You will probably purchase more flowers from your florist for your wedding than for any other occasion in your life. The florist you select will play a major role in setting the tone for your big day. Besides your bridal bouquet, traditionally you'll need—at a minimum—bouquets for your attendants, boutonnieres for your groom, groomsmen and fathers; corsages for your mothers; flowers to decorate the ceremony site, and centerpieces for the reception tables. To make sure all of these blooms are beautiful and within your budget, picking the right florist—and knowing how to work with her—is crucial.
These days, many florists who specialize in weddings don't just do blooms; they also conceive and execute the design for your reception, from flowers to linens, candles, decorative trees, lights and more. Whether you go with one of these full-service designers or a standard florist who'll provide bouquets, centerpieces and the like, you should start looking for a professional at least several months before the wedding, or even earlier if you can.
To select a wedding florist, your guru of blooms, begin by asking for recommendations from recently married friends and from wedding professionals. Your contacts at both ceremony and reception sites probably have florists they've worked with repeatedly and can recommend. This is helpful because it means the florist is already familiar with the site—but be sure to follow up with your own research and reference checks.
Once you select your initial florist candidates, make an appointment to view each one's work. First look at any arrangements on display in their shop to see if you like the colors and combinations, and if the blossoms on hand look healthy and fresh. Take a careful look at the florist's portfolio of other wedding work, and be sure to study both bouquets and table arrangements. If you like what you see, it's time to talk about your needs.
When interviewing florists, be prepared to give them a full picture of your entire wedding, and to discuss your flower preferences and budget. Everything—from your color scheme to how your attendants plan to wear their hair—sets the mood for your bouquets and arrangements. Be sure to bring swatches and photos of your gown and your bridesmaids" dresses, as well as drawings or pictures of the sites you'll be using so you can discuss ideal placement for floral arrangements. Visualize all the places you can adorn with blossoms. (Obviously this means that you can't plan your flowers until the big decisions of date, location and gown have been made.)
Think in advance about your flower budget and let your potential florist know this immediately. And, to make sure she understands the look you're after, clip pictures of any floral arrangements you like from magazines, be it sparse birch branches for a winter wedding or a bunch of colorful tulips. You don't need to be able to reel off the specific flowers you want to use, but showing her examples of the style you prefer will help her work up designs—and realistic estimates.
Once she understands your desires and price range, the florist can start making her own suggestions, based on her expertise about flower types and prices. If you tell her you want to carry roses, she can offer options from budget to blow-out. For example, a simple armful of roses hand-tied with elegant ribbon will require far less labor and therefore will cost less than the same flowers arranged into an elaborate mixed bouquet. If your heart is set on the time-consuming arrangement, she can recommend elegant but reasonable flowers to mix in, plus ways to save on the centerpieces to keep it all within budget.
This type of back-and-forth is the kind of relationship you should look for in choosing your florist. She should be someone who can take your vision and run with it, who offers advice and suggestions but gives you the final say, and who commits to working within your style and price range.