Wedding Planning 101 – Meeting with a Floral Designer, with Guest Blogger Nancy Liu Chin

I’m just giddy working on this post…not only do I get to spend some time on my very favorite topic (I’m the flower girl here at Junebug amongst a die-hard group of loyal photography junkies!), but I get to share one of my favorite designers with you too! Junebug member Nancy Liu Chin is brilliantly talented, and as an expert in the industry she has a lot of great ideas for couples as they are planning and working with a floral designer. Today she is sharing some of her beautiful designs AND tips on what you can do to ensure a successful meeting with your florist!
From Nancy Liu Chin: Perhaps it is naive of me to think that all people who are newly engaged should know how to work with a floral designer. After all, there are endless wedding planning books, articles on how to plan the perfect wedding, and plenty of blogs…yet, today, a bride asked me if it was necessary to meet with me in order to get a floral proposal. Of course, meeting a floral designer is a must unless you are planning a destination wedding and even at that, I recommend a phone interview.
So to help newly engaged couples, I’m writing this post on how to prepare for your meeting with your floral designer. I truly hope this is not only helpful for engaged couples but for all event planners, floral designers, wedding enthusiasts…and many more. I will be using the term Floral Designer in this post for simplicity. Keep in mind that I am using both these terms – florist and floral designer – to mean someone who will be creating wedding flowers. It’s interchangeable!
So, the question is, what should you prepare for when meeting with your floral designer? Follow these steps, and your floral desgn
1. Flower Knowledge – Do you need to know the names of all the flowers?
My God, I hope not! If all clients knew the name of all cut flowers, then most of the floral designers around might be out of a job. To me, it’s like asking if a patient needs to know all the medical terms before they see their doctor. It would be unproductive and a waste of one’s time. If gardening is a hobby, I can imagine that you might want to know more about how flowers are produced, cultivated, and cared for. However, for someone who is planning a wedding, there are more productive things to spend your time on.
Keep in mind, a good, knowledgeable, informed floral designer should have a portfolio with plenty of flowers for a couple to look through. I keep a “deck” of colorful cards which are coordinated by color and alphabetized so that I can “flip” through it during meetings and show clients what flower I am describing.
Here are some good examples of the type of phrases that would be helpful for you to use:
  • Romantic, fluffy, large head flowers like roses and peonies that evoke a garden feel.
  • Modern, architecturally interesting blooms that have beautiful, shapely stems. French Tulips in a single vase are very elegant to me.
  • Something unusual with lots of spiky tips, fussy, different. Something that wouldn’t be fun to touch but would look very different from the standard fluffy flowers.
  • Simple, happy flowers that make me smile, like sunflowers, daisies, mums.
  • Bold, dramatic flowers that work for a grand ballroom.
Bottom line: Describe characteristics of what you want the flowers to look like!

2. Get Organized and Create a Check List
It is very helpful to create a check list of things you need. Emailing a copy to your floral designer ahead of time is wonderful. You can also bring a copy with you to the meeting. Of course, since you may not know all the flower pieces that you might need, here is my check list.
Personal Flowers:
  • Bridal Bouquet
  • Bridesmaid Bouquets
  • Groom’s Boutonniere
  • Groomsmen’s Boutonnieres
  • Usher(s) Flowers
  • Reader(s)
  • Officiant
  • Mothers and Fathers
  • Grandparents
  • Sponsors
  • Ring bearer, Coin bearer, other little boys who need flowers
  • Flower girls, Junior Bridesmaids, other little girls who need flowers
Ceremony Flowers:
  • Altar or Ceremony Large Pieces
  • Chair or Pew Decorations
  • Aisle Decor
  • Welcome Table
  • Gift Table
  • Foyer Arrangement
  • Door or Entryway
  • Car Decor
Reception Flowers:
  • Centerpieces
  • Head Table or Sweet Heart Table
  • Bride and Groom’s Chair
  • Bar
  • Food Stations
  • Dessert Stations
  • Cake Table
  • Dance Floor Decor
  • Cocktail Table
  • Place Card Table
  • Door Ways
  • Lounge Decor
  • Walkways
  • Fireplace Mantels
Bottom Line: Get organized and have a list ready!
3. Style, Color, Concept
Of course many couples go to meetings thinking that they will see something in a floral designer’s portfolio and instantly love it. I wish this were the case. But it is so NOT.
I think many couples come for inspiration. That’s wonderful! However, to make your wedding flowers truly unique, come with as many ideas and examples of things you love as you can. There are so many resources filled with ideas! Some things to bring:
  • Tear-sheets from magazines
  • Tagged images you love in wedding and floral design books
  • Images from wedding blogs, and individual blogs from wedding professionals
  • Pinterest boards
  • Swatch samples of fabrics you are using – your dress and bridesmaid dresses
  • Color swatches – you can go into Home Depot and pick out some “paint” chips so that you can clearly communicate your wedding colors. I guarantee you, when a bride walks into my office and tells me her wedding color is green, I ask her, “is it moss, forest, sea, celery, pea, chartreuse, apple, lime, sage, vivid, Kate Spade, Kelly, spinach, or pepper green?”
  • Your wedding invitation
  • Photos of your venue
Bring all the things that you think are useful for someone who is creating your weddings flowers. And it doesn’t have to be a whole novel – a few printouts, consolidated into something concise is perfect.
Bottom line: Go to be informed, and be prepare to show and tell.
4. Ask and you shall receive
In advance of your meeting, be sure to have a list of questions that you need answered. During the meeting, many will be addressed. However if you don’t have a prepared list, you might forget a few important questions. Jot down at least a few key questions. Some things you might want to ask:
  • Can you suggest a few cost saving tips?
  • What flowers hold up the best during the month of my wedding? (This question will show if the floral designer is truly knowledge about flowers and thinks off the cuff.)
  • Have you worked at my venue before? If not, would you mind going to do a site visit. (This question shows that a floral designer is attentive to the details and wants to be prepared. It also reflects their experience level.)
  • Do you drop off the flowers or does your staff or crew do the complete setup? (This question will answer what type of day of service you will get. And if the price for such service is warranted.)
  • What was your favorite wedding? Do you have an example in your portfolio? What made it so special? (This question will show you what the floral designer deems tasteful, interesting to them. I love this question because only a couple brides have ever asked me this and I think this one is by far the most interesting. It shows me that a couple wants to get to know me as a designer. )
  • How many events do you do a week? Will my wedding be the only one that day? (This question might be important to some of you if you feel that you need your team to focus on just you for that week.)
  • Have you ever gotten so ill that you couldn’t complete a job? If so, what would happen to my wedding? (It’s important to know if a floral designer has contingency plans. I know that we do, so I think others should be prepared as well)
Bottom line: Whatever quality is important to you, make sure you leave that meeting feeling that you get a good sense of a floral designer’s values, creativity, knowledge, and depth.


Wedding Planning 101 – Planning a Rehearsal Dinner

Besides the all-important wedding day, there are a few other events surrounding your wedding that will need planning, and they can be just as fun, memorable, and beautiful as the big day itself! One such event, the rehearsal dinner, is usually held the night before the wedding. It is an opportunity to welcome guests, thank your loved ones for supporting you, and to kick off the festivities! Today, I have a few planning tips and ideas to get you started, illustrated with Michèle Waite’s beautiful images of Kate and Tony’s celebratory dinner at The Corson Building.

Purpose: The rehearsal dinner can serve several purposes! Following the actual rehearsal, where the business of fine-tuning and practicing the wedding ceremony took priority, the rehearsal dinner is a time to unwind and enjoy the anticipation of the next day! It also is a “welcome dinner” of sorts for any special out-of-town guests that have been invited. Many of your guests (and even the two families) may be meeting for the first time, so it is a time for introductions, mingling, getting to know each other. Maybe most importantly, the dinner is an opportunity to thank your families and bridal party for supporting you throughout your wedding planning and upcoming marriage.

The Hosts: First things first…who pays for the rehearsal dinner? Traditionally, the groom’s family hosted the dinner as the bride’s family was footing the bill for the wedding. All of the “rules” surrounding wedding planning have definitely loosened over the years, including the rehearsal dinner, but this is still a good place to start. One great benefit to this is that it gives the groom’s family a chance to be part of the planning fun and feel included, even if they aren’t as involved in the wedding.
The Guests: Anyone that is participating in your wedding and was part of the earlier rehearsal is traditionally included on your guest list. Besides your wedding party and immediate family, you may want to invite a larger circle of family members, any out-of-town guests who traveled a long way to be at your wedding, or close friends that are not in your wedding party. The wedding day is busy, so the rehearsal dinner is a great way to get a little more time with loved ones and to connect with people who you don’t get to see as often as you’d like.

Location: The rehearsal dinner is a great opportunity to introduce out-of-town guests to one of your favorite local spots. You could hold your dinner at one of your favorite date restaurants, or just choose a type of cuisine that is a local specialty. Kate and Tony selected the Corson Building, which specializes in farm-to-table dining, so their guests enjoyed the bounty of the season and local farms. The party doesn’t have to be at a restaurant though. A relative’s beautiful home, a favorite park, a boat that offers cruises on a local waterway, or a museum are just a few ideas of alternative venues.
Design: First and foremost, the rehearsal dinner should be unique and different from the wedding and reception. In my own experience in event design, I’ve met with a lot of groom’s families that are planning the rehearsal dinner, and the first thing that they tell me is the color palette of the wedding, or a particular motif that is guiding the design of the wedding. I try to offer some alternatives in this case; the last thing you want your wedding to be is a rerun or look recycled from the night before! This is your chance to use that OTHER color palette that you loved, or bring in the custom calligraphy place cards that were beyond your budget for the larger wedding guest list, or include the moss and acorns that your outdoor-loving fiance had his heart set on!

Toasts: After everyone has dined, the evening often includes toasts to the bride and groom, though it seems to vary by region how elaborate and involved the toasting can be. I’ve attended several rehearsal dinners in the south with 3+ hours of toasting and the opportunity for any guest to speak. (And I have to say, many of them have taken that opportunity! Settle in for a long evening of spontaneity, laughter, and tears!) In the Pacific Northwest, toasts tend to be short and sweet, and are usually just offered up by parents and maybe a few members of the wedding party. The traditional time for the bride and groom to say a thank you to everyone, and distribute any gifts they are giving to their wedding party and parents, is immediately following the toasts.
Favors: Though they are certainly not required, I’ve seen some very thoughtful couples plan a sweet little care package for their guests as they head out the door at the end of the night. A cute bag with a few scones, homemade jam, and a little good morning note make a lovely and easy breakfast for guests staying at hotels or in a hurry to get to scheduled events the next day. You also could do a tiny, delicious truffle for everyone to enjoy as a special “nightcap”, just as luxurious hotels leave a chocolate on the pillow.

Final words of wisdom: Make it an early night! Everyone should get a good night sleep before the big day tomorrow.