When it comes to wedding flowers, there are so many things that play a part in your final design, colour palette and ultimately the price. We don’t want wedding flowers or conversations with florists to be intimidating or confusing, so we interviewed two amazing Calgary florists to get a better idea of what goes on behind the scenes, to educate you on what makes flowers high end, where to stretch your budget and more. Keep reading to see what Brittany from Pine For Cedar and Kelly and Lindsey from Fall For Florals have to share.
Where do you bring in your flowers from?
Brittany: All over the world! We have brought in blooms from Holland, Japan, Italy, California, Florida, Mexico, Ecuador, Costa Rica, South Africa and Israel. In the summer when blooms are more available locally (BC/ AB, Washington, Oregon), we try to source what we can from local farms, however a lot of sought out varieties just don’t grow in our shortened growing season and cooler climate.
What does it mean to process flowers?
Brittany: When our flower order arrives they come tightly packed with most blooms in their bud stage or just starting to open. Growers will cut flowers at this stage to give the bloom the longest vase life possible, as well as it is easier to package and ship blooms avoiding damage when they are at this stage. So processing entails un-packaging the flowers, removing thorns and excess leaves, and getting the stems into water and flower food so that the blooms open up at the right time for our wedding or events. This process usually is a whole day in the studio. Then we wait for the stems to hydrate overnight before we can use the blooms in our arrangements on design day.
We pick them up from the suppliers, they are received in 10-25 stems per bunch
Fill up appropriately sized buckets and vases – different flowers like different amounts and temperature of water to hydrate
Unbox and unwrap all the packaging
Clean each stem by removing the foliage below the bloom
Cut all the stems individually at a 45 degree angle and put them directly into water
Blooms get hydrated for 6-12 hours before they get used
This process takes anywhere from 4-10 hours depending on the size of the wedding
What’s the main difference between flowers at the grocery store and flowers from wedding florists?
Brittany: As flowers are sold at an auction, the blooms you are seeing sold in grocery stores are the blooms that didn’t sell at the auction, which means they have been reduced in prices by as much as 75%. As flowers are perishable, if they don’t sell at the auction they are happy to sell them to grocery stores for less just to get them out of the coolers to make room for next week’s flowers. So when we are putting an order in for specific flowers, in specific colours for a wedding, we are automatically getting a higher price than a grocery store would get. This is why most of the blooms you see at a grocer are in brighter or saturated tones or are more common flowers that wouldn’t be ordered for a wedding. When you do see Peonies or high quality flowers at a grocery store, that just indicates a larger supply at the auction that weren’t able to sell at regular prices. This is what wedding florists are up against, as we do not control the price of blooms in any way.
What’s your best suggestion to stretch your floral budget?
Brittany: Consider what is being photographed. Your flowers are perishable but will last forever in your wedding photos. First – hire a professional photographer to capture your day (and your blooms) and then consider what photos you will print to look back on. Photos like your bridal party portraits, your ceremony, your family or VIP, your head table or sweetheart table, your first dance, the cake cutting etc. Prioritise flowers in the spaces that will undoubtedly be photographed – so leave out the ladies bathroom arrangements (I swear this is a thing – moms who are more traditional are famous for insisting these are needed!)
Lindsey/Kelly: Rather than trying to stretch your floral budget try focusing on a few “wow factor” pieces. We would suggest this over having an incomplete or sparse look all over.
Where should you splurge or go big?
Brittany: That depends on what part of the day is most important to you. If the ceremony and vows are what you’re most looking forward to, focus on a stunning arch or backdrop. If you are most looking forward to the reception dinner and speeches, focus on an epic head table or centerpieces. If the party & dancing with your guests is the part you are most excited for, a large hanging installation above the dance floor will be incredible.
Lindsey/Kelly: Ceremony florals and your bridal bouquet. These both tend to be some of the most floral focused photographed areas.
“If the ceremony and vows are what you’re most looking forward to, focus on a stunning arch or backdrop.” – Brittany
Do you have any formal education or on the job training?
Brittany: I have a Floral Design Certificate from Mount Royal University. It is a continuing education program and there are three levels to take in order to get the certificate. This provides very basic training and teaches the more traditional methods of floral design. I have also assisted with other floral designers in the city and learned so much more from them on the job. I have also taken several online and in person workshops to learn from specific floral artists. With most things, practice makes perfect and the more your work with flowers then the more comfortable you become with them and work to develop your own design style.
Lindsey/Kelly: Both of us have informal training from the various flower shops we worked at prior to Fall for Florals. We also watch a lot of videos from seasoned florists on Instagram/YouTube. Trial and error is also another great way to learn. We’ve also attended a couple in-person workshops from the U.S and Korea and have adapted their techniques here.
How many hours would you say you put in BEFORE the wedding (feel free to give a reference of wedding/wedding party size)
Brittany: From consultation, to proposal/ quote, research and development, invoicing, to design board creation and presentation meeting, to delivering client file & welcome gift, to final design meeting and then flower ordering – all done before the week of the wedding – I spend a minimum of 20 hours on my clients regardless of wedding size. The wedding week itself will have vessel/ bucket sanitization, picking up and processing blooms, designing arrangements, packaging for delivery, delivery and set up on the day, then clean up and composting. This will vary depending on the size of the wedding order but generally it’s a minimum of another 20 hours that wedding week and up to 50 hours for larger weddings. So on average, I spend between 40 – 70 hours on a client’s wedding florals.
Lindsey/Kelly: Based on a 100 person guest count with a $4000 floral budget within Calgary (does not include delivery, set up or take down) pre-covid:
Consult/quote/emails/revisions/ordering: 12-15 hours
Processing/designing/packing: 30-35 hours
Delivery and set up: 3-10 hours
What do you consider mid range blooms? High end blooms?
Brittany: A lot of what makes a flower high end rather than midrange is based on the variety or tone of the flower and the supply of that flower. If a specific variety is in high demand and low supply, it will be considered a premium or high end bloom. Mid range blooms are anything we have high supply of and less of a demand. These would be your more saturated, brighter toned blooms, which are not always sought out for weddings. In terms of flower types, we usually see a larger supply of basic carnations, daisies, tulips and basic roses that are always in season and grown in mass quantities. Some blooms are only available for a three to four week period so have a super low supply and high demand and end up higher cost. These would be spirea or flowering branches in spring, or peonies in the early or late season. Trend will greatly affect the cost of flowers and this increases the demand. It’s all economics based as the flowers are sold at a weekly auction.
Lindsey/Kelly: More common flowers such as Roses, Lisianthus, Spray Roses, Carnation, Tulips, and Eucalyptus would be considered midrange blooms. Whereas, Dahlia, Ranunculus, Sweet Pea, Hellebore, Anemone, Spirea, and Frittilaria are more specialty flowers with a higher price tag.
What are some of your favourite blooms?
Brittany: I love roses – they are durable with a sturdy stem, have a decent vase life and symbolize romance, so they just fit weddings perfectly. Ranunculus is my most used flower as it comes in a plethora of shades and lasts well out of water (think boutonnieres, corsages, flower crowns etc.) and can be manipulated with floral wire in different ways to create different shapes. My favourite line flower is Astilbe. It offers such a beautiful fluffy texture and my favourite filler flower is wax flower, which has a woody stem and citrus scent. WAY better than babies breath!
Lindsey/Kelly: We love Sweet Peas, Zinnia, Fritillaria, Dahlias, Phlox, Ranunculus, Spirea and Pieris.
Describe your floral design style.
Brittany: My design style is wild, unique and natural as if growing in a garden with a large variety of flowers in my arrangements designed in an airy way to show more of the stems and blooms (rather than tightly packed into round balls). I love incorporating unique ingredients and blooms that speak to the couples style, history or heritage.
Lindsey/Kelly: Feminine, natural and sophisticated.
What is your favourite piece to design?
Brittany: I love designing ceremony arches, backdrops and hanging installations. Creating a large floral piece is so rewarding, it’s like painting a wall mural in a fraction of the time. These statement pieces really make an event feel special and wow your guests.
Lindsey/Kelly: We absolutely love creating bridal bouquets and designing archways and ceremony florals.
What’s your fave local venue to design for?
Brittany: This is tough, there are so many great venues in and around our city! Within Calgary, I would say Venue 308 – it is just such a perfect location for a wedding and the design and decor has weddings in mind. Out of the city, I love The Gathered. Their clear tent and gorgeous gardens on their property make for a spacious and relaxing venue for a larger wedding. It is such a sacred and calming place and I love working with their team. In the mountains, I have loved Buffalo Mountain Lodge – their ceremony location looking out at Tunnel Mountain is breathtaking!!
Okay what’s one fun fact about you?
Brittany: I love hobby farms and one day my husband and I aspire to have a few acres to grow cut flowers and trees and have all the animals. We are both fascinated by growing our own food and raising animals.
Lindsey/Kelly: Prior to being a florist Lindsey wanted to be a fashion designer and Kelly wanted to be a lawyer. Lindsey’s favourite candy are Blue Whales and Kelly’s favourite candy is Sour Patch Kids. We are both animal lovers. We’re fries, cookies and chips kinda gals and will never say no to a steeped tea from Timmys!