Expert Advice: A Guide to Hiring a Wedding Florist Part 1

What makes your wedding different from all the other events that happen at your venue?

Your flowers and decor.

Think of flowers as the “icing on the cake” or the jewelry and accessories to a great outfit.

With endless options on Pinterest and Instagram, how do you know how to achieve your vision while also staying on budget? When should you hire a wedding florist, and what do you look for in one?

We've asked Tampa Bay's best wedding florists to share their insight for “A Guide to Hiring a Wedding Florist in Tampa Bay.”

Bride and Groom During Elegant Outdoor Clearwater Lawn Wedding Ceremony Belleview Inn, Garden Inspired Decor with Large Floral Circle Arch Under Pergola, with Pink Cherry Blossoms, Ivory Roses, Blush Peonies, and White Hydrangeas | Florida Luxury Wedding Planner Parties A'La Carte | Tampa Bay Wedding Florist Bruce Wayne Florals

Luxurious Blush and Rose Clearwater Wedding | K&K Photography | Bruce Wayne Floral Designs

What Do Couples Need to Know Before They Start Contacting Florists?

“Having the date and venue booked is the first step.  The venue is important because suggestions can be made for decor.  Also, having a general style, colors, and budget.  Knowing your budget is important.  Flower types and amounts are all based on your overall budget for florals and decor.” -Stephanie Prenatt, Owner/Lead Designer, FH Weddings & Events

“Before contacting a florist, couples need to have their wedding date set and their venue booked. They also need to know such things as color palette, approximate guest count, and the number of people in their bridal party. This is very important because it is difficult to start planning and designing flowers if there is not a specific date picked and wedding venue booked. The number of guests is also important so that the appropriate number of tables and centerpieces can be planned,” Jean King, owner Monarch Events and Designs

“Couples should not leave their wedding flowers for last. Make sure florals and decor are included in the top five priority areas, being venue, dress/bridal party attire, flowers/decor, entertainment, and photography.” -Andrea Roberto, owner, Leaf It To Us

“Before contacting florists, couples should have a venue, vibe, the bridal party size, and colors picked out. These don't have to be set in stone, but a general idea is important so that your florist can understand the vision and help make it a reality. Not knowing these details can prolong the process and potentially mean more money in the long run. The most important thing to know beforehand though is certainly the budget. Knowing your budget will help the florist know what they can realistically design, and you won't have to go back and forth with them trying to adjust your invoice.” -Melanie Eubanks, Lead Floral Designer, Lemon Drops

Dorelle Raphael-Fishkin, owner of Brides and Blooms Designs says you need to have these items in place:

In order for a florist to work up a reasonable quote, we need to know where you are holding your event, the table count, the number in their wedding party, the location of both the ceremony and the reception, and the overall look of your wedding.

The date is important because some flowers will be more cost-effective at different times of the year. If you are planning a wedding around Valentine's Day, red roses are going to cost way more than they will in July.

Know color story and style so that we can showcase your personality through your flowers.

The florist will want to know how many floral designs they will be making for the wedding party so that they can create an accurate quote.

The budget is not only about how much you want to spend, but, rather, what kind of flowers and greenery we should be showing you and what kind of designs will fit within that budget.

John Elice, of Bruce Wayne Florals adds:

Have inspirational floral photos and a mood board for the event.  Know the style of your event. Will it be formal, casual, beach, modern, garden, bohemian?  What is your color palette? What are your floral likes and dislikes? Are there any allergies to consider when selecting flowers? 

Determine your floral needs by creating a list of items you expect your florist to provide. Will you need an arch for your ceremony? Have a list of items you are looking for the florist to provide. Keep in mind some florists can help with linens, chairs, chargers, and other items you might need.

What is the size of your bridal party? The more information you have available, the easier it will be to make sure the florist can provide you with your expectations.

Know the selected venue spaces for each part of your wedding day: ceremony, cocktail, and reception. Understand the environment within each location. Will you be outside or inside? Is there shade or will you be exposed to direct sun, wind, etc.? The florist will need to make sure the design and selection of floral varieties will accommodate these elements.

Know the date of your event to determine the availability of floral varieties as some flowers are not available year-round.

Have a general idea about your floor plan – This helps the florist understand how space will function and flow so the floral decor can be designed appropriately to enhance the overall concept, layout, and energy of the space.

Most importantly have a general idea of your budget. Think about how much money you can reasonably allocate to the floral decor. This is critical in determining if a florist will align with your overall vision. Once a florist understands the budget, it empowers them to present you with visuals that fit within your budget, rather than presenting you with ideas that are not realistic. You will be surprised at how much easier the process can be for everyone once a realistic budget is set. It is the first step in creating a level of trust between you and the florist you eventually select.

Bride and Bridesmaids Portraits | Blush Pink Dusty Rose Mismatched Chiffon Bridesmaid Dresses | Stella York Lace Sheath Spaghetti Strap Empire Waist Wedding Dress Bridal Gown | Bride Wedding Bouquet and Halo Crown with Blush Pink Dusty and Burgundy Rose Garden Roses, Snapdragons, Stock, and Eucalyptus Greenery | St. Pete Wedding Florist Leaf it to Us

Romantic Burgundy and Dusty Rose Rustic Downtown St. Pete Wedding | Katie Hauburger Photography | Leaf it to Us

What's the Best Way to Set a Floral Budget?

Jean King, owner of Monarch Events and Designs explains
Flowers are one of the most memorable, colorful parts of the wedding. They bring in a sense of romance and luxury to the special day. Flowers elevate wedding photography as well. The first step in creating a floral budget is to browse pictures to find inspiration for what you like. By looking at pictures, you will get a better sense of what you want for your wedding day. Typically floral budgets are 10% of the total wedding budget, but this number can vary depending on a number of factors as the types of flowers used can drive the budget up.

For example, peonies and dahlias are more expensive than roses. An experienced florist can help guide you in where to put the “splurge” flowers to help with the budget. The bride's bouquet is a great place to go all out with flower selection and use less expensive flowers in bridesmaids' bouquets and centerpieces. Also, certain types of arrangements cost more than others. For example, a tall, large centerpiece and floral arches cost more than smaller, modest arrangements. The number of bridesmaids and groomsmen you have affects the floral budget as well. The higher the number, the more bridesmaids bouquets and boutonniere's needed which has an impact on the budget.

“A floral budget should be set by how important your decor look is to you. Flowers act like jewelry at any event and ‘top off' your overall look. If your location is sparse, you will need flowers to help it come alive, conversely, if the venue is busy, flowers can help to give your guests' eyes a resting place. Depending upon how important flowers are to the couple's overall aesthetic they should allow at least 10-30% of their overall budget,” Dorelle Raphael-Fishkin, owner Brides N' Blooms Designs

“Put more money where your priorities are. Make a list of the top three things that are most important to you. For some couples, it’s the perfect venue, then keeping things more simple. For others, it’s putting more emphasis on the florals and decor. If florals are of very low importance then keep a smaller budget for florals and be open to using more candles vs florals.” -Stephanie Prenatt, Owner-Lead Designer, FH Weddings & Events

“Researching current prices on sites such as Marry Me Tampa Bay. Articles that give an average cost of basic needs and current trends are a great way to get an idea of where your budget should be.” -Andrea Roberto, owner Leaf It To Us

“It really depends on what is important to the couple. Would they rather have the photographer of their dreams or a particular theme that requires specific decor? Most couples don't know that wedding florals are a bit more expensive than an arrangement because of the labor and logistics that go into creating the pieces. Floral prices have also dramatically increased because of the pandemic. It has caused an increase in all imports, especially flowers, which usually always have to be flown in from a different location. The farmers took a big hit and many lost their entire crops during the shutdown. Typically, for the average-sized bridal party (six Bridesmaids and six Groomsmen) flowers run $1,500 to $2,500. This doesn't include floral decor for the ceremony, cocktail hour, or reception.” -Melanie Eubanks, Lead Floral Designer, Lemon Drops

John Elice, of Bruce Wayne Florals shares:
Have a budget range and be willing to share the range at your initial consultation. Trust your florist to respect your limits and know that they want your business within reason and that they will work tirelessly to help you stay on point with your budget.

Understand that there are fees and charges in addition to the flowers. These include: delivery, setup, the flip (moving ceremony flowers to your reception, striking (returning at the end of the night to break down and clean up). These charges and fees can average around 25-35% of the product total.

Have flexibility by identifying and discussing your “must-have” versus “nice-to-have” floral decor items. Identifying and discussing these items with the florist will help them know where to focus on the design/money and where to scale back. Also, if cuts need to be made, the florist knows where to cut first. This also allows the florist to do their best to make the numbers work for your budget.

Another important thing to consider when setting your budget is calendar holidays. In picking the event date, avoid a holiday like Valentine's Day, Mother’s Day or New Year's Eve. Product costs go up considerably across the board, usually a few weeks before and especially the week of holidays, which will translate to a larger price tag on your proposal.

What Should Couples Know about Pinterest and Wedding Flowers?

“We love when brides can show us inspiration on Pinterest, but it's important to also give your designers the creative freedom to run with your inspiration and tailor it to you. We want your florals to be unique to you and not an exact copy of a design someone else has already had! You should choose a florist you trust will produce your vision on your big day.” -Nicole Hackel, Weddings & Event Coordinator, Beneva Weddings

“Florists are very visual people; it helps to see a selection of photos translating the couple's vision for their event (look, feel, and mood). This helps prevent verbal miscommunication and keeps the florist on the right track from the beginning. Florists also understand that couples may not know too much about flowers and varieties, so this can help to communicate those ideas.  We all love and are grateful for Pinterest, but it should be used as inspiration. We would never encourage a couple to duplicate an image seen on Pinterest. Let the image guide you toward something original. A good florist will offer a variety of different ways to achieve the look you want. Most importantly, recognize that most of the images we all fall in love with can be expensive. Trust your florist to help you achieve the look and keep you on budget.” John Elice, Wedding and Event Consultant and Floral Designer, Bruce Wayne Florals

“Although a great source for inspiration and way to share wedding vision, Pinterest can give unrealistic expectations of product availability and selection within your budget.” -Andrea Roberto, owner, Leaf It To Us

“You've undoubtedly seen amazing photos of flowers on Pinterest. Keep in mind a lot of those designs are done strictly for photo shoots where there is less of a budget constraint. Florists will collaborate or fill just a single portion of the shoot, thereby keeping their costs in check. They are doing their shoots in places where some of that product grows wild and therefore is harvested for free (like pampas grass), or they are repurposing the flowers for multiple uses. A lot of the flowers used are also photo enhanced or even silk. A good florist will be able to take your Pinterest vision and bring it down to a reality that fits your budget.” -Dorelle Raphael-Fishkin, owner Brides N' Blooms Designs

“Pinterest is a great place to gather ideas for your mood board, but couples should be aware that the price points on most of these arrangements are deceiving. Usually, the extravagant decor is posted to Pinterest but the large price tag is kept a secret. This tends to mislead couples, especially if they don't know the pricing on florals.  We tell couples to send Pinterest boards to better understand what their vision is and then come up with a plan while staying within their budget.” -Melanie Eubanks, Lead Floral Designer, Lemon Drops

“There are so many beautiful inspirations to find on Pinterest. Sharing the inspiration really gives the floral designer a look into what style and look you really want. Unfortunately, the beautiful inspirations don’t include a price. Most couples really have no idea what florals cost. When taking the inspiration pictures to the floral designer be open-minded to allowing the designer to make it their own or do something similar to stay within your budget.” -Stephanie Prenatt, Owner-Lead Designer, FH Weddings & Events

“Pinterest is a great resource for finding ideas and looking at different design styles and colors. I love when couples have a wedding floral Pinterest board to share; it gives me a sense of their style before we meet.  It is important for couples to keep in mind that we use their Pinterest board as inspiration for their wedding flowers.” -Jean King, owner, Monarch Events and Design

Elegant Modern Wedding Reception Decor, White Draping, Lush Pink and White Florals with Greenery Centerpiece, Gold Beaded Chargers and Flatware | Tampa Bay Wedding Photographer Carrie Wildes | Wedding Planner Coastal Coordinating | Wedding Rentals Outside the Box | Wedding Florist Brides N Blooms

Romantic Pastel Clearwater Beach Sunset Rooftop Wedding | Carrie Wildes Photography | Brides N' Blooms Designs

What Should Couples Look for in a Wedding Florist?

John Elice, of Bruce Wayne Florals explains that finding a passionate florist should be a top priority:

Before contacting a potential florist, couples should do their homework. Do a background check on your candidates. With so many platforms available today it is easy to gather the basics. Utilize resources such as Google, Facebook, Instagram, Wedding Wire, The Knot, and local resources like Marry Me Tampa Bay to gather information about potential choices. Ask for recommendations from your venue or wedding planner, view photos of the florist's past work, view their websites, and pay attention to previous client reviews.

Couples should look for a florist who is passionate about what they do and has the experience needed to fulfill the scope of work. There needs to be a genuine connection. Your wedding florist needs to be open to and most of all excited about your ideas and concepts. They should have a willingness to work toward your overall vision and help maintain your budget. They should be reliable, and above everything else, you should trust them to create an unforgettable day you will always cherish. Remember most wedding florists are dedicated to their craft and passionate about what they do. Finding the right fit is a critical part of having your vision realized.

Make an unannounced visit to a potential florist studio. Be mindful of the environment. Are things organized, staff friendly, and helpful? Do you feel comfortable in the space? A good first impression will put your mind at ease. If you get a good feeling, take time to seize the moment! Take advantage of the ‘surprise' in-person meeting, introduce yourself, and begin the process. This is the best way to establish a connection and see if they are the right fit for you and your wedding date.”

“Your wedding is one of the biggest, busiest days of your life. That being said, it is important to find a reliable florist. You don't want to worry about having to hound somebody down or making sure the flowers look perfect. Someone who is attentive and communicates well and frequently is the person you want to set up for you on your big day. This person should want to make your dreams come true!” -Jaime Zuikou, Beneva Weddings

“Couples should feel comfortable that the florist they choose is professional, knowledgeable, and passionate about the artistry of floral design. Couples should have complete confidence that their florist is able to execute their wedding vision while guiding them through the process. Trust that they will incorporate any inspirational images, information, and unique details you provided, along with their ideas, and suggestions that were agreed upon. You want a florist who will exceed the expectations of your wedding vision.” -Andrea Roberto, Leaf It To Us

“Looking for a wedding florist might become overwhelming because the internet is full of florist options. There are a couple of things to keep in mind when searching for a wedding florist. The type of florist is one factor to consider. A retail flower shop that you can stop in and pick up a bouquet of roses might not be equipped in servicing full wedding events. A better choice would be a florist who specializes in wedding flowers specifically. A wedding florist designer can also provide other decor needed such as table numbers, candleholders, and other decor pieces. Couples should look for a wedding florist that they trust and connect with and is passionate about flowers. Designing your wedding flowers is a personal, exciting experience. Find a florist whose work you love as well as who understands your style and vision,” -Jean King, owner of Monarch Events and Designs

“Most wedding florists love the opportunity to stretch their wings. We love to create beautiful designs. As you discuss your dream wedding florals, listen closely to what the florist is offering. We want your wedding to be fabulously beautiful; we would never want you to pay for something that your 3-year-old niece could create. Let us give you our perspective. Make sure that the florist you choose is capable of capturing your style, and is good with communication.” -Dorelle Raphael-Fishkin, owner of Brides N' Blooms Designs

“Couples should definitely do their research on potential florists to make sure they are up to their standards and can execute the look they're going for. Follow them on Instagram, look at portfolios, and read reviews. Make sure they are prompt with communication and understand your vision fully.” -Melanie Eubanks, Lead Floral Designer, Lemon Drops

“Look through the designer's social media content as well as the website to see if you love what designs are being created. When contacting or meeting the floral designer make sure they understand and connect with your style. Using a company that can execute your vision and finding a company that has inventory and a good reputation is essential. The designer should allow your input since it’s a collaboration of your vision and designer input.” -Stephanie Prenatt, Owner-Lead Designer, FH Weddings & Events

What Services Are Typically Included from a Wedding Florist?

“Services that are typically included by an event florist consist of consultation, set up on the day of the event, and disassembly once the event is done.” –Jaime Zuikou, Beneva Weddings

“Most florists will offer delivery, set up, and breakdown services. Many florists are now offering rentals as part of their services.” -Dorelle Fishkin, Brides N Blooms Designs

“Florists who work in the wedding industry usually offer more than just floral decor. They can provide rental items like candles, lanterns, and votives. They can also help with setting up and/or tearing down and some even offer coordination and planning.” -Melanie Eubanks, Lead Floral Designer, Lemon Drops

“It all depends on the size of the company/florist. Some provide simple services of flowers only and no rentals where a larger company will encompass florals, furniture, lighting, and other decor elements.” -Stephanie Prenatt, Owner-Lead Designer, FH Weddings & Events

“Every florist will offer different services to potential clients. We typically start our conversations by having clients fill out a brief wedding form where we can gather basic information. Based on the response, we then issue a preliminary estimate (with starting price points) to help give clients an idea of costs based on the answers provided on the questionnaire. At that time, we schedule a consultation in our studio or over the phone for out-of-town clients. The consultation will allow for time together where we can work through specifics, clarify the floral needs, and establish the overall décor concept, look, and feel. After the initial consultation, we then present a professional, formal proposal, including a contract. Once a client is comfortable and has decided to sign with us, we would then schedule a floral mockup in-house so clients can view centerpieces to make sure that every detail is perfect. This is an optional service we offer but it is not required. We can also accommodate a floral mockup via video if the client does not live in the area. We make ourselves available to our clients for phone calls and follow up on their emails in a timely manner. When the big day finally arrives, we are properly staffed, ready for delivery, setup, flip and strike (tear down).” John Elice, Wedding and Event Consultant and Floral Designer, Bruce Wayne Florals

Quotes have been lightly edited for clarity and brevity.

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