I met with a Philadelphia area florist this weekend and it was an eye-opening information session! She gave me some ideas of what brides need to know before meeting with their florist as well as a few hidden secrets of the trade. The stories florists have to tell about brides are incredible! They should have a blog all about bridezillas! We laughed a lot but I also got some interesting information.
The most important thing to do before you meet with your florist is to know your budget. Brides often go in with pictures of what they want but with no idea how much money they have to spend. This gives the florist an opportunity to exploit your desire for that 'picture perfect' floral design that may cost more than you have in your budget for flowers. Consider talking to other brides who are on a budget online and getting referrals from them.
Another good tip is beware a florist who is always trying to upsell you. A good florist wants to work within your budget. They don't try to keep adding expensive add ons to your order. A good florist has suggestions for staying within your budget and will offer those suggestions to you.
Know which flowers are in season! This is critical. You'll overpay for flowers that are out of season and there may be similar flowers that are in season that will give you the same look. Know which flowers are in season so you don't fall in love with a bouquet that's going to cost nearly as much as your wedding ring. These are FLOWERS! For ONE day! Yes you want them to be nice, so does your florist. But there's always something in season that will look nice and be budget friendly. Also a florist may tell you they can get that exotic flower you want for you wedding even if it's out of season, but if he has to import it from across the globe it's going to cost you. I was surprised at how open the florist was to working within a small budget so don't be afraid to ask.
Choose 3 or 4 florists to interview. If you talk to more than that you'll end up with too much information that you can't process as well as waste your time. If you only talk to two you are limiting your information too much. Go in with specific questions for your florist, write them down, and take notes. It's always good to have someone go with you to this meeting so you have an extra pair of ears listening and taking notes as well.
What questions should you ask? Can I see your portfolio is the top question. You want to see pictures of actual weddings the florist has done, not just pictures of flowers from magazines or a Teleflora printout. A good florist will have a portfolio of their work for you to look through. The florist may also be able to put you in touch with his former clients.
Another important question to ask is what styles do you use the most for weddings. If they love tall high fancy orchids and you're looking for low bowls of roses, you might want to consider using another florist. Every florist has their own style, you want to find one that meshes with your style.
Ask what the typical budget is for wedding flowers. Find out if they can work with your budget. Be upfront about how much money you have to spend. Be firm with the budget and tell them you can't spend more than that. If you're talking to a florist who only wants to do high end weddings and you're at the other end of the spectrum you might want to consider another florist or ask that florist is they are comfortable working with your budget. There's a florist out there for everyone, the trick is to find one who works well for you. Don't let a florist talk you into the flowers they want to use, if they have a suggestion they should be able to back it up.
Find out how many weddings they usually do on a weekend. The more time they have to dedicate to your wedding the better off you are.
Also find out what they do if for any reason the flowers you order aren't available for your wedding. Find out if they substitute flowers without consulting you. It's a good idea to put it in writing that you want them to contact you before substituting for damaged or unavailable flowers.
Find out how they order their flowers. Often wholesalers only sell by the case. So if you only need 2 dozen roses, the florist is stuck with the remainder and will often pass the cost on to you. Consider using similar blooms for your centerpieces so you aren't paying for flowers you don't use.
Consider providing your own ribbons and other floral accessories. The florist marks these up as well. Also if you bring your own you can match them against material for dresses etc. Don't pay a florist for petals for the flower girl to drop. Go out and buy a few roses at the grocery store and tear them apart or buy some silk ones online or at your local party store.
Ask about delivery or set up fees. Sometimes it's a flat fee, sometimes it's based on mileage/gas and an hourly rate. Sometimes it's built into the price the florist is charging you. All this needs to be part of your flower budget for your wedding. It's also a good reason to have a local florist!
Try not to be a bridezilla. Calling your florist a million times or dropping in to check on your flowers won't get things done better or faster and can add on to the cost of your flowers. While reasonable contact is expected, constantly getting in the way of their work will end up costing you since some florists will charge the bride who's a pain in the neck more.
I hope this gives you some pointers that help you have a beautfiul but within your budget wedding day!