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
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 one.
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 more.
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
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