July 14, 2005: The calls started coming
last winter. “I’m getting married at the end of
May and I saw your flowers at a wedding last summer and I
want the same type of flowers!” There were quite a few
other calls from friends of friends, and friends of our grown
kids. And just about weekly at our farmers’ market,
my flower partner Linda Essert-Kuchar and I have been asked
if we do weddings.
We said no to all but two: The first was for my son, Don, and his bride who were married in a simple, seaside ceremony in June. The other wedding will be at the our very own Pheasant
Hill Farm on August 20, as my daughter Ruthie and her intended,
Eric DeLong, marry.
Linda and I cheerfully refer all other brides-to-be or their
moms to area florists we work with during holidays or a floral
designer who buys our flowers regularly. We tell them that
they may request that the florists or the floral designer
check with us to see what flowers we have available, and we’ll
be happy to help in that way.
Why the NO’s? It’s strictly a personal thing:
We’ve found brides-to-be way too . . . what’s
the right word? . . . Let's say "challenging".
The first bride-to-be who called wanted August-blooming flowers
for her May wedding. Educating the bride on the world of in-season
flowers is a must. So, I explained lisianthus and zinnias
just don't bloom in May, but she persisted. She wanted our
flowers. The ones she saw at the August wedding. Unfortunately,
no amount of explanation about day length and flowers registered
with that first caller.
Another bride-to-be wanted our nice homegrown flowers, but
envisioned exotic, cascading arrangements from tall, tube
vases . . . at the end of May . . . inexpensively. I’ve
had florists tell me they often need to bring brides back
to reality. Now I know what they mean. There is a big learning
curve for brides and their mothers who are also often told
by the bargain books to seek local sources for cheap flowers.
If you'd like to do weddings, here's your first lesson. Scan
the bridal magazines or the special bridal editions of popular
style and home decorating magazines to see what is being recommended.
Lesson two: Don’t do cheap flowers! Don’t give
them away. I'm speaking from experience here. My very first
wedding was for someone who approached me at a farmers’
market several years ago. The young woman and her mother said
they loved my flowers and had to have them for the
outdoor wedding they were planning. She said they already
had the containers and would bring them to market. All I had
to do was fill them with my gorgeous flowers to put on the
tables -- one of my regular bouquets that at the time were
$6 would be perfect, she told me.
I said sure. After all, I was pretty excited to be asked
to do a wedding. She dropped off 20 some containers, and I
lost my shirt. The containers required both arranging and
lots more flowers than my standard farmers’ market bouquet.
The bride's friend who picked up my labor of love raved about
the beautiful flowers. My beautiful cheap flowers.
I never heard from the bride, or her mother, again. Strike
Last year Linda and I agreed to table arrangements for another
outdoor wedding. The enthusiasm was contagious. We learned
later that they also wanted all of the bridal party cared
for, and we were in the heart of the farmers’ market
season with two markets on our hands. We referred them to
our floral designer friend, who did the special bridal party
bouquets. But, it still took a lot more time to arrange the
centerpieces than to does a standard market bouquet (although
the jars they chose were easier than the containers for my
first wedding). “We can’t do this again,”
Linda said. “It takes so much time we’re not making
any money.” Strike two.
And strike three? A bride-to-be came to the farmers’
market inquiring about flowers. Linda told her we had a variety
of flowers to choose from and invited her to the farm to pick
out what she wanted. She showed up in high heels with her
fiance in tow and insisted on seeing the flowers in the
field. So we walked her through the flowers . . . and
the mud, and the weeds. She turned up her nose, mumbled to
her fiance she wanted to see a florist, and said she’d
call us. She never did. We were mortified. And we decided,
then and there, we didn’t need to deal with brides any
Having a daughter who’s getting married and who wants
a country wedding with none of the traditional puffery also
made me look at the practical side of wedding flowers. While
I really didn’t like nearly giving my flowers away like
I did on the first wedding, I also don’t like the idea
of charging the extremely high prices we have to to break
even. Weddings are already overpriced, from flowers to you-name-it.
But, it does take a lot of time, and flowers, to do the special
wedding bouquets and corsages most brides expect.
Linda and I spent the better part of a day working on the
bridal bouquet, corsages, boutineers and table arrangements
for my son’s wedding. Since we both have taken classes
and have done everything from corsages to bows working for
florists, it was great fun. But, if you have a small operation
and have farmers’ markets and florists to keep happy
-- and if you don’t have enough experience to do the
specialty items well and quickly -- it can be a big mistake.
Making it work
Is there a happy medium? Two friends of ours, who sell cut
flowers and lilies at farmers’ markets an hour from
us, did a wedding last month and said they loved it. “But
we worked with another friend who is a floral designer. I
gave her 20 percent of the gross and it worked out well. I
know how to put flowers in a bag. She knows how to do the
bride and groom thing with my flowers, and everyone was happy,”
she said. “I would do weddings again, but I wouldn’t
do it without her.”
But she also said of another wedding she was asked to do
later this year “I didn’t have a good feeling
about it. I just wasn’t comfortable with the people.
It’s a real fancy wedding and I didn’t feel I
could please them.”
So if you decide to take on weddings, this friend has the
most important word of advice: Trust your instincts. Know
when to say no. She turned them down, and is confident it
saved her from much unpleasantness.