Fall, Pearls of Wisdom, Spring, Summer, Winter
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Pearls of Wisdom ~ Q and A with Belles and Thistles

jenn (2)

Good morning pearlies!  Any brides out there wanting to know more about booking a florist or what flowers are best for the wedding budget?  Well this feature is for you!  Remember last week’s post that bragged on the Chicago based florist duo of Belles and Thistles?  If not, read more about them here.  But if so, you probably remember the lovely photos of their work.  They do a fantastic job!  And as it turns out, not only do they do great artistic work, but they are a wealth of knowledge when it comes to their craft!  Today the ladies are sharing all kinds of useful information for today’s bride-to-be.  So enjoy this Q and A, and learn some super useful information along the way!

1. How far in advance should a bride book her florist?

We like to have anywhere between 3 months and a year to work with our Brides.  We may need to have several consultation appointments to discuss important details and exchange items and personal touches like brooches, ribbons and glassware.  A wider time frame not only allows for more flexibility in scheduling, but gives the Brides a larger window to spread out payments so not everything is due all at once.

2. What are some flower “look alikes” that can be substituted for a smaller budget bride?

Peonies and Dahlias are beautiful and often very expensive, consider Mums or Garden Roses as an alternative. Another favorite that can really wreck a budget is Lily of the Valley.  This fragile flower is often one of the most expensive. Finding a look alike is difficult, but there are many beautiful silk versions.  Mixing silk Lily of the Valley with other fresh flowers can be a beautiful option.  Alstromeria is a beautiful, inexpensive flower that often can be subbed in for flowers like Freesia or even Orchids. It comes in many colors, is very hearty and provides a lot of bang for the buck.

Another way to help a bride with a small budget would be to blend expensive flowers with more budget friendly options.  Carnations can be tucked into bouquets to add lovely colors and texture.  Hydrangea also make a great base flower for any bouquet.  Since they’re so large, one stem can take the place of dozens of flowers.

courtney photo by Kelly Benton (1)courtney photo by Kelly Benton (2)

3. We know that one way to save a couple bucks is to use flowers that are “in season”.  What are a few examples of flowers that are prime for each of the 4 seasons?

-Blooms available Year Round include Roses, Hydrangea, Mums, Carnations, Alstromeria, Calla Lilies, Freesia, Gerbera Daisies, Orchids, Iris, Lisianthus, Stephanotis, Snapdragons, Veronica, Thistles, Protea, Birds of Paradise, Stargazer Lilies, Asiatic Lilies, Belles of Ireland, Delphinium, and filler flowers like Hypericum, Babies Breath, Solidago, Waxflower, Monte Cassino, Limonium, and Statice

-Spring: Tulips, Daffodils, Peonies, Stock (peak in spring/summer), Lily of the Valley (very limited season), Sweet Peas, Hyacinth, Viburnum,

-Summer: Gladiolas, Cockscomb,  Dahlias (late summer to early fall), Zinnias, Queen Anne’s Lace, Ranunculus, Billy Balls, Matsumoto Asters

-Fall: Sunflowers, Yarrow, Leucadendron, Scabiosa Pods

-Winter: Pine, Holly, Star of Bethlehem

-We also recommend avoiding the week before and the week after major floral holidays, like Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day. Prices go through the roof and quality suffers.

4. Would you say it’s more popular nowadays for brides to want something recreated from a picture say via Pinterest etc. or do most have you girls work from the ground up?

Our Brides run the spectrum of knowing exactly what they want and not having a clue, but we can easily accommodate either when it comes to floral planning.  Certainly more and more, Brides are providing us with inspiration from sites like Pinterest, wanting us to duplicate specific arrangements.  That makes our job pretty easy, but occasionally the inspiration images may not align with the Bride’s budget or the season of the event, so often we end up tweaking the designs to fit their needs.  Sometimes the pins serve just as a starting off point to give us an overall feel for the Brides tastes in color, shape or texture.  We may make several changes until we get everything just right, with the end result looking only vaguely like the inspiration photo.  Then again, we encounter some Brides who have no floral knowledge, and just relay an overall vibe and a color scheme to work from.  Those cases do require a bit more time in narrowing down floral selections and styles, but in the end the Bride gets a one of a kind design that can’t be found on Pinterest, and is completely original to her event.

5. In this day and age of DIY/Pinterest many brides want to do everything themselves.  What would you say are the biggest advantages of hiring a florist for the big day?

Experience.  Working with perishable product can be challenging.  Florists will have dealt with any number of issues during the design process and event day installation that a DIY Bride may not have even dreamt of.   A trained professional florists’ eye and ability to make decisions on the fly is worth the cost of hiring a professional.  As a case in point, on our last event, the client ordered two sprays and a garland to adorn the front of her outdoor gazebo.  When we arrived to do installation it became very clear that the sprays and garland would compete with each other and wouldn’t give our Bride the relaxed rustic feel she was after.  We were able to analyze our situation with the items available and decided to hang the garland across the top as planned and add the sprays to the posts at the rear of the gazebo.  The finished effect drew the viewers’ eye through the space and set a lovely backdrop for the ceremony.

That being said, we also firmly believe in the marriage between DIY and hiring professionals.  We encourage our brides to be as hands on as they are comfortable.  We’ve had brides build their own flower boxes for centerpieces from wood taken from an old family barn.  We love bringing in those personal details and DIY is a great way to do that.

jillian photo by John Andrews (2)jillian photo by John Andrews (1)

6. Would you say it’s better to rent or buy vases for table centerpieces?  

Renting or buying can be a difficult question. Depending on the type of glassware, cost can vary wildly.  Using smaller, less expensive vases it is often more cost effective for brides to purchase them.  Plus, as an added bonus the arrangements can be given out to weddings guests at the end of the affair.

Larger, more show stopping vases tend to be considerably more expensive.  Renting those can generally save the bride 50% or more off the retail cost.  Brides should consider the fact that rentals will need to be returned one way or another. If our Brides choose to return them on their own, it is more cost effective, but does lead to additional work.  Some of our Brides have us return at the end of the evening to collect our glassware and package the fresh flowers for guest to take home, but that is an additional fee.  Renting also means being responsible for any damage that might occur during the event.

7.  What is bouquet preservation?

Various vendors will preserve bouquets by freeze drying them.  Some leave the bouquets three dimensional, while some create framed keepsakes.  We have also seen companies that will make jewelry out of the petals.  There are also ways to press or dry flowers at home, using items found at local craft stores.  If a bride is considering bouquet preservation, it is best to contact the preservation company or gather necessary materials well before the event.  Time is of the essence with fresh flowers.  If you decide to preserve your bouquet while on your honeymoon it is probably too late.

8.  Are there usually extra fees for floral delivery or is this usually included in the price?

We tend to itemize out separate delivery and set up fees.  Event delivery may be as simple as a single location drop off and go, or as involved as a four location delivery, perhaps including a home, a hotel, the ceremony and reception sites.  And set up services may include pinning of boutonnieres, installing ceremony décor like aisle runners and pew bows, sprinkling of petals, etc, as well as reception set up of anywhere from 25 – 150 items.  We find that every event will require different services, and we price them each accordingly, so just be sure to have your vendors explain in detail what services would be provided for the additional fees.

Chicago Wedding Photography by Wedding Photographer Steve Koo Chicago Wedding Photography by Steve KooChicago Wedding Photography by Wedding Photographer Steve Koo Chicago Wedding Photography by Steve Koo

9.  What are the heartiest flowers that will last long after the wedding has come and gone?

Generally some of the most economical flowers like Mums, Carnations, Alstromeria, Scabiosa Pods, Billy Balls, and Baby’s Breath are among the longest lasting offerings.

10.  Do florists offer bouquet alternatives these days… ie brooch bouquets…or is that still really a diy or special order item?

We have done some non-traditional aspects to bouquets, like felt flowers and permanent bouquet replicas to be saved as keepsakes, but in general the vast majority of our bouquets tend to be fresh flowers.  Many vendors do specialize in non traditional bouquets made from things like brooches or paper flowers, but it is not commonplace for those to be offered by traditional florists.  Brides need to decide if they have the time, patience, money and skill to take on building their own bouquets.  In some cases it may be an easy stress-free project they can feel good about, and in some cases it may just be worth it to pay a professional for the labor and insure one less headache…


Wow!  Well thank you so much to Jenn and Emily for sharing all of this helpful info!  We hope to work with you again in the future!  And pearlies, thanks so much for reading along and we hope this helps you create your picture perfect day!

Chicago Wedding Photography, Chicago Wedding Photography


Chrissy and MiMi

Contributing Photographers~ Kelly Benton/ John Andrews/ Steve Koo


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