Retrospect Images » Napa, Sonoma, Sacramento, Northern California and Desitnation Fine Art Wedding Photography


I am so excited to share today’s guest blogger post with you guys and kickoff a new series of guest posts!

If you are a couple planning your wedding day, you may feel as though vendors servicing weddings automatically charge more because of the “wedding” title thrown into the mix.It may surprise you that when you take an honest, transparent look at exactly how much backend work and costs go into creating your day, it becomes clear why wedding vendors much charge the prices they charge in order to cover costs of materials/taxes/labor, provide the best possible product, and meet client expectations. Over the next several weeks, I am asking vendors in different categories to share a deeper look at the pricing and costs that go into creating their product or service so help shed more light on the common question “why weddings are so darn expensive?”. I hope that this series will help you gather a greater understanding at why these services are worth investing in, and to help you determine how to budget for your wedding.

This week, Susan Kelly my sweet friend and incredibly talented floral mastermind behind Marion Moss Floral Design (formerly Three Sisters Flowers) is sharing her expertise in how floral design costs are determined. (and all photos in this post showcase her beautiful work)

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Wedding flower costs can sometimes be surprising to wedding couples. You can pick up a nice bouquet at Trader Joe’s for under $15 so why does a bridal bouquet cost $275 or more?

Wedding planning websites typically advise couples to budget 10-15% of their total budget toward flowers. A total wedding budget of $60,000 will mean a flower budget of $6,000-9,000, which sounds sufficient, but it all depends on your wedding details and your priorities. If you have a large wedding party or 200 plus guests the $6,000-9,000 will not be enough to get that Pinterest worthy centerpiece on every table. If beautiful flowers are a priority for you it’s worth shuffling your budget dollars around a bit to achieve the lush, romantic flowers of your dreams, after all, they’ll be documented in your photos for years to come. Truly the best way to make your flower budget work is to keep your wedding party small and shave down your guest list, and bonus, you’ll save money all the way around.

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Most in demand floral designers have minimums so it’s best to ask and be upfront about your budget and your priorities. When I provide a proposal the only way to reduce the total is to remove some elements. I cannot reduce the price of your centerpieces or an arch we’ve discussed and I’ve designed. It will not be the same and wouldn’t be up to my standards of design. Think of it as asking your caterer to provide Filet Mignon but you only want to pay for the tri-tip. It just doesn’t work that way.

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There is so much work that goes into that one bouquet that few people realize so I’m going to try to break it down so that couples can understand why it’s so important to invest in a floral designer who really has experience and skill.

First of all I’d like to put to rest the myth that florists charge more just because it’s a wedding, not true! What is true is that we want your flowers to be perfect on your big day and that is no small feat.

The biggest factor in the cost of wedding flowers is time. We spend time screening inquiries, meeting with potential clients, preparing proposals, revising proposals, sourcing vases, ordering flowers, making game plans for flower substitutions, scheduling our staff, making timelines and checklists for the installation, finalizing the order and proposal, shopping at the flower market, receiving and processing the flowers, preparing the vases and containers, designing and producing your bouquets (typically a 2-3 day process or more), corsages and centerpieces, packaging them for travel, packing our vehicles, keeping the flowers temperature controlled during transport, unpacking at the venue (service elevators!), set up at the venue, coming back at the end of the night or the next day to break everything down. Sometimes we wait until the ceremony is over and move elements to the reception – it’s a mad dash! There are also times that we have e a very limited set up time at your venue so we have to bring extra helping hands and they must be paid.

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We spend a ton of time processing flowers once we receive them in our studio. This is something that is so important and it is something that experienced designers really spend time on. When we receive flowers from our suppliers they need attention and TLC. We make sure that the flowers are hydrated, stripped of leaves, given a fresh cut, and put in the right temperature water with the necessary additives. Some flowers are left at room temperature and others go in coolers. Sometimes the flowers we ordered come in and they aren’t the right color or the quality is not up to our standard so we have to jump on the phone or make a trip to the market to find a replacement, sometimes this means scouring the country for that perfect flower.

That garden rose you love? It can take days to get it open perfectly and once it’s perfect we have to keep it that way. We baby those blooms by regulating the temperature, changing the water frequently, adding special floral additives based on the flower, sometimes tenting them with plastic, moving them into the sun, I’ve even taken blooms home and put them in my bathroom. Flowers need to be tended to for the whole week before the wedding to achieve that perfect blossom. Sometimes we may only get 3 or 4 perfect, usable flowers out of a bunch of 10. I’ve even had to scramble to my supplier the morning of a wedding because something I ordered just doesn’t look right.

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Many wedding blogs will tell you that flowers in season are more affordable. While that may be true in some cases, the rules of supply and demand apply to flowers too. Premium, in demand flowers are pricey even when they’re in season and they can also be difficult to procure. An experienced floral designer has good relationships with her suppliers and growers and will be able to get that special peony or Café au Lait dahlia. On the other hand, if you really want peonies when they’re not really in season, we may be able to find them but they will likely not be quality blooms and will cost much more than they normally would. I always try to steer my couples away from out of season flowers but if it’s a must I always have a back up plan!

Now factor in that hand dyed silk ribbon, the perfect silver compote bowl, the hard to find twig arch, all of those special details that we get excited about are factors in the total cost as well as the supplies you don’t see – wire, tape, chicken wire, pins, they all add up. Foliage and rose petals are not always inexpensive alternatives despite what you’ve read. It takes a ton of foliage to get that gorgeous garland down the center of your table. Rose petals come from roses (!) and we hand pluck them for your wedding aisle.

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Floral designers are also responsible business owners and must carry insurance, pay employment taxes, workman’s comp, invest in education, professional development, etc.

The best thing you can do is find a floral designer whose style you love, give them an idea of your vision and trust them to execute it. When I have freedom to choose the best of the best flowers at the market you’ll get the best value and be wowed.

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Oh, that $275+ bridal bouquet? You’d be shocked to find out how many stems of flowers go into a typical bouquet. And don’t forget how hard we worked to get each bloom to be perfect for you. It’s totally worth it!


Susan Kelly is the Owner/Lead Designer of Marion Moss Floral Design in Petaluma, Ca. (formerly Three Sisters Flowers). She is also a novice flower farmer, chicken wrangler and dog mama.

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