By Teresa P. Lanker
Some florists find the fun in wedding work to be the consultation process—helping future brides plan the weddings of their dreams. Other florists enjoy turning those dreams into reality through the design process. In between, a perhaps less fun yet critically important step is preparation of the flower and supply order.
For many, this is a tedious process that is postponed as long as possible, sometimes until days before the wedding. It’s easy to procrastinate on this task, and as many suppliers will attest, plenty of florists do. So, to streamline your wedding and event ordering process, consider these steps.
1. Plan ahead. Get into the habit of compiling lists of your flower and supply needs shortly after each consultation, perhaps while preparing customer estimates. This way, important details will be fresh in your mind. When booking consultations, allocate an hour or more beyond the appointment time to plan a preliminary requisition list.
2. Start small. Begin the list-making process with small flower-specific items such as corsages and boutonnieres. Then proceed to other wear and carry flowers, all of which usually require rather specific types and quantities of floral materials. Repeat certain flowers throughout the designs in order to develop a unified wedding look while simplifying the ordering process.
3. Make sketches. Rather than imagining each design concept and guessing at flower needs, make a sketch of each one, roughly drawing each material following the sequence each normally would be added while designing. No matter how elementary, save these sketches with the flower order to remind you later of what you planned to design.
4. Develop recipes. Use the sketching process to help establish recipes for each design including planned quantities and colors of the flowers. Note foliage quantities too, using fractions for bunches that are sold by weight rather than stem count. Be realistic about the amount of material necessary to green or fill in a design. Overestimating on every design will result in a considerable surplus.
5. Do the math. Use your chosen wedding pricing system (preferably with an increased markup to cover the extra labor involved) to assure the recipes meet, rather than exceed, the prices agreed to by your client. Adjust recipes as needed to bring them in line with prices, or you’ll automatically reduce your profit margin.
6. Tally materials, spreadsheet style. Use your recipes to compile fresh materials lists, using rows for each individual flower, foliage and filler needed. Use tally marks after each listed item to represent the number of stems needed and fractions for foliages and fillers sold by the bunch. Once you’ve worked through each recipe, total the quantities needed for each item.
7. Streamline. Review the resulting materials lists by converting stem counts to bunch counts. Allow a reasonable buffer for breakage or damage, especially for more fragile flowers. Reconsider items that require you to purchase an entire bunch when you need only one or two stems. Often, a subtle change in a single recipe can eliminate the need for the extra stems.
8. Plan substitutions. Be realistic about potential availability issues, and prepare a list of second choices that will help your supplier fulfill your needs to the best of his or her ability. Be clear about what is most important, such as color, variety, stem length and so on. Allow room to fill in needs for flexible items with the best market values available the week or two before the wedding.
9. Reverse the process. For large events or even for a few large designs, reverse the planning process by choosing flowers available in case lots, then determine recipes based on the portion of the case allocated to each design. For example, if a reception includes 50 table centerpieces that will each include Alstroemerias (sold 15 bunches to a case), then the case would provide three stems per centerpiece. The recipe would be devised with this specific Alstroemeria count in mind.
10. Order early. Take advantage of all your planning to reap the benefits of early ordering from your suppliers. The bigger the order, the earlier you should place it. A month or two ahead gives your supplier lots of time to seek the best sources for your special needs and to notify you of potential shortages. Make a habit of having your wedding and event orders well organized and submitted early, and you’ll greatly increase your chances of having just what you need, precisely when you need it.
Teresa P. Lanker is assistant professor and chair for the Horticultural Technologies Division and coordinator of Floral Design and Marketing at The Ohio State University Agricultural Technical Institute. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.