different options, creating a unique floral scheme, playing with colours and ideas, sourcing pictures for inspiration. This is one of the most creative parts of the whole process. I have to prove with my quote that I understand the vision for the day and can create something perfectly in-tune with it. That’s quite hard. It requires an extensive knowledge of flowers, floral products, current trends and the seasons. But I think I do it well (so I’ve been told!).
Follow up: Now we enter the post-quote, pre-wedding phase. The phase where everything can go quiet till a month or two before the wedding. Or plans can change, bridesmaids can multiply, venues can close down (that actually happened this week- new venue, new quote required!)… There may be several more amended quotes sent out, and countless emails pinging back and forth with new ideas, price adjustments etc. For one wedding, it is quite normal for me to answer 50+ emails from my client during the planning of it.
Finances: This is the logging into the online banking to check deposits and balances are received (and if not, another one of those lovely emails needs to be sent) and invoices and receipts are kept up to date and sent to clients. It all takes time, and is a very important bit of our work. If I don’t have the finances straight and good cash-flow, how can I possibly feel confident to provide for my clients many months or years in advance of the wedding itself?
Mid-way through all this, I think it’s worth noting that I am in no way complaining. It is all part of the job, part of the service. I’m happy to do it, I really am!
So now comes the exciting bit! The actual flowers! But not before some more paperwork and planning goes on of course (seriously, without spreadsheets my life would be a mess!)…
Finalising arrangements: This is not only finalising with the couple the actual flower arrangements we will create for the day (see what I did there?), but also things like calling venues and churches to discuss times and logistics, waiting for them to call back because they’re busy too and can’t come to the phone right now, and working out how long it will take to drive everywhere with the inevitable bank-holiday/summer traffic that happens round these parts every weekend. I might need to book extra vehicles if our van isn’t large enough for a job. I have to organise staff for those super-busy weeks. And I have to create the often epic, several-sheets-of-paper-stuck-together master spreadsheet, detailing exactly what flowers will be going into which designs, the containers, mechanics and kit needed, and the dates all of it needs to arrive from my suppliers (usually several different suppliers for different things, all arriving on different days). That one spreadsheet alone might take 2 hours or more to put together. I know florists who don’t do it this way, but I have to say I couldn’t live with the potential chaos that might ensue from not having this masterplan! I’m kinda known by my other florist friends as the spreadsheet queen- works for me!
Ordering the flowers: This is a finely tuned operation; a balancing act between getting the best quality, but also getting good value for money so we can give the client as much for their dosh as possible- from literally thousands of different options. And if something isn’t growing as well as expected that year and some flowers are in high demand or just not available (the world has weather people), I’ll need to spend extra time figuring out alternative blooms to give a similar effect overall.
Prep: Now the fun really starts! Oh, hang on, more prep to do first… Vases need to cleaned, candle holders need to have the previous wedding’s wax melted off them, buckets need to be sterilised and filled ready for the flowers arriving, bouquet presentation boxes are wrapped… this can take hours (days if it’s a particularly large or glass-heavy wedding), but is essential for achieving a polished finish on the day.
The flowers arrive: Cue more prep. Rose thorns stripped off every stem by hand, conditioning treatments performed on every thirsty hydrangea, everything individually cut and placed in water at the right temperature. This happens over several days, depending on which flowers are chosen- some need longer to open to their full, beautiful potential, others are more of a last minute job because they’re prone to wilting and don’t last very long.
Making the pretty: Finally, we get to make up all the bouquets, buttonholes, centrepieces and ceremony decs. This is the fun bit! It requires dexterity and skill, knowledge of design, a good eye, strong hands and stronger legs and feet (It is practically impossible to arrange flowers sat down!).
Please note at this point how much shorter the ‘making of the flowers’ section is! Weird huh?
Delivering the pretty: For a large wedding, and some smaller ones, this usually involves an inhumanly early start (5am average), careful driving of huge vehicles full of flowers, several locations for drop offs, a lot of carrying heavy things up and down stairs, setting up things whilst avoiding getting in the way of catering staff, more lugging of heavy things, more stairs, more driving. You get the idea… Saturdays in the summer are haaaard work. They are also the very best part of our job. When the scene is set and I’m taking a few pictures of our efforts before the guests arrive, it’s a rush. Once the adrenaline wears off and I’m left with the tiredness it’s pretty gnarly, but the RUSH is worth it. Making someones day truly magical is a very special feeling indeed.
Now, multiply all that work by 40-50 weddings per year (current level for us), and you start to understand how hard we work. And I actually turn down a fair amount of weddings because I don’t want to overbook and compromise on service.
Your wedding flowers will cost a lot more than a regular bouquet from a shop or a bunch of chrysanths from the supermarket. It is all that ^^^ effort and service that you’re paying for. And I’m not even going to start going into the general overheads/running costs of the business, vehicles and premises, or the time I spend on marketing, social media and all that jive. I’ll save that for another time maybe.
I just wanted to be open and put out there what you get for your money with us. I don’t want us to not talk about the money and what all that time is worth. Tell me your budget. If it’s unrealistic for what you want, I’ll (gently) let you know, and we’ll see what you can afford. I’m married, I had a budget for my own wedding, I know what it’s like… You just keep adding zeros onto the end of everything it seems! Due to the efforts required as shown above, the flowers are no exception. But talk to me about the money, and I will not judge… promise!
Thinking about it, I don’t want to hide anything else about this business from potential clients or the people I work with/for. In fact, I feel more posts coming, revealing more about our practices and ethos… But the first one this year had to be about the money, because frankly, without the money there is no point having a business at all!
Watch this space for more… and for more info about actual prices, check out this post.