Special Report: Floral Wedding Design

By Sarah Van Arsdale on April 26th, 2012
floral wedding arrangement

Everyone loves a wedding. The bride, who of course is the centerpiece of the event, is glowing. The groom, perhaps relieved that the planning is over, is thrilled. Family and friends are giddy with celebrating the union of two people they love.

Because it's all about celebration, the people who work to create this happy scene tend to love their work, from the caterer to the photographer, and of course the floral designer, whose proficiency with petals creates the mood of the event, and ensures a magical feeling.

Rebecca A.S. Kim, owner and senior designer of Gardenia Floral Design in North Georgia, has found all the hard work involved in making a wedding picture-perfect can sometimes take over, but the joy of the occasion always comes through in the end.

"Ask any vendor associated with wedding planning – it's easy to get desensitized to the joyous occasions of our work. We work our hardest on Fridays & Saturdays, when the rest of the world is relaxing, "she pointed out. "Usually we have 80-plus hour weeks in the spring season, and often are the recipients of mis-directed emotional outbursts."

And yet, the reward is worth it, and not just financially: "The best part is when a bride says, 'It's better than I'd hoped for!' with tears in her eyes. I love being part of such important happy memories."

Rebecca Henry of Petal's Edge Floral Design in Washington, DC, is also often emotionally moved by her wedding work.

wedding bouquet

"There is nothing like the feeling you get when you present a bride with her bouquet, and she tears up or squeals with happiness, and you know you designed or built that bouquet," she said. "I feel good about being able to help people create those kinds of memories."

For her partner in the business, Gerry Rogers, it's the creativity involved in floral design that keeps her energized. "I am always amazed by how creative our work is," she said. "Being appreciated for the work is we do is just the cherry on top!"

But it isn't always easy; enjoying that "cherry on top" of a client's satisfaction involves using your talents, your training, and your listening skills so that you can create a floral design that your client will really love.

"It is exceptionally gratifying to work closely with a bride and groom to develop a cohesive design scheme for the wedding – often educating them about design concepts in the process," Gerry said. "We get to work with a great variety of flowers to create unique arrangements, and finally installing all the elements for the ceremony and the reception is exciting and satisfying."

wedding table arrangement

Karla Ramirez, owner of Karla Ramirez Floral Design in Southern Connecticut, agrees. "I love working with brides (as well as the groom and parents!) to get an understanding of their vision and successfully bring it to life," she said. "This involves being a good listener while also offering creative ideas, as well as experience and expertise."

One thing that keeps floral designers from tiring of weddings is that each one is unique. Gerry Rogers said she couldn't choose a favorite design, because each one is different, from a Moulin-Rouge theme to a citrus theme to one that was "predominantly seed pods and berries." What's most important in making a floral design really work is for it to be cohesive, she said.

Karla Ramirez also appreciates the unique aspect of each wedding she does, insisting that she doesn't have a favorite "look."

"At the risk of sounding cliche, each wedding is exciting and unique," she said, adding that what she enjoys most are the weddings where she has a lot of creative license.

"I also like unique venues or when anotherwise simple venue is transformed into a special, memorable site with the flowers and decor," she said. "For instance, I have enjoyed doing weddings at venues like a sleep away camp, where guests spend the entire weekend sleeping in bunks, and a lighthouse building with an antique working carousel right in the middle of the room. In both instances, the flowers and decor reflected the ambiance of the venue and the results were beautiful, memorable and unique," Ramirez said.

However, there are some weddings that stand out in a creative designer's repertoire. Rebecca Kim found that learning about cultural differences allowed her to run wild with the design of a wedding for a bride of Chinese heritage.

table setting with flowers
wedding cake with flowers

"Instead of white, which is a color associated with funerals and death in China, the bride asked us to use red, which would be more celebratory for her and her guests. We used red rose petals on the aisle, red cymbidium and spider orchids in the centerpieces, and red votive candles and red paper lanterns all over the reception – this was a great merging of her personal style and the traditions that her family would want to see for her wedding."

wedding bouquet

Rebecca Henry said one of her favorites involved a rather unusual color scheme: apple green and chocolate brown, inspired by the couple's last name.

"What I liked best about that wedding was that the bride has a really clear vision, but then she left us to design the table arrangements and ceremony around that. We did the most beautiful chuppah covered with branches and green orchids, and we had a chocolate brown fabric aisle runner. We filled the vases for the tall table arrangements with green apples, and the low ones with coffee beans."

Fashioning the flowers for a wedding isn't always such smooth sailing, however. Often a bride and groom get overwhelmed by all the planning necessary – and choosing a floral design can tip them over the edge, especially if they don't understand how much time is needed to make all the choices.

"There are seemingly infinite options for wedding decor, and so many people feel overwhelmed by all the choices," Rebecca Kim said. "I hate to see someone choose based on their first impulse, or based on what they think their budget will allow, or get frustrated and choose something they can just tolerate rather than something they really like."

She advises her clients to be patient with themselves. "For most people, this is the first time you've planned a wedding and there's so much to learn before you make any decisions."

Rebecca Rogers and Karla Ramirez both see the importance of the clients being able to trust their floral designer.

wedding ceremony flowers

"I think the most common mistake clients make is in not hiring a florist they trust, or simply in not trusting the florist they did hire," Rebecca Rogers said. "The best designed weddings are always they ones where the bride and groom only communicate to us general design ideas, styles, colors and flowers they prefer and let us use our knowledge and creativity to take those general ideas and form them in to a concrete and consistent design for the wedding flowers."

Her advice is to resist the urge to micromanage the vendors –, "trust them to do their jobs. They will do them better."

Karla Ramirez agrees, and sees that often brides are confused by the different estimates and ideas they get from different designers.

"They need to take into consideration the quality and quantity of the flowers to be used, as well as the ability of the designer and their reputation, not just dollars and cents," she said.

"Another common mistake is for a bride to dictate every last floral and design detail. For me, my best customers are those who love my work and trust that I 'get' their vision. By allowing me flexibility to make 'designer's choice' decisions regarding the selection of flowers and the actual designs, the client invariably gets a better result that they are thrilled with."

But at the same time, Ramirez sees more couples wanting to make clear their own taste in a general way, so as to put the stamp of their style on their wedding. "I'd say more and more couples aren't afraid to personalize their wedding flowers and decor to reflect their personal interests and tastes. And couples aren't afraid to use color, lots of it."

Rebecca Rogers agrees. "I think the current trends are just in doing something that feels different — something that doesn't feel like every other wedding you've ever been to."

She and her partner Gerry also see brides using other elements with the flowers, such as feathers, crystal, and fruit slices.

wedding arrangement

"As far as trendy color combinations, chocolate brown (with anything!) has been popular for a while, and looks like it is here to stay for a bit. But we are also seeing some really unusual color combinations, like turquoise and coral, or red and baby blue. Those can be difficult to do, since blue is difficult flower color. But if you bring in fabrics and papers in those colors, and keep the flowers monochromatic, the look is really fresh and modern," Rebecca Rogers said.

Pamela Cravens of The Flower Girls in New York also sees a lot of candles being used among the floral displays. In terms of a trend, she sees "Simple and clean, using candle light as much as possible."

There is also an increased attention being paid to "green" weddings, " or making more environmentally-friendly decisions about wedding flowers. This leads to a "less is more" approach, "whereas some of the current leading floral designers emphasize excess," Karla Ramirez said.

Rebecca Kim agreed, and said she finds more brides asking for natural, loose arrangements, "with textural foliage accents and asymmetrical arrangements of the flowers within their bouquets." And Gerry of Petal's Edge finds more clients wanting unusual natural elements, such as fiddlehead fern curls or ornamental cabbages and artichokes.

For Pamela Cravens, the climate crisis is influencing the kinds of flowers that she's using. "It has become very difficult to try and use flowers that are in season locally due to the indifferent weather patterns of global warming we are all experiencing so we have to make due with what is available to suit their colors, color seems to be more important to the brides than the type of flowers."

No matter what particular types of flowers are used, or what the theme or style of a wedding, if you're delighted by the look of a wedding, you can be sure there's a talented floral designer behind the bouquets and arrangements.

Click here to read more about how these floral wedding designers got started in this exciting field.


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