It goes without saying that the past year has been extremely challenging for most Americans, as well as small businesses. It’s also safe to say that the wedding and events industries that have been hit the hardest. The pandemic altered life as we once knew it and changed the face of the wedding industry drastically. It’s true that vendors are slowly recovering thanks to mass vaccinations and state restrictions being lifted. Many businesses are still crippled by the pandemic and may never reach full recovery.
Florists have been hit hard by the pandemic
One of the wedding businesses having a more difficult time staying afloat through all of this has been florists. Everything came to a screeching halt last March. And weddings and events were either cancelled or postponed indefinitely. Flowers started to wither in the fields because there were no farm hands to pick them, explains Ashley Greer, owner of Atelier Ashley Flowers in Alexandria, Virginia. Products that had been picked could not be distributed and were burned in big piles. “Farms with decades of history closed permanently. Venues closed for the foreseeable future. And any kind of florist or event worker was forced to leave the industry and find new lines of work,” she says. “Many of these people actually had to move out of the area or return home to live with their parents.”
Because the shutdown was so sudden, many florists were left with dozens and dozens of arrangements they couldn’t use. “If a contract had been signed, we could often figure out a solution such as donating them to a charity or delivering the bouquets around town to friends and family,” shares Greer. “In cases where contracts had not been signed (which does happen with frequency), refunds had to be issued even though the flowers had already been paid for.”
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“It was a very strange time full of general pandemic fear, and the very real fear that with no income and depleting savings we would have to move out of our family home,” she says.
Over time, she unintentionally began a path towards becoming a more traditional retail florist. “Initially, with just one person, I started doing weekly home deliveries and photographed every bouquet I made to share on Instagram,” she says. By June she found herself busier than she had ever been before.
Leaving the wedding industry was a reasonable option
Greer has found success both in and out of the wedding sphere. She recognized that her colleagues didn’t fare so well. She’s heard from countless florists who are starting to phase out weddings altogether. “Each of us made pivots—some to more traditional retail, some really leaning into at-home flower design lessons, and some moving towards a more wholesale flower box model,” she says. “When we talked all of our reasons were pretty similar, basically boiling down to the lack of appreciation for our craft in the wedding industry and the overwhelming positivity we have been experiencing from our new clients during this pandemic.”
Nichole Anderson, Floral Designer at Nickie Jones Events in Franklin Park, New Jersey. She has also seen the damage the pandemic has caused florists. “Weddings were difficult before the pandemic and quarantine. Now, they are more draining because everyone has experienced some form of trauma from the pandemic whether we realize it or not,” she says. “We did two small events this year that took countless phone calls, emails, and incredible support of wholesalers to secure a small number of flowers. At the end, I thought, ‘There is no way that I am going to go through this for every wedding or worse, risk disappointing my clients by not being able to fulfill their wishes.’”
An Uphill Battle
Anderson made the tough decision to temporarily pause taking on weddings—a decision she is at peace with. “I find that wedding clients have a lack of understanding of what the dream costs, and most often it’s because they’ve never made this kind of investment. They’re seeing so many beautiful weddings published without reference to the amount of the investment required for the design,” she says.
Greer agrees, adding that wedding clients can be hard to take on. Mostly because there is so much education needed in terms of what costs are involved. “It is not as simple as just designing. There are hours involved in the consultation. Then writing the proposal, then constructing and placing the flower order. Then staffing for the event and making sure things can get designed and put in place,” she says. “In addition to our minimum of 1 million dollar insurance policy for most venues, as well as complying with all the guidelines and regulations of the venue, planner, and couple, it’s important to note that all of the flowers need to be picked up at the end of the night, which is sometime between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m.”
What brides and grooms need to know about booking a florist
Though Anderson doesn’t think that we’ll see a shortage of florists, she says couples should begin researching local florists as soon as they get engaged. “From there, contact the florists to find out their preferred time-frame for booking and let that be the guide,” she says.
Jennifer Cole, Creative Director and owner of Jennifer Cole Florals and Events in Napa and San Diego, California, agrees. “Clients need to book a florist almost the minute a venue is booked,” she says. “The lack of florists that can produce a medium-to-large scale event has dwindled by a lot. Now add in the clients that pushed to this year, and this years’ clients all crammed into an eight-month period. It is an absolute feeding frenzy.”
When working with a wedding florist, here are some factors to keep in mind, according to the pros.
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Don’t be afraid to talk about the budget:
Christi Lopez, President of The Business of Flowers, recommends couples be upfront and honest about their budget right off the bat. “This way, you can enjoy the process of having the wedding florist create your vision,” she says.
If your budget is limited, Anderson urges couples to be willing to scale down their vision. “We get that budgets can be tight and want you to love your wedding flowers. So know that transparency, flexibility, and open communication are critical components towards us creating something beautiful for you,” she says. “For the best possible outcome, keep calm, remain respectful, and collaborate with your florist.”
Remember that flowers are expensive:
“In the simplest terms, think about the journey each bloom takes from farm to your table and how many hands, airplanes, and trucks it goes through to get to you,” says Cole.
“It takes time and teamwork to get a highly perishable, custom-made piece of floral art, made just for you, for your wedding day. It’s there, on time to the minute—wow, that’s pretty amazing.”