Wedding Flowers 101 | Beyond the Hobbyist
With wedding season coming, this is the time of year in which I receive the most inquiries about bulk flowers for DIY weddings. It seems like a great topic to explore in tonight’s post.
I recently attended a professional development for farmer-florists about market predictions for the upcoming flower growing season, and one of the trends of 2020 that seems to be gaining even more momentum in 2021 is Beyond the Hobbyist (aka Beyond DIY). The DIY movement has been around for a while. It’s well-established and it’s certainly not going anywhere. With the rise of YouTube, folks often feel like they can find tutorials online and figure something out for themselves. Often the motivation is financial: I can do a good enough job and save myself some money.
Last week, as I was solidifying our big fruit tree order for spring of 2022, I kept coming across phrases like, “an apple for the cider connoisseur” and Chris couldn’t help but laugh. It feels a little bit dramatic. But as I attended that training, this kind of language totally clicked for me. Beyond the Hobbyist means that there is a new, growing market of people who are making an intentional decision that is rooted in their desire to deepen their immersion in a certain lifestyle through experiences, skill development, etc. They don’t necessarily want to pursue it as a career; rather, they yearn for expertise and knowledge for the sake of richer engagement in that lifestyle, whatever it may be.
We saw this in 2020 with the massive surge in home gardeners. In a shift from previous years, seed sales began to show that home gardeners were looking more for the same cultivars used by commercial growers…heirloom tomatoes, flavorful salad mixes, exquisite cut flowers that couldn’t be found at a big box nursery. Flowers & Vegetables for the Connoisseur, so to speak. (Of course, this caused some new complications for farmers as far as seed supply problems, but that’s a totally separate ball of wax.)
So, back to the original topic here: WEDDING FLOWERS. Should you DIY or buy? And from where/whom do you want those flowers to come? What is your top priority for your wedding? Food, venue size, on-site lodging, high-end flowers, dream dress, destination, and/or season are some of the most popular answers. (No surprise here - I would also urge you to consider sustainability.)
GROWN VS. FLOWN
You certainly may be able to save some money by reaching out to a farmer and buying wholesale in season, but you’re truly getting so much more than that. Whether you buy from my farm or one of the other beautiful flower farms in and around Central NY, it’s likely you’re getting your blooms from someone who has raised those plants from seed to vase. They’ve put many hours of labor into nurturing them to ensure their quality is remarkable. Chances are high that the flowers have been raised organically, whether certified or not. Our farm, for example, is no-till and low-dig as well as completely spray-free so you are getting a product that has not only improved the microbiology of the soil in which it was grown but also serves as crucial pollinator habitat. Aside from environmental benefits, you’re simply supporting a small business in your community and especially in our current climate this is more important than ever if it is something that you can afford to do.
In contrast, imported flowers are heavily sprayed with harmful chemicals, have high field-to-vase miles (therefore utilizing a significant amount of fossil fuels), and most likely do not treat their farm workers safely or compensate them fairly. Did you know that a staggering 80 percent of cut flowers sold in the United States are imported? Imagine if all of the money spent on those imported blooms was instead injected back into the local economy of every single one of those consumers. I am a firm believer that those who have the financial privilege to “vote with their dollars” have a moral obligation to do so.
COMPARING COST DIFFERENCES
Full disclosure: my family is not always able to vote with our dollar, so there’s definitely no judgement to be had here. And in the context of the wedding industry, yes, it’s pretty mindboggling how expensive can be. This is one of the reasons I really enjoy putting together bulk DIY buckets as it makes great product more affordable for my customers and offers me the benefit of moving a large amount of product in a single sale. Even so, it can come as a surprise to see the price tag for the stems alone. I think what makes the sticker shock of wedding flowers so severe is that most people have never done it before which makes it difficult to know what price is fair for the product. In a floral designer group that I’m in on Facebook, this very topic recently came up as we all started to casually compare what we paid for our own weddings to DIY the arrangements. Small to medium weddings with primarily fresh flowers, whether local or imported, ranged from $300-$600, and it’s worthwhile to note that these numbers were from professional designers who had access to wholesale prices that someone who isn’t in the industry wouldn’t have access to.
For context, a typical large bridal bouquet will likely have somewhere around 70 stems, give or take depending on the size of the focal blooms. Depending on the types of flowers and foliage, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to spend around $75 on the ingredients alone to make the bouquet - not including the time to plan and calculate as well as the actual labor to create. For something with similar ingredients purchased from a professional floral designer, you should account for about three times that amount to compensate them for their training and experience, their time, and their labor. I would expect bridesmaid bouquets and vase centerpieces to be about half as expensive.
What about more complicated design elements? Arrangements like flower crowns, garlands, living table runners, large statement pieces in compotes or urns, and arches require more advanced skillsets and more complicated structural elements to create successfully and as such the price will reflect that, as it should.
DIY OR BUY?
In closing, the decision to make floral arrangements yourself may feel daunting. Yes, creating them takes a lot of time - a few hours to a full day, depending on the amount and type - and they need to be done one or two days before the event to ensure that they remain fresh. Some couples enjoy working the creation time into their bachelor(ette) festivities, which may cut down on an individual’s workload and make for a fun and memorable experience with loved ones. If flowers are something you really love but you don’t feel confident doing it by yourself, a florist really is worth the money. My godmother was a floral designer for many years and I can tell you with absolute certainty that she is an artist; it’s just that her medium of choice is flowers! And if sustainability and local product is important to you, just ask; quality designers are happy to accommodate.
While we don’t offer full-service wedding options at this time, we strive to provide a connoisseur experience and go beyond the hobbyist. Besides the flowers themselves, DIY bucket orders from Ley Creek Farm include:
Stem calculations for your desired arrangements
First dibs on every single thing we have during the week of your wedding
A curated collection of sustainably grown blooms, textural accents, and foliage that reflects the season
Simple arrangement recipes based on the ingredients available during your wedding week
If you’d like to give the DIY route a try, we would be so honored to help you realize your vision. Message us to get started!
Floret Collective (to locate local flowers near you): https://www.floretflowers.com/directory/
Review of literature re: pesticide use on pollinator numbers: https://extension.psu.edu/pesticides-and-pollinators
Statistics and a source list with data about imported and domestic cut flowers: https://www.debraprinzing.com/where-do-your-flowers-come-from-slowflowers-com-infographic-resources/
A great article about local wedding flowers by farmer Jennie Love who also hosts the incredible No Till Flowers podcast: https://lovenfreshflowers.com/2013/01/20/wedding-flower-pricing-primer/