The Enthusiasts Guide from “Yes” to “I Do”

Host Leah Longbrake is pulling back the veil to bring you honest advice and creative ideas from those in the wedding industry. From the Engagement to the Honeymoon, get all the details you need from wedding and event experts on how to make it your best day ever!

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Why Are Flowers So Expensive?! How to Select Your Floral Arrangements and Budget Accordingly

Why Are Flowers So Expensive?! How to Select Your Floral Arrangements and Budget Accordingly

Flowers are considered one of the more expensive purchases for your wedding day. Mary Simmons, owner of Persephone Floral Atelier, breaks down what contributes to the cost of your floral arrangements and how to budget accordingly. She also shares when you should start booking, current trends, and what arrangements (aside from your bouquet) you should consider.

Get to know Mary:

Mary is a trained artist and oil painter who combined her artistry with her passion for flowers when she began helping friends with their wedding flowers. Shortly after her daughter Sibyl was born in 2015, she quit her office job and opened up Persephone Floral Atelier-A floral studio dedicated to sharing the natural beauty of flowers through our wild and evocative designs.

Since then, she has served numerous couples, helping them create the wedding of their dreams. Originally based in Chicago, she recently moved the business headquarters to Connecticut. Persephone continues to serve discerning clients in the Midwest and East Coast.

Follow Persephone Floral Atelier on Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook!

This has been a production of Evergreen Podcasts. A special thank you to Executive Producers David Moss, Gerardo Orlando, Production Director Brigid Coyne and Audio Engineers, Sean Rule-Hoffman and Declan Rohrs.

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Leah Longbrake:
Hello and welcome to Weddings Unveiled, the podcast for your wedding planning process. I'm your host Leah Longbrake. We know how exciting and stressful planning the big day can be and we're here to help, providing you with information and advice from industry insiders and those with firsthand experience. On today's episode, we have Mary Simmons, owner of Persephone Floral Atelier, a floral studio dedicated to sharing the natural beauty of flowers through wild and evocative designs. Mary is a trained artist and oil painter who combined her artistry with her passion for flowers when she began helping friends with their wedding floral arrangements. Welcome to the show, Mary. How's that? Mary, welcome to Weddings Unveiled. Thank you so much for being with us today.

Mary Simmons:
Thank you so much.

Leah Longbrake:
Start by telling us when you first realized you truly had a passion for flowers.

Mary Simmons:
I think I always had a passion for flowers. I grew up doing a lot of gardening. My next door neighbor was a master gardener and I would always be kind of poking around seeing, "What are you doing right now?" And she would help me, she helped me start my own garden in our yard. So I think that's like really where it started. And then I just kind of had this flower obsession. I used to read this book that was the flower symbolism, so when I was a kid, I would just pour over it and I think I just built up a knowledge of flowers and through that just sort of this little obsession. And it never occurred to me that it could be a career until a little later. So I went to art school and built a lot of skills that I still use now, but I kind of came out of it being like, "I got to be an artist or ..." and that's kind of the mentality.

Mary Simmons:
And so I did, I was painting. Of course, I had to have a real job to pay the bills, so I was working at an office and then on the side I was helping friends with their weddings because we're young people are getting married. It's like, "How am I going to afford a florist?" And I was like, "I'll do it. I think I can do it." Who knows? And that's kind of when it all clicked was producing weddings for friends. I was like, "Hey, wait, this is really fun." I'm pretty good at it. I really like this and it turns out I can also make money from it. And then I can quit my day job maybe.

Leah Longbrake:
There's a lot of design elements to it.

Mary Simmons:
Oh yeah. I definitely bring a lot of what I learned from art school into the composition and color theory, that sort of thing.

Leah Longbrake:
And reading that book, is it true that there is symbolism then with flowers because people want to get the red rose for love and all that?

Mary Simmons:
Yeah, when I started my business, I was like, "I'm going to do this whole symbolic bouquet." And then I've kind of realized no one really knows about it or maybe there's one or two brides who cares about that, but I think overall people are just looking for beauty at their wedding. And I was like, it's there if people want it, but I think most people aren't as nerdy about flowers as I am.

Leah Longbrake:
Personally I'm nerdy about it. We made sure we had Irish and Polish themes throughout our wedding to honor our heritage and lavender is a traditional Irish heritage wedding symbol. So we made sure we had lavender throughout the wedding. And then we wanted pussy willows because of Polish and Dyngus Day, but they were out of season. Is that something that-

Mary Simmons:
Oh, you could get them dry.

Leah Longbrake:
Oh well.

Mary Simmons:
You know what, if you don't plan for it though, way ahead of time, you probably couldn't get them, but yeah, sorry go ahead.

Leah Longbrake:
Is that a problem that you come across with couples though, they want a certain flower, but seasons aren't being considered?

Mary Simmons:
Yeah, definitely. People want ... There's a couple of flowers that are usually, they only bloom for one week and they can't be shipped and it's like Lily of the Valley, peonies, dahlias, those are very seasonal, popular flowers and if you're not getting married in the right season, it's not going to happen, unfortunately. But, I always tell my couples, just celebrate the season that you're getting married in and you're going to have a beautiful wedding.

Leah Longbrake:
Embrace poinsettias if it's winter time and Christmas.

Mary Simmons:
Yeah, poinsettias can be really beautiful.

Leah Longbrake:
So when a couple is first starting out with their planning, when should they start looking into floral? Is it one of the earlier on stages or is it something kind of later on that you think is a good time to start working with a florist?

Mary Simmons:
I think it depends on how important they are to you. So if flowers and decor is your number one thing, I would say as early as possible. You want an ... or if you have like a particular florist that you want to work with, book as early as possible so you can ensure that you get that date. Some florists will do multiple weddings, but I don't. I only do one wedding per weekend, so if someone books, I'm just going to go with whoever books me first, basically. I think if you're also trying to save a little bit of money, it's better to go book a little earlier because the closer you are to the date, the more ... I don't know, I can't exactly explain why it happens, but it always seems that they get more expensive because maybe it's just you're not making as rational decisions and you're just like, "Okay, just whatever it costs, the wedding's in three months. I've got to do ..." So it's not exactly, it doesn't cost more. It's just, I think couples that tend to book later tend to just have to make split decisions.

Leah Longbrake:
And that adds up.

Mary Simmons:
And it, yeah, it does. So that would be my advice for booking. I usually book couples anywhere between, well, I guess some couples have booked two years in advance, but I would recommend a year would be what I consider like an early booking. And then late would be three months in advance. So six months is kind of the happy medium, I guess. That's when most couples book.

Leah Longbrake:
But two weeks before you're probably not going to have the best luck.

Mary Simmons:
I haven't had a couple book two weeks before, but I'm also not really that kind of florist. I think there probably are floral shops out there who would do that for you, but you're probably not going to be able to choose your flowers. They're just going to be like, "Okay, sure I'll do your wedding." And you're not really sure what that's going to look like because there's not time to build a design plan and all of that.

Leah Longbrake:
People do tend to say that flowers are one of the more expensive aspects of wedding planning. What do you think contributes to that cost that couples should consider and what's a good budget range?

Mary Simmons:
Yeah, well the cost, I think people just don't realize how much labor goes into it. People understand flowers costs money, but they maybe forget to calculate in labor costs, especially if they're doing large installations or a bigger wedding that's going to need more people to come and help set it up. And usually we only have a two or three hour window to make everything happen so it's just like all hands on deck. So I would say there's a lot of factors that go into it, but that's maybe one that's overlooked. And a budget range, it really just depends on what you're looking for. You can have a lovely wedding for $2,000 even less probably, but for instance, my starting point is $7,000, but I'm catering to a more luxury client. So I would just say whatever your budget is, try and look for a florist that caters to that range and they will give you the most bang for your buck instead of maybe, you're on a tight budget, but you want a luxury look, there's going to be some gap there that's not going to get filled.

Mary Simmons:
And I think it's tough because we have Pinterest and Instagram selling these really opulent weddings and people just have no idea what they cost because obviously there's no price tag right there on Pinterest.

Leah Longbrake:
Right. They're seeing celebrity weddings as well.

Mary Simmons:
Yeah, exactly.

Leah Longbrake:
Do you have a favorite celebrity wedding or a celebrity floral event designer that you kind of admire or aspire?

Mary Simmons:
Yeah. I love Mandy Moore's wedding. [inaudible 00:10:17] and I have Gwyneth Paltrow's wedding and Justin Bieber's. All of them. My gosh, Megan Markle's wedding.

Leah Longbrake:
I mean, right? The ultimate in royalty.

Mary Simmons:
Yeah. I was watching that one. Phillip Craddock is the florist who did that and it's amazing what she did. It was all sustainably done so there was no floral foam and she had flowers up to the ceiling. It was crazy, but amazing and beautiful she did such a great job. Yeah, that was awesome.

Leah Longbrake:
Do you aim for sustainability in your practice as well?

Mary Simmons:
I do. Yeah. So we compost, we try not to use floral foam and use local and seasonal flowers.

Leah Longbrake:
That's great. And if I didn't say it already, I love following your Instagram.

Mary Simmons:
Thank you.

Leah Longbrake:
Your work is beautiful. Absolutely. So back to when couples are first starting to work with a florist, should they be bringing in images from their Pinterest, from celebrity weddings, to use as inspiration? What should a couple come prepared with already to have that discussion with you?

Mary Simmons:
Yeah. I always find it really helpful if they bring inspiration, because then I can kind of get a sense for their style and what the vibe of their wedding is going to be. I think it's hard when people are like, "Recreate this exactly." And not really considering I'm an artist and I don't want to just copy someone else's work. I don't get that too much anymore. Maybe the first year of business, I got that a little bit when people didn't really know what kind of florist I was, but yeah. I mean, I really appreciate it when people bring in photos of my work that they really loved and were inspired by, so I can see like what it is they like about my style that I can maybe lean into a little bit. Yeah, I do appreciate the inspiration, but I also like to kind of hear words of inspiration. So how, please interpret our story with flowers or here's something that we really want to bring into the wedding. How are you going to translate that into the decor?

Leah Longbrake:
I know a lot of wedding planners have said, and I know we did that for ours is that narrow down and come down with three words that kind of will be your common theme for your wedding. So ours was whimsical, industrial and fun, but some people want sophisticated, elegant, black tie. Do you feel like couples should come in with like their top three themes for their wedding to kind of help with the floral design?

Mary Simmons:
Yeah and it doesn't have to be three for me. It can be a lot of things that need to get synthesized. I do think it's helpful if it's a little more filtered so that it's not just all too much going on at once, but that is something that I can help them work through. For instance, people come in with a color palette or an idea of some colors they like, and I might add in some more accent colors so that it's not too themey, We're doing a pink and green wedding and that's it. I will add in some more subtle tones to kind of give it a little more depth. I think definitely some words of inspiration are helpful and a way to describe the look that they're going for, for sure. But it doesn't have to be so strict with me.

Leah Longbrake:
Does the venue help dictate as well?

Mary Simmons:
Yeah, definitely. You want the decor to fit within the venue and yeah everything, having a picture of your dress, invitations, just to kind of make sure that I'm fitting within everything else because at the end of the day, I'm just one piece of the puzzle and you don't want anything to feel out of place.

Leah Longbrake:
What are the main arrangements couples need to consider when they start working with a florist and even more importantly, their budget? Obviously people consider bouquets, but what else should they consider?

Mary Simmons:
Yeah. If you're having a reception and you'll probably want to put something on the tables, that's kind of the basic stuff. Sometimes couples will opt out of having ceremony decor if they're getting married somewhere that's super beautiful already.

Leah Longbrake:
Like a botanical garden you probably wouldn't need one.

Mary Simmons:
Yeah. Right. And after that, there's a million other things you could add on. Bar arrangement, escort cards, hanging, floral arrangements, candles. You name it, people have done it.

Leah Longbrake:
What arrangements do you think couples forget about the most or don't consider.

Mary Simmons:
I hate to say it, but the boutonnières always get, not forgotten, they're not forgotten, but they're, "I don't really care what you do."

Leah Longbrake:
Oh, wow.

Mary Simmons:
Which, I mean, not always. Some grooms will have very specific ideas, but yeah it's kind of funny. It's fine because literally everyone does it and it's nice for me to be like, "Okay, well I'm just going to do something cool and fun that fits within your aesthetic." So yeah. The boutonnières are usually the ones that like, "Hmm. I haven't really thought of that one." The other thing I would say is people never think about ribbon, which is maybe also another little thing of mine where I just love ribbon.

Leah Longbrake:
I do too.

Mary Simmons:
What kind of ribbon do you want? Yeah, so usually, they haven't thought of it. And I always like have samples available for them to look at so they can get a sense for the different options.

Leah Longbrake:
What are the common, not common, but what are the popular trends right now in weddings?

Mary Simmons:
Yeah. I mean, there's a lot of things I feel like that are kind of on the wane right now, like the blush wedding has been huge for a long time and I feel like people are moving away from it a little bit. The more boho is also kind of, it's pretty big right now still, but ...

Leah Longbrake:
Still flower crowns?

Mary Simmons:
A lot of flower crowns. Always. Yeah, the Pampas grass and the burgundy and yeah. I think what I'm seeing a lot more of now that I'm kind of getting excited about is a more minimalist kind of bona Japanese inspired floral design. So it's really designed to showcase individual flowers and the beauty of a line or a twisty stem which is really fun and it's just fun to see new things coming in, I guess. But I think in weddings trends to me tend to stick around for a long time so it just depends. Everyone has different style, but yeah.

Leah Longbrake:
Still the flower arches and petals on the ground and all that as well?

Mary Simmons:
Yeah. You know, petals on the ground are tricky. I don't do them too much because venues don't like it most of the time.

Leah Longbrake:
Clean up the mess.

Mary Simmons:
I've done that a couple times and it's a mess. They get stepped on and get really slippery and then it's a liability thing.

Leah Longbrake:
Oh, I didn't even think about that. I know confetti is pretty much banned everywhere.

Mary Simmons:
Yeah, nobody likes confetti.

Leah Longbrake:
Nobody wants confetti. It's all banded. People will find that when hunting, venues don't want it at all. So the do's and don'ts with floral arrangements, what are some things that couples should consider, do's and don'ts?

Mary Simmons:
I would say, do follow your heart and do what you want to do and don't not speak out about what you want. I think that's the biggest thing that I've run into that's been a little bit frustrating. So couples will maybe if they have a planner who's kind of guiding the design and they haven't quite voiced what they really want and then late in the design process, they're like, "I don't really want this." So I've had that a couple times where it's like, "I wish you had just spoken up originally because I didn't know." So for me, it's trying to be a good listener and giving them space to speak what they want. And then for the couples it's speaking up for yourself and staying true to what it is you really want. And other than that, do whatever you want.

Leah Longbrake:
Primarily, your clientele is the Midwest and East coast. Do you find wedding trends to be regional or is it pretty universal?

Mary Simmons:
No, I think they're pretty regional. I mean, there's a lot of overlap, but I have found there's others. The California florists seem to be doing something completely different from the East coast florists and the Midwest. And also there's a difference between city and more rural areas. For instance, I'm in Connecticut, I'm in central Connecticut so a lot of the weddings are tented outdoor weddings or at historic homes. Whereas in Chicago, there's a lot of industrial venues and more hotel downtown type weddings. So it is kind of a pretty different vibe I've found.

Leah Longbrake:
That's interesting. That's really interesting. For the budget portion. I don't want to skip this part at all. Contracts, contracts, contracts, contracts. What should couples make sure is in the contract and what should they be looking out for that they may not be thinking about?

Mary Simmons:
Yeah. I think that, especially right now, they should look and see if their florist has a Coronavirus paragraph or how will they deal with reschedulings and downsizing or upgrading. Look for a payment schedule. I think that's really important to know when they need to pay so that they're on top of that and nothing gets canceled because they didn't pay or whatever. That would be horrible. I'm just going through my contract in my head.

Leah Longbrake:
I mean, you mentioned Coronavirus. Would that be in the same line as if a natural disaster happened?

Mary Simmons:
I have a special paragraph for ... There is the Act of God paragraph, but I just, to spell it out more clearly for people reschedulings for a pandemic because I think it's, I don't know, maybe I should have my lawyer review it, but ... maybe it could be. But for me at least, my insurance company, I was talking to them about loss of income and they were like, "No, it's not covered. It's only for natural disasters or fires."

Leah Longbrake:
Interesting.

Mary Simmons:
And I was kind of like, "That's interesting." But I mean, I guess I'm not sure how I would, if there would be a difference in the way I approach it, but yeah, for that, I think, yeah, look out for that and see if it's something you're okay with and ... yeah, what else should they look out for?

Leah Longbrake:
Gratuity? Is there gratuity or tipping involved?

Mary Simmons:
I don't have a gratuity. I do have extra fees outlined for if there's extra labor that we weren't expecting. So we come and set everything up and clean it all up and they are charged for that and that's a line item in the invoice, but we're not there to set up tables or bartend, so anything that's outside of what we're offering, there's an extra fee for that, which is ... You would be surprised what people expect.

Leah Longbrake:
Oh, I'm sure. What would be something that people would be surprised to know that people-

Mary Simmons:
Well, I don't, you shouldn't be surprised that we're not there to bartend, but no, no one's ever asked me that. But yeah some venues require a separate company to come and hang items if there's anything hung, like lighting, that sort of thing. And I have had it happen where I was the one with the staff and the lighting company wasn't and so I was asked to do that and it was a choice between this wedding not happening or it happening. And it was like, "yeah, I'm going to let my ... I'm going to help you."

Leah Longbrake:
Don't ask your florist to bartend.

Mary Simmons:
Don't have a license.

Leah Longbrake:
So when it comes to the classic traditional wedding traditions, are people still having the tossing of the bouquet or having a separate one made to toss? And are they still doing corsages or something for the mothers?

Mary Simmons:
Yeah. People are still doing flowers for moms. Sometimes that will be a little bouquet, a wrist corsage. Those have, I think, kind of been updated a little bit. They're not the big ribbon and orchid.

Leah Longbrake:
Wrist prom ones?

Mary Simmons:
Yeah. Not quite that anymore. There's sleeker looks now, but I haven't done a toss bouquet in years.

Leah Longbrake:
Yeah. I think that's one of those things that's done.

Mary Simmons:
People aren't really doing that and I don't know. I think people are just like, "I don't want to make my friends who are single feel bad."

Leah Longbrake:
That was me. Enough weddings as a single, I was like, "I'm not doing it." And no one wants to watch someone go get the garter.

Mary Simmons:
No.

Leah Longbrake:
Okay. Fun question for you. What is your favorite wedding movie?

Mary Simmons:
Oh. That's a good one. I want to say Bridesmaids.

Leah Longbrake:
Oh yeah. So good. So funny.

Mary Simmons:
Another really good one that I discovered is Four Weddings and a Funeral, do you like that one?

Leah Longbrake:
Oh, I love it, with Hugh Grant.

Mary Simmons:
Yeah. So funny.

Leah Longbrake:
That's a classic.

Mary Simmons:
Yeah.

Leah Longbrake:
So funny. What is your last. Final piece of advice to couples?

Mary Simmons:
Okay. So when you're looking for a florist, don't assume that every florist can do anything. Look at their work, see if it's your vibe, see if it's the kind of stuff that you want to see at your wedding and if that's true, then go for it. If you're looking for a very classic, no hydrangea at all style wedding, don't go to the florist that all their work is wild flowers, because I think ultimately we all have our own style and that's going to come through, even if we're trying to do another look. I think it's a misconception that you can just say, "Do this." and it'll look exactly like that. I think you should try and find a florist that does the thing that you want well.

Leah Longbrake:
That's great advice. Someone that shares your aesthetic.

Mary Simmons:
Yeah, exactly.

Leah Longbrake:
How can we get more information on you and your company?

Mary Simmons:
You can visit my website Persephonefloral.com. You can follow me on Instagram. That's where you'll probably get the most updates. My handle is Persephonefloral and you can email me [email protected]

Leah Longbrake:
Mary, thank you so much for being on the show today. I know I've learned a lot and I'm sure our listeners have as well.

Mary Simmons:
Thank you for having me.

Leah Longbrake:
Thanks for listening to Weddings Unveiled. Make sure you subscribe to the show on your favorite podcast app so you never miss an episode. This has been a production of Evergreen Podcasts, a special thank you to Brigid Coyne, and audio engineer, Sean Rule-Hoffman. Don't forget to enjoy the journey.

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