Bouquet by Folk Art Flowers; Photo Credit: Between the Pine
Flowers are one of the few things that you’ll find at EVERY wedding. No matter the size, budget, or style of the wedding, it’s probably guaranteed that you will have some type of flowers.
With flowers, you can showcase your personality and style (even if just in a small bouquet,) jazz up the plainest of venues, and create a breathtaking backdrop to your event.
However, wedding florals can also be one of the most mysterious aspects of planning your wedding. You might be wondering…
I can find flowers at Trader Joe’s for $4.99, why are wedding flowers so much more expensive?
Why do I need a professional floral designer?
What should I even expect when working with a floral designer?
To shed some light on all things wedding flowers, I interviewed Seattle wedding florist (and flower farmer) extraordinaire, Carolyn Kulb with Folk Art Flowers. Carolyn’s happy place is surrounded by blooms, creating bespoke designs for couples who want breathtaking weddings. Inspired by her love of art, the bounty of the Pacific Northwest, and the natural grace of botanical elements, she uses locally-grown materials to create luxurious wedding florals. Carolyn also operates a small organic farm just outside of Seattle, where she specializes in custom-growing flowers for each couple. On the farm, she curates a collection of stunning varieties for each couple’s wedding, including varieties that cannot be found elsewhere.
In Part I of our conversation, Carolyn will help clarify some of the biggest questions around wedding flowers and the world of floral design.
Stay tuned for Part II to learn more about how to find a floral designer AND how to make more sustainable choices in your wedding flowers!
1. As an experienced floral designer, can you share what a couple might typically plan to budget for wedding flowers? What factors should couples consider when incorporating floral design into their wedding budget?
If you are on a budget, you first need to know your priorities for your wedding. If flowers are not important to you, don’t blow your budget on them! Flowers are expensive, even if they are imported from countries with weaker labor and environmental laws. Local, sustainable, and organic flowers are even more expensive. So if floral design is important to your wedding day, think about how much you are willing to spend to make your vision happen.
Every wedding is different, from tiny elopements to massive week-long events. This is why we only do custom proposals, and why you should ignore the wedding blogs that give you a percentage to budget. Our flower and labor costs vary with each event, so we cannot just throw out a price! You will receive a wide range of pricing based on the size of the event, the type, quantities, and source of flowers, and many other factors. In Seattle, small elopement packages start around $500-600 for just a bouquet and boutonniere.
Smaller packages for wedding party flowers only (bouquets, boutonnieres, corsages) may start around $2,000-3,000. And all-inclusive weddings that require all-day onsite service (aka, a typical wedding pre-COVID) will be much more expensive, typically starting at $5,000-6,000 on average. Couples should probably budget more like $7,000-10,000 to get all the flowers they usually want. Those starting prices increase every year as our costs increase. And if you add event design services and rentals for things like linens, candles, and other decor, you will need to budget more.
Centerpiece by Folk Art Flowers; Photo Credit: Ariena Photography
2. Okay – so why ARE wedding flowers so much more expensive than the ones you can pick-up in a grocery store?
I wrote a whole blog post about why wedding flowers are expensive. But we’re dealing with a false equivalency here. Grocery store flowers are commodities (like apples or steaks), whereas wedding floral design is a service. If there is one thing I hope to convey to anyone planning a wedding, it’s that floral design is an art. You are literally commissioning custom artwork and buying a professional service when you hire a floral designer. We are tailoring every detail to you, our client. And artists deserve to be paid for their work, no matter their medium. As with other professional services, expertise and quality matter most. You would never shop for a lawyer or accountant based solely on price!
Part of the pricing is that only the highest quality flowers can be used for weddings. Any imperfections will live forever in photographs! So we always have to buy extra contingency stems in case we spot any blemishes. Then we add all of our labor, transportation, vessel, studio rental, and overhead costs. It’s just a totally different ballgame than mass-produced grocery flowers.
In my business, we also honor the true cost of flowers as raw materials. Cheap flowers imported from elsewhere are not really “cheap” if they pollute waterways and exploit workers. Even some American-grown blooms may use harmful agricultural practices. So, part of my job is knowing my fellow farmers. Sourcing flowers ethically means higher prices, but my clients prefer sustainably produced blooms. And so do I! This is also why I am a proud member of Slow Flowers. And as American flower farms struggle this year, I actually encourage you to keep buying those cheap bunches of American-grown flowers at the grocery store. They are helping keep family farms afloat.
3. What are floral designers doing when they aren’t…designing florals?
My job as a farmer-florist is way more than “playing with flowers” all day. I absolutely love what I do and I’m not complaining! But flowers are the fun part, and we wear a lot of other hats, too. As small business owners, we do a lot of boring things like forecasting, accounting, taxes, marketing, and admin stuff. On the floral design side, we have to learn about our clients’ needs, develop custom proposals, and determine pricing for each wedding. In my business, it also means sourcing seed and bulbs, and farming the special blooms that are custom-grown for my clients!
4. In the lead up to a wedding, what else goes on behind the scenes?
In the weeks leading up to a wedding, we have to create our flower orders at our wholesalers, source things like vessels and rentals, and hire extra help for your wedding day. The week of your wedding, we have to pick up our flowers and “condition” the stems so they are at their happiest. We then have to design the pieces, placing every stem perfectly.
Then comes the day of your wedding! And for us, there is no room for error. We get no do-overs. So no matter what happens the day of your wedding, we have to be ready to fix it. Our clients never even know there was a hiccup. This means extra flowers, tools, zip ties, ladders, and humans all have to be brought to the venue. It all adds up, but it is worth the peace of mind and fantastic end result for our clients.
Floral chandelier by Folk Art Flowers & colleagues at the Whidbey Flower Workshop Photo Credit: Suzanne Rothmeyer Photography
5. So what exactly does a floral designer do on the wedding day?
I get up early and check my work, always. Everything that leaves my studio needs to look incredible, so I check all of my pieces before leaving and make any necessary edits. I usually have help come in, and together we go through the packing list to get flowers, tools, structures, vessels, rentals, gear, and people into the delivery vehicles. Once we arrive onsite to the venue, I check in with the venue and the planner to get up to speed on any last-minute changes.
We then unload, sometimes splitting up into teams to schlep buckets, bring personal flowers to the wedding party, and put everything else in place. If we are doing an onsite floral installation like a chandelier or flower wall, I am usually stepping back to view the piece as a whole and direct my team. Once everything is in place, we refill water sources as needed, and clean up any floral detritus. I check every piece again before calling it done. Sometimes we have the luxury of getting great photos before it’s showtime!
We then hang out behind the scenes with the rest of the vendors while our clients get married, or go offsite for a meal. And once the music stops, we drag our weary bones back out there to undo all of our beautiful work. We load the van, drive back to the studio, and if we can muster the strength at 2-3am, unload the van again before passing the hell out!
6. Okay, this last question might be treasonous, but I have to ask. Can you share your personal favorite flowers?
It’s definitely like picking a favorite child! And it changes with every season, based on the amazing blooms we can grow or source locally. In spring, I’m a sucker for a fluffy ranunculus. In the summer, I love working with dahlias and garden roses. And in the fall, I have a slight obsession with both heirloom chrysanthemums and rudbeckia. Anything ruffly, sensuous, and romantic has a place in my heart!
Thank you SO much for chatting with me, Carolyn! I can’t wait to share Part II of our conversation next month.