Not As Easy As It Looks: DIY Flowers

For some people, the sticker shock of visiting the florist is intense.  Flowers can cost a surprising amount of money, with the average flower cost of modern weddings floating around $2000.  When I read that figure, I think I actually fainted for a moment.

Flowers are one of the areas of a wedding where you are almost guaranteed to save money going the DIY route.  There are a variety of ways to get bulk flowers, and a while the cost of the flowers is a major contributing factor to the price quoted by a florist, their labor accounts for a good bit too.  If you can eliminate that cost and do it yourself, the price drops dramatically.  The downside of course is that you now have to do the flowers yourself, and it’s not like most other DIY projects where you can do it a few weeks ahead of time and put it on a shelf.  This is something that has to be done the day before (or even the morning of!), and they can take a LOT of time (hence why florists charge so much).  If you’re thinking about doing your own flowers, there’s a few things you need to do.

1) Decide what you want.

Start with what your ideal look is going to be.  In a perfect world, what do your bouquets, centerpieces, and other floral pieces look like?  These are the ideas you should take to your florist.  Get a pricing estimate for your ideal situation, and make sure it is itemized (that is, you should have a price for each individual piece, not an overall estimate).  This tells you what you’re trying to beat for each.

2) Decide how much time you can dedicate to this the day before or the day of.

Time is not infinite, and it sure is quite the opposite in the days before your wedding.  Take an honest look at what all you will need to accomplish the day before and the morning of your wedding (and when in doubt, always over-estimate).  This includes things like setup of the reception or ceremony spaces, rehearsal, rehearsal dinner, time to get ready for those, time to get ready for the actual wedding, picking anyone up from the airport, finishing escort/table cards, drive times to anywhere you need to go, etc.  Try to list every last thing you can think of that you will need to do in the 48 hours before your wedding (you don’t need to schedule in bathroom time, but that’s about the only thing you don’t need to take into account here).  Don’t forget to allow time to relax!  Figure out when the best time to do each of these things is, and look at where you have gaps.

3) Decide if what you want is something you can do yourself in that time frame.

Look at your pictures.  Now at your schedule.  Now back at your pictures.  </Old Spice guy>

Obviously, the more complex the flower arrangement, the more time it will take.  The problem is, if you’re like me and you’ve never really done much with flowers, you don’t really know what “complex” is.  Here’s what I’ve figured out: if there is more than 2 types or colors of flowers, the answer is yes.  It’s complex.  It’s just like drawing, the more components you have, the more difficult it will be.  Compare your pictures to drawings of people.  Is it a stick person or a full-blown oil painting portrait complete with real unicorn glitter?  Be realistic in comparing your own skill level to the look you’re going for.  If you want a centerpiece or a bouquet that’s just a grouping of a single type of flower, you can probably handle it.  If you’re trying to imitate a full English garden and your closest experience with flowers is that you remember seeing them in little black plastic things at Home Depot, you’re going to have a problem.

There is no shame in realizing you may not have the skill level to pull off the look you want.  There is also nothing wrong with realizing that maybe you do have the skill level, but you just don’t have the time.  This isn’t an all or nothing game, and it’s not just all on you.  Maybe some parts you can do yourself, and other parts you should enlist a florist for.  If it’s a time issue, consider asking your bridesmaids, family members, or friends to help out.

4) Make a plan.

Decide what you think you can do.  Schedule in the amount of time you think it’s going to take, and add a little cushion.  Figure out exactly what flowers you need, how many, and the ideal bloom size for non fillers.  Also take the time to figure out what you need equipment wise.  Make sure you have shears appropriate for the flowers you’ll be working with, as well as pins, floral tape, wire, and any other accessories you need/want like vases, ribbons, bouquet holders, etc.  Account for EVERYTHING.

5) Try a trial run.

Get enough of your supplies to try at least one of each of the things you think you’re going to make.  Time yourself, and give it a go.  Don’t cut corners and say “well I’ll make it better next time”.  What you need to do to make it better may not be something that’s as fast as you think it will be, and you could find yourself short on time.  If you need to start over, start over, but keep track of how long you spend on each try.  At the end, take stock of how long each piece took, how much of each of your supplies you used, and if you used more/less flowers than you anticipated (the former is more important to note than the latter).

6) Amend your plan.

Did it take longer than expected?  Not look quite the way you wanted it too look no matter how hard you tried?  Use more materials than you anticipated?  There are likely a number of things you learned through your trial run, so now it’s time to take those into account.

Time: For something like centerpieces you’ll likely get faster as you go through them, but usually not by more than 20%, so you can probably take about 10% of your time off and call that what you can expect your average to be.  Look at how long each thing took, then multiply it by the number of items in that category you need to make.  If you’re going to have helpers, assume they can work as fast as you can if they are at the same skill level and adjust the math accordingly.  Never assume they’ll be faster, and if you’re unsure assume they’ll be slower.  Do you have enough time to do this?  Remember you’ll likely need to take breaks for things like, you know, eating, and you don’t want to be up late the night before your wedding (or worse, finishing things as you’re lining up to walk down the aisle!).  If time is an issue, consider either scaling back your plan or passing it off to a florist.

Quality: As someone who fails consistently as an artist, I am very familiar with the disconnect that happens between the grand ideas in your head and what your hands are willing to let you do.  Sometimes you just can’t get something to look the way you want it to look.  It might be lack of skill, knowledge, technique, or even tools you didn’t know existed, but the simple fact is maybe you’re just not happy with it.  Your choices here are to either re-evaluate what you want, or give it to a professional.

Supplies: Bouquet take more flowers than you thought?  Centerpieces require more tape than you were expecting?  Maybe you just used way more of something than you expected.  Look at how that added cost will multiply across the number of that piece you want to make.  Is the cost of doing it yourself turning out to be more than you were planning?

Is it worth it?  When all is said and done, figure out what the cost is going to be of your final plan, and compare it to what the florist quoted you for the same thing.  Is the savings enough to justify the extra work you (and possibly your friends) are going to put in?  Some people find they can save hundred of dollars, and that is completely worth the extra effort.  Some people find that the difference is almost negligible, and they’d rather spend the extra $100 to just have it be someone else’s problem.  Some people actually find that it’s MORE expensive to do it themselves by the time they take into account the extra supplies they’ll need to account for mistakes.

Okay this post is WAY longer than I intended it to be, but I think I got it all covered.  Next up for flowers will be a cheat sheet of flower types to look into and possible sources for them.  That one WILL be long.

I’m having a florist do the bouquets and boutonnieres, but I’m doing the centerpieces myself.  Are you DIY-ing any of your flowers?

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Posted on March 8, 2012, in Budget, Flowers, Priorities, To-Do, Wedding Planning Isn't For Sissies and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I haven’t decided what to do yet. I think I should probably call a florist near where our wedding will be held and just ask for what flowers will be available, etc. I need to talk to Cobalt too and ask him if he wants boutonnieres because I think my girls are just going to have a single lily. I think I just want three anemones as my bouquet. My other idea is just to carry a shark. 😉
    Btw, props for the Old Spice commercial reference! 😀

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