feature story

from the mouths of brides

Five brides-to-be and recent newlyweds share the reasons they chose the florists they did.

by Morgan Chilson

Most brides spend considerable time, money and energy making sure their weddings are exactly what they've pictured, and flowers are one of the fundamental elements they use to create weddings that are uniquely their own. To give you the customers' perspective, we interviewed several brides-to-be and newlyweds to see what criteria they considered when choosing their florists.

Help Wanted: Must find wedding florist who will take my ideas and make them better; who will listen and understand what I want; who will stay within my budget; who will be on time the day of the wedding and go that extra step with service. Friendliness is crucial. Knowledge of religious customs is helpful.

Communication is a key component to the florist/bride relationship. For brides who may not be familiar with flowers, getting a good picture of what the florist is talking about is essential. Bride-to-be Amanda Henry (right), whose wedding to Daniel Lawson is in October in Houston, Texas, had some ideas about what she wanted but didn't know a lot about flowers.

I'm not familiar with various flower names, Ms. Henry says. One florist I met with had tons of fresh flowers, and they would bring them out and put pieces and colors together so I could see them.

Newlywed Ashwini Davison, whose Phoenix, Ariz., wedding was in May, liked that her florist (Y-Knot Party & Rentals in Mesa) drew small sketches of the designs as they talked so she could visualize the arrangements. With about 60 table centerpieces, ceremony flowers, a wedding party of more than 15 and large arrangements for special tables, Mrs. Davison wanted to have a good concept of what the floral designs would look like.

Most of the bridal customers with whom we spoke said it was up to the florist to elicit the information they need to tailor designs to the bride. I was really surprised at the extent the florist went to to ensure that she fully captured what Kevin and I were looking for simple, yet elegant and romantic, says Jodi (Carey) Heidinger (right), who is from Leduc, Alberta, Canada, and was married in St. Catharines, Ontario on Lake Ontario, near Niagara Falls on Aug. 19. The florist we dealt with [VanNoort Florists in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario] went over, in detail, our ideas for our special day and offered suggestions on how to create something unique just for Kevin and me. Those suggestions guided the couple toward flowers that would be most available on their wedding date as well as ones that would hold up well for the entire event.

  top 10 brides' suggestions

1 Ask lots of appropriate, probing questions to help you determine what the bridal customers wants, needs and styles are before making any suggestions. Then offer detailed suggestions tailored to each couple.

2 Familiarize your bridal clients with various flower types by showing them samples or photos as you discuss them. Don't use floral industry jargon (gyp, poms, carns, etc.).

3 Show bridal clients suggested color combinations using fresh flowers.

4 Show albums with current, professional photographs of weddings that you have done for other clients in addition to or in place of wedding flower selection guides.

5 Draw sketches of the designs you suggest so that brides-to-be can better visualize what you're describing.

6 Be as flexible as you can with bridal clients if they change their minds.

7 Study any religious and ethnic customs that are prevalent in your area, then advertise your expertise within those communities. Research any customs and traditions with which you are not familiar prior to a consultation, as determined by a preconsultation interview or questionnaire.

8 Offer innovative ideas to help bridal customers stay within their budgets.

9 Provide good value not the lowest prices but the best value for the money spent.

10 Provide extraordinary service that goes above and beyond what the clients might expect and what other florists provide.



listen well
Communication means sizing up clients, too, says Mrs. Davison. She advises florists to gauge the person's style or to ask questions to determine what it is.
Don't show me your coolest, hippest stuff, Mrs. Davison says. I don't want to be the trendsetter. [One florist] had wonderful ideas, great for a Beverly Hills wedding. I just wanted to have a normal wedding.

Myrtha Medrano, of Houston, Texas, will be married on Nov. 10, and she is thankful for the florist (Wedding Flowers by Lisa) who was able to help her construct flowers that fit her personality. When I started, I wanted much more trendy, contemporary floral arrangements, she says. But as time went on and I looked at pictures of the weddings [the florist] has done, I realized that I want something timeless.

learn religious customs
Mrs. Davison's May wedding in Phoenix presented a particular challenge because she and her fiancée had two ceremonies, an Indian (Hindu) ceremony on Saturday and a Christian ceremony on Sunday. We needed a florist who could cater to both services, she explains, adding that although floral needs were different for both ceremonies, she wanted the arrangements to have a common feel to them. Because the florist was familiar with Indian customs, Mrs. Davison didn't have to explain the nuances of what she wanted. For instance, a flower-garland necklace used in Indian ceremonies, called a haar, isn't like a Hawaiian lei and can be hard to explain to those unfamiliar with the custom. Mrs. Davison recommends that florists study customs and then advertise in newsletters of local community organizations and cater to those communities.

show professional pictures
Ms. Henry interviewed two florists for her Houston wedding and surprised herself by choosing the smaller and lesser known of the two (also Wedding Flowers by Lisa) rather than the one who showed her all the fresh flowers. [The first florist] had some picture presentations, including photos that were shot by an amateur, but they were kind of old, and I was disappointed in that, Ms. Henry relates. The second florist had tons of professional photographs of all her centerpieces and bouquets in beautiful albums. And she seemed to care a lot more about what I wanted.

Ms. Henry and our other brides noted that good pictures of work the florist has actually done were important in making their choices. Katy (Munch) Britton, of Lawrence, Kan., who married Clay Britton on Aug. 4, says she's picky but that she had more ideas about what she didn't want than what she did. There were a few sentimental flowers that had been used at her mother's and grandmother's weddings that she wanted incorporated, but she took full advantage of the idea books of her florist (Dalton's Flowers, Inc., in Overland Park, Kan.). There were real pictures as well as the trade stuff, so I could see what [the florist] was talking about when she mentioned a certain kind of flower, Mrs. Britton says.

give value
Brides want florists who give them excellent value, says Mary Charmoli, a bridal consultant and owner of Saratoga Weddings Inc., in Webster, Wis. They want florists who are going to give them something besides their mother's bouquet, something that's a bit innovative.

Giving value and being innovative sometimes feel like the opposite sides of a goal. But being creative can mean achieving the feel the bride wants without blowing her budget.

Donna Lutz was a bridal consultant for seven years, and in the past year, she put that knowledge to work for her daughter Kimberly's March 31 wedding to Jason Pacheco, organizing an Arizona wedding from her home in Omaha, Neb. With her experience, she knew how to stretch dollars with flowers and worked with a florist to implement some of her ideas, which included using some large flowers and a lot of greenery.

what it's all about
But really, what impressed Mrs. Lutz was the service provided by the florist, who even did things outside the technical floral scope, such as picking up chair covers for the bride. She was very accommodating, Mrs. Lutz says. I'd go over things, I'd change my mind. We revamped the budget five times, and she didn't complain once. She was very pleasant to work with and did an outstanding job.

That kind of word-of-mouth praise can't be bought. Indeed, many of the brides we talked to didn't interview florists, instead choosing to take the recommendations of friends, family and most importantly, bridal consultants.

Morgan Chilson is a business writer residing in Topeka, Kan. You may contact her by e-mail at morgan@exactlywrite.net.

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