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How to: Work With Your Florist

Two-minute Tutorial: Don't sign that florist's contract until you've read our Q&A with the pros

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Flower questions answered

Flowers are the first thing you think of when planning how to make your reception photo-fabulous. But where do you start? Are you after dramatic, heavenly blooms or do you want to keep it simple? Or maybe something quirky – think Golden Syrup tins instead of vases. Get your pressing posy questions answered here…

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When should I start shopping for flowers and what’s the latest point I can request changes to my choices before the wedding?

Preparation time depends on the size of your wedding, the size of the flower shop and whether your celebration is happening nearby – but as a rule of thumb, six months before the big day should do the trick. Beware Saturday brides; if you will get married on the busiest day of the year (typically the last Saturday in June and the first in September), then you’ll need to book 12 months in advance. As for making changes, allow three weeks in advance for small tweaks.

How much of my budget should I allocate for flowers?

Estimates vary, but expect to spend about 5 – 10% of your total budget on bouquets for you and your maids, corsages, buttonholes, ceremony arrangements and table centres. “It’s important to have a rough budget in mind so that we can get your expectations in line with what you can afford,” says Claire Garabedian of In Water Flowers (inwaterflowers.co.uk). “When couples don’t have an inkling of what they want to spend, it’s very hard to start creating an idea”.

When I’m comparing prices, what sort of additional fees should I think about?

Extras like VAT, delivery, clean-up and prop hire can add up fast, so be sure to have these factored into your quotes. “If your wedding is quite a distance away, the cost of an overnight B&B stay might have to be included,” adds Hannah Martin, events manager at McQueens (mcqueens.co.uk), so keep this in mind too.

I suffer from hay fever – which flowers would you suggest?

”Steer clear of scented flowers and you should be fine,” says Hannah Martin. “Roses, tulips, ranunculus hydrangea and irises are included in the safe list, however lilies, hyacinths and narcissi are definitely a no!” If you have your heart set on heavenly scents, keep them out of your bouquet and table centre and be sure to keep them in well-ventilated areas.

How do I look at a venue and decide how to decorate it with flowers?

”Ask yourself: ‘Where are my guests going to be; what’s the schedule for the day; where are we going to start off; and how long are we going to stay in each place?’” says Claire Moore of OliveBlossom Flowers by Claire Moore. “That will help when deciding where the flowers should go”. Utilise special features at the venue – think vintage fireplaces and lovely corners – and decorate them first.

How can I find a bouquet shape to compliment my dress?

A good florist will take into account your height and body shape as well as dress shape when crafting the perfect bouquet, so be sure to bring photos of your gown and accessories to your consultation. “We also consider the amount of detailing on the dress and its style, whether it’s modern or vintage,” says Melissa Riva (melissariva.co.uk). A dress with simple, straight lines will look better with a dramatic, cascading bouquet, while a heavily detailed gown looks great with a simple bunch of roses.

Are there any colours that I should avoid?

”The key is mixing in the right complementary blooms and foliage,” explains Jane Williams at David Austen Roses (davidaustinroses.com). Avoid pairing super-saturated hues like indigo or scarlet with pale flowers, as the contrast often makes the darker blooms appear black in pictures. Keep an all-white bouquet from looking washed out against a marquee by mixing in gorgeous greenery and contrasting coloured flowers to add depth to the arrangement.

Are some flowers more practical than others for outdoor weddings?

”It’s not so much the flower, it’s how the arrangements are structured,” says Claire Garabedian. “It’s also quite nice to have them lit, either from below or spotlighted, to make them really stand out”. To help create a natural, organic feel use herbs, topiary trees and foliage such as pittosporum, camellia leaves and alchemilla.

What are some alternative container ideas that I can try instead of standard vases for table centres?

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What can’t you use? With the current craze for all things quirky and vintage, florists are drawing on diverse inspiration for new ideas, from chemistry sets to teacups. For a country wedding, try wicker baskets, terracotta pots and old-fashioned vegetable crates. Or if your theme is more city-chic, use vintage handbags as vessels.