Comparing Wedding Florists

Jillian Michelle Photography

I have had a few rejections this past week. The dreaded “sorry, we’ve decided to go with another florist” emails have haunted me in my sleep this past week. I completely understand that choosing wedding vendors is a personal (and mostly budget driven) decision, and of course am 100% supportive of a bride’s decision to book someone else. But when brides start comparing me to other florists simply based on budget, it can be quite frustrating. It’s frustrating because I’m in a specialty wedding service business – not just a ‘buy it off the shelf’ business where we take your money and simply provide a product that can be compared to other suppliers simply based on cost. I pride myself on providing so much more than just the end product. Being accepting of constructive criticism, and doing my best to analyze this and what I can do differently as a business owner,  there are two things that I take from this rejection that I need to work on. 1. I need to help the client to understand Anthomanic is more than just a ‘florist’, and 2. To educate other brides about wedding florist shopping!

This post will be a little lengthy, but stick with me!

I’ll start with this cautionary tale…

I had a bride contact me last summer for about a quote for her late 2013 wedding. She raved about my work, and made it very clear she would love to book with me, said she was ‘ready to sign’, but of course wanted a proposal first. I provided a quote for the designs, styles and flower types she was looking for – and what I would recommend to design in my style (i.e. full, lush bouquets) that is synonymous with my floral design aesthetic. I knew she would not get simply what she requested, but would also be WOWed on her wedding day. She had not told me her intended or desired floral budget. Because on the order, the flower types and descriptions may have appeared the same, but in comparison of my quoted costs to other florists, I lost the potential client. The client said my prices “are much higher than Florist X”. Well, guess who’s wedding flowers I saw pictures of on the internet today? You guessed it… that bride. Sadly, they were nothing like what I had quoted her. I’m not saying this to be nasty or insulting to the other florist or the bride, but simply as a cautionary tale of how NOT to compare florists. If she would have wanted me to quote for those exact designs that she actually ended up getting on her wedding day, I very well could have had a similar price quote for her to ‘Florist X’. But, I was quoting for much, MUCH more than what was in her final bouquets. I was quoting for almost quadruple what she had in her very small, drastically undersized bouquets that I saw in her wedding photos. No wonder she didn’t book me. The other florist was simply (unbeknownst to the bride) modifying and drastically scaling down the designs and flower counts, but all while using the same flowers. There is no way for the bride to have known this when looking at the proposal, because florists usually don’t include flower stem counts. During the ‘bidding’ process and the bride’s process of comparing florists, I appeared to the bride to have higher priced florals. Which, is just not the case.

Believe it or not, florists do this to my potential (and lost) clients quite frequently – and due to FB, I’m able to see the finished product and how it compares to what I quoted. I provide a quote, the other florist copies the quote, but fudges the numbers to make the bride believe she’s getting a better rate (which actually means the stem counts are changed ‘behind the scenes’) and the bride gets a pared down version of what I quoted – and the bouquets aren’t what the client expects.

You’re probably thinking “well, then how the heck am I supposed to get the look I want or know what to expect, within my budget? How do I compare florists if I DO want to compare prices?”. These little gems of wisdom should help you to have the most successful experience with your wedding florist and ensure you get the best bang for your buck.

Another example of comparing prices – pretend you went to both florists. If you were judging based on price, you would think Florist Y charges too much for ‘the same thing’.

Florist X

Bridal Bouquet: Peonies, garden roses, spray roses, stock flowers hand tied and wrapped with satin ribbons

Florist Y

Bridal Bouquet: Peonies, garden roses, spray roses, stock flowers hand tied and wrapped with satin ribbons

Florist X quotes you $225, and Florist Y quotes you $340. Let’s see why…

Florist X has designed and priced the bouquet based on these ingredients:

3 peonies, 5 garden roses, 5 spray roses, 4 stock flowers, ribbon, vase and pins + design labor of 30%

Florist Y has designed and priced the bouquet based on these ingredients:

5 peonies, 8 garden roses, 8 spray roses, 6 stock flower, ribbons, vase and pins + design labor of 30%

What appeared to you to be a higher priced florist, is actually a florist that accounts for more flowers than the one you are comparing to. Those 3 peonies, or three garden roses might not sound like a big difference in your mind, but really can make a world of difference in size/fullness of a bouquet.

1. Narrow your florist options to those that you LOVE

Do they regularly design bouquets and centerpieces that either look like what you have in mind, or just generally have the look you want for your own wedding. Florists don’t magically adopt new design styles or design & flower selection methodologies, and some underestimate the amount of flowers needed to create magazine worthy designs that you may have brought them an image of. Make sure you can see past work that is similar to what you want. Some floral design studios account for a greater amount of stems per design, increasing the amount of flowers over their competitors to create those jaw-dropping designs. If they regularly do magazine worthy work, this is probably why….more flowers = more fabulous.

2. Read their past reviews

Of course check out past reviews for an idea of what their clients have to say in the end. It’s one thing to see pretty pictures, but reviews from brides that have had their expectations exceeded is something you need to look for. This goes back to the cautionary tale – did the final product live up to what the client expected? Or did it look half the size of what the bride was asking for that maybe Florist Y (me, let’s say) was actually quoting that the client thought she was getting from Florist X. In the end, (and of course IMO) there is no way she got what she was envisioning based on my previous conversations with her.

3. NEVER. EVER. EVER. compare quotes, ever. please. just don’t.

Unless you have an exact breakdown of how many flower stems (how many roses, how many hydrangea, how many orchids, the exact container types to be used), then it really is like comparing apples to oranges. Using my own business again as an example – if I quote you $3,000 overall for your wedding and the other florist quotes $2,000 – it’s not because my flowers and labor are actually that much more expensive. It’s most likely a situation of MORE flowers than the other quote you got. If one florist comes in higher than the other, and this concerns you, simply ask the florist if there is a way they can help you understand either the amounts of flower stems being used. A florist that wants your business should be able to do this for you (but don’t hate them if they won’t break it down for you) If the stem counts are the same amongst both florists, then yes you are getting a more accurate flower comparison. But, other things to look for that could differ from florist to florist would be delivery, setup/installation, breakdown, rental charges.

We all use different stem counts than each other – you simply cannot compare apples to oranges unless you know how many stems each florist is using.  

If wedding florists were charging for the same exact amount of stems, then yes, by all means price compare. But, if you have no idea how many stems Florist X is accounting for vs. Florist Y, then you are doing yourself a disservice by even bothering to compare quotes.

I know everyone has a budget, but keep in mind that you may be comparing apples to oranges. If the florist you LOVE is charging $3000 for what seems like the same flower types and pieces as the other florist that is charging $2500, think about the finished product – don’t focus on that end number. You’d be better off asking the 3k florist to help you meet 2500, ensuring you get fabulous designs as opposed to settling for the one that ‘seems’ cheaper.

4. Are they a full time or regular wedding florist?

Simply using any ‘ol flower shop on the corner does not ensure a smooth wedding floral ordering/delivery process. Wedding setups involve very small setup time frames, that sometime include strict schedules of ceremony, reception and other such time schedules as first looks. If you’re using a standard flower shop, they may have any member of their staff ‘drop off’ the florals. They also may not entirely guarantee they’ll have everything where it needs to be and on time. Make sure you feel comfortable with their reputation as a wedding florist. Some things you can do to check on this are asking fellow wedding vendors that they tend to work with (venues, photographers, etc.) or if you’re feeling bold, investigate some of their past brides (Facebook?) to ask their feedback – don’t ask for a list of their past clients, or you’ll probably get their favorites list. Wedding setup time frames are often short, 2-3 hours prior to a ceremony start time – smaller times for church deliveries that often overlap into the reception setup time. A non-experienced wedding florist could have a number of unexpected/unprepared events happen – they forget something vital to a pergola setup, they don’t realize how long it’s supposed to take for setup and guests arrive before a display is finished, etc.! An experienced wedding designer has these things down to a science, and also has backups. Human error does happen, but it’s about using the professional that is prepared with backup materials, tools or staff for any last minute mishaps.

5. Are they providing a detailed contract and detailed event order?

There are basically two things a wedding florist should provide: a contract, and an event order.

This really is #1 over and above anything. You need a professional guarantee (a.k.a. a Contract) that what they say they are going to provide on your Event Order will be provided by X times, on X date and if they don’t, they are at fault and will provide refund if not provided. This will help you sleep at night. These types of things should be listed in your contract: delivery addresses, client full names, event schedules, floral substitutions policy, times and setup time frames for all events, cancellation or postponement policy (it happens! and is great to have the backup), their refund policy if any, possible/potential fees that may come up, rental terms (if any).

If they do not provide you with a contract, run. Run very far away from them and to a florist that will provide you their written and VERY detailed guarantee of services. Regardless of the size of your order, you should have a professional guarantee that they will do as promised, and a means for recourse if they don’t.

Then, on your Event Order, all the descriptions and amounts of the individual pieces in your collection (e.g. table centerpiece) will be listed, with pricing breakdown of delivery and setup or pickup information. It’s also great if your order includes any links to images of inspirations – we link the Pinterest board or mark photos in our email (so we have them available online whenever/wherever needed) for our clients.

If it makes you feel more comfortable, ask them to write out how many stems/blooms of each flower will be used per design. Some might not want to have that in writing, in case they happen to end up only using 7 stems of garden roses instead of 8, but if it makes you feel better it definitely doesn’t hurt to ask.

a copy of our (old version) contract that we provide to our clients:

6. Fees associated with a wedding florist

There are a few parts to the way a florist calculates their work and quotes you for your wedding. I attempted to have a ‘transparent’ estimate form last year by showing clients that they are paying X for their flowers and supplies and X for the labor to design the bouquets and centerpieces. But, they thought that I was adding on an additional fee, so the psychology of estimates won over me and now I do what other wedding designers do – it’s now rolled into the total cost of the wedding collection.

Design Fee

Florists ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS charge a design fee – Joe Schmo florist or not. This is added on to the total cost of your flowers (whether it’s added per line item e.g. bridal bouquet, or at the very end of your estimate form), and it can range from 30%-50% depending on the intensity of the design work to be completed/amount of staff required/etc. This will either be hidden into a line item (as I’ve written it above in the bouquet comparisons) or it will be written overall at the end.

Flowers & Supplies

The stem counts, and supplies. Florists always round up to the nearest bunch when estimating your wedding – we have to order in a minimum of 10 stems for most flowers, and 25 for roses. So, if you only need three roses for your whole wedding for some boutonnieres, you will be charged for all 25. I recommend providing your own ribbons or vases where available, or getting rental products for the florist to use. This can work out greatly in your favor saving you hundreds of dollars.

Delivery & Setup

Setup is either a part of the Design Fee or it’s a separate line item altogether. Setup is not without work – florists ALWAYS charge for this. Even if you don’t see a line item for it — it’s considered somewhere.

Delivery is usually based on mileage from their studio. I find most florists just charge a low flat fee.

In conclusion

Please remember that comparing based on quotes is the worst way to start comparing – and remember about the stem count thing I talked about! I wish you all the best in selecting a wedding florist – and if you have any questions as floral consumer (that sounds weird), or even as a fellow vendor, feel free to message me! In the end, it’s all based on what’s most important to you. Does booking the florist that ‘seems’ more expensive also mean you are guaranteed GORGEOUS designs?

XOXO Amanda

Anthomanic is a specialty wedding-only florist serving Virginia and destination weddings – with an average of 50 weddings per calendar year.

Wedding Floral Pricing Comparing Shopping Estimates Quotes

Kat - I LOVE THIS!!!! I remember when I contacted you about my wedding florals, and unfortunately the quote was over budget. However, you worked with me to find the PERFECT flowers for the look I was going for, AND helped me with my budget. I’m so glad you did, because I knew the QUALITY of your work was better than Joe Schmo’s :) Great post, girl!! Full of helpful tips & great insight!!March 6, 2014 – 10:04 am

Melissa - Education is key – nice post! Your work is beautiful!March 6, 2014 – 11:09 am

Heather - Great post! I loved your work but when I was still “shopping” for florists I compared what you had told me to what others told me and there was a HUGE difference. I also really examined their past work. Many flower shops had bouquets that all looked the exact same they just changed colors here and there. I didn’t want to pay that much for something I could make myself. Your work is not only beautiful but its creative and individually designed for each bride and that was very important to me. I’m so excited to see what you design for me in May!!!March 8, 2014 – 2:05 pm

Wedding & Event Floral Design Workshop

Wedding & Event Floral Design Workshop

Learn to create gorgeous bouquets, boutonnieres, corsages, centerpieces and large structural ceremony designs with a hands on workshop with Amanda. Learn all the ‘behind-the-scenes’ floral design techniques and skills used by Anthomanic to create a wedding from start to finish!

To register, hop on over to the workshop page for all the details!

the winner is…

The winner of the 2013 Bridal Bouquet contest is #25! Stephanie’s bridal bouquet set had a total of 47 votes (some of which were double entries as some provided specific design principles as to why they liked the bouquet – contrast, shape, texture, etc.!).

Comments about her bouquet were very similar, in summary readers said they enjoyed the designs because of the rich, vibrant contrast of color and use of texture in the cabbage, succulents and large variety of unique flower types. And of course the best part, the brides comment that it ‘exceeded anything she could have envisioned’.

In my opinion, I designed and hand crafted each one of these magnificent little beauties in the contest specifically for the bride and the wedding vision. So, just because yours may not have gotten the votes, doesn’t mean anything about how fabulous it is — just means you need to share it with your FB friends more so they can vote for you in future contests! : )

I’ll be sharing each bouquet and the entire wedding photo set over the coming weeks as a fun way to show you the overall wedding set and why I loved each one!

I’ll be emailing the winner of the Starbucks gift card as well! If they don’t claim their prize within 48 hours, I’ll pick a new winner!

Bouquets of 2013, Why I love #3

Emily & David, Stevenson Ridge in Spotsylvania Virginia by Katelyn James Photography

So, this week we have a contest on the blog, here, that lists some of the fabulous bridal bouquets I’ve handmade this year! To vote for Emily’s bouquet – head over there and comment to enter (also gets you a chance to win a Starbucks gift card) YUMMM.

Each and every bouquet I have ever made is awesome for it’s own reason, and I think when you see simply the bouquet on it’s own, it needs a little explanation to really add to the sentimental value! They fit not only the brides personality, likes/dislikes, overall wedding theme & colors and of course, the clients budget overall for all the pieces required for their space. So, I wanted to show you each bouquet in the context of it’s entire setting, with all the other decor elements to show you how they make so much sense and fit perfectly!

Starting with #3 (the first real wedding in the post, working in numerical order) I want to tell you why I think they are all so fabulous!

Emily & David were married in the end of June, which has a somewhat limited availability for flowers, because it is in between the late summer offerings (dahlias, etc.) and after the spring flower selection has gone (ranunculus, peonies, etc.). Many brides come to me with restrictions (what they don’t like (that may actually help with their budget or coloring), and what they do like (that’s often out of season), creating a challenge and sometimes limiting the possibilities of what we could create. The great thing here was that Emily just LOVED flowers and LOVED purple – which is perfect! I was also super excited to do their florals because I LOVE a monochromatic palette (shades and tints of one hue), the flowers really POP – helping the texture to stand out.

Emily wanted an elegant, yet garden feel to her flowers. She provided lanterns that we created a custom floral piece for the base, and she also had an awesome set of vintage shutters!

The guys wore tones of purple and lavender with grey suits and the bridesmaids wore a medium purple tone, long chiffon gowns.

Another thing that is awesome about Emily (and David of course, he was a gentleman and just wanted his love to have whatever she wanted! What a guy!), was that she was totally cool with using carnations! What?! Most brides don’t like carnations (I think the 80′s and seeing our moms bouquets has made us think that carnations only come in pink red and white), but I bet you don’t even notice any here, do you?! There were LOTS of them, in brilliant purples, fuschias and lavenders – hidden amongst the finer, or more exotic blooms that take center stage (orchids, lisianthus, roses, stock flowers)! We hid the carnations amongst the centerpieces and the pergola floral piece to give color and fill space (better bang for the buck), but used them very sparingly in the bridal bouquets. You still can’t see them, can you? ;-) Flower magic!

These two were just so adorable, his eyes just sparkled when he looked at her – so sweet! I don’t get to meet too many of the grooms (I think they just don’t care for the flower part!), but I did get to meet David and I could tell he just adored Emily!

I love when brides like to dress up the pergola, it really sets the tone for the ceremony space. I think if you’re going to decorate any part of the ceremony space, to put the budget towards the frame that you will be in for the majority of your photos. We hung burlap curtains and created a custom floral piece across the top of the pergola at Stevenson Ridge.

What do you think of a monochromatic palette?! I just loooove it!

Vendor List -  Florals: Anthomanic / Photographer: Katelyn James / Venue: Stevenson Ridge / Cake: Gateau / Richard Green Entertainment /  MUA: GoGo Gorgeous

Anthomanic is an event floral designer based in Central Virginia, creating custom floral collections

Nicole Gilbride - I love these flowers, and I’m not just saying that because I was in the wedding (yes that is my arm holding that beautiful bouquet above). I just remember the wedding day when we all came downstairs and saw these flowers. Everyone just gasped because they were pure magic and really captured the vision we all knew Emily and David desired. I plan to use this approach for my flower orders in the future! Pure magic!January 6, 2014 – 11:39 pm

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