by Rhae Adams, Found in Nature LLC

*This content is Copyright 2016, Found in Nature LLC. You are welcome to link to or quote from this article with proper attribution. Any unattributed use of this article in whole or in part will be considered copyright violation and will be pursued.

I was at a panel discussion where recent marrieds were answering the questions of wedding vendors. Each one was asked to give their initial budget, and then what they actually spent. In every case, the couples spent more than they budgeted. Many of them said the main reason was that they had no idea how much everything was going to cost, and so they had underbudgeted for their vision. I think this is especially true for flowers, because it is so difficult to research the cost. For venues, photographers, videographers, clothes, transportation, and sometimes even caterers, the costs are often stated upfront on the vendors’ websites. Even with packages, the costs associated with these vendors are fairly fixed. Not so with flowers.

There are a lot of factors affecting the costs of wedding flowers. Time of year, major floral holidays, the flowers chosen, design complexity, quality considerations, stem counts, venue “tax”, distance to venues, complexity of setup schedule, service level, and personality “tax” all go into pricing your flowers. Here’s a brief discussion of these elements, so you’ll understand how your choices affect your pricing.

· Time of year – Some flowers have seasonal restrictions, or variations in availability through the year. Weather affects delivery in some areas, and demand shifts may make flowers more or less available in your area. For example, a wholesaler may charge more to order a small quantity of an expensive flower in winter; or you may get a lower price in spring for a flower the wholesaler can order in bulk.

· Major floral holidays – Flower-intensive holidays like Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day increase the price of flowers. Roses are much more expensive at Valentine’s Day, while Mother’s Day raises the price of many different types of flowers. Availability is restricted at these times as well, and can be affected by other events nationally or in your area, like the Rose Parade on New Year’s Day, which takes an enormous amount of product out of the supply chain.

· Flowers chosen – Flower prices vary widely according to type. Choosing an all-peony bouquet over an all-carnation bouquet is going to dramatically impact your costs.

· Design complexity – The harder your florist has to work to create the designs, the more you’re going to pay. A long cascading bouquet with fragile flowers in the middle of summer is going to cost more than a hand-tied mum bouquet in the fall.

· Quality considerations – The more fragile a flower, the more your florist has to order to cover quality issues. Depending on the kind of florist you’re working with, you may be paying for this increased order. Moreover, flowers that have to be coddled through a heat wave are going to create more work, so again, you’ll pay for that work.

· Stem counts – Using large quantities of one or two types of flowers can significantly reduce your costs, because your florist should be able to order in bulk at lower cost. You should benefit from this. On the flip side, using lots of different types of flowers is going to increase your costs.

· Venue “tax” – Certain venues are difficult to work in, or with. Your florist may charge more for the additional staff required to deal with slow elevators, far-away parking, or weird load-in arrangements. Your florist may also charge more for the hassle of working with difficult venue staff or restrictive venue rules.

· Distance to venues – If your florist has to travel long distances to your venues, you’ll pay for the time, possibly across multiple employees. You should ask each florist if your venues are within their usual delivery area, or if the distance is increasing your costs. Moreover, if you’re using more than one venue (for example, ceremony at a church and reception at a loft), you’re probably paying for this time as well. If you add an additional delivery location, like wedding party flowers delivered to a hotel, expect to pay for this.

· Complexity of setup schedule – Running back and forth between venues can make for an increased price tag. If your florist has to send two different crews to setup your ceremony and reception, or leave your reception to setup your ceremony then return to your reception, or start very early in the day to get the setup done, you’re going to pay more for the staffing necessary.

· Service level – Different florists have different attitudes toward service to weddings. Some will require you to pick up flowers at their studios; others may deliver but not setup; while the best will set up everything, do all the boutonniere pinning, and make sure everything is the way you want it. The higher the service level, the higher the cost – but consider this carefully. You may want to pay for an expert to do the work, so you, your family and friends can enjoy your wedding.

· Personality “tax” – Many will deny this, but if you, your intended, your mother, or your wedding party seem like a lot to handle before or during the consult, a florist is probably going to increase the price. Sometimes this is done in the hope you’ll go somewhere else. Sometimes this is done to cover what the florist sees as their increased workload in dealing with these personality challenges. Can you budget for this? Maybe not. But if you know that your mother (or your intended’s) is determined to get her way by undermining you at every turn, you may want to factor this into your budget.

OK, so given all of these factors, how can you budget for your wedding flowers? I include a range on my website for our “typical” weddings, so you can start by asking a few florists on your short list for their ranges or typical budgets. You’ll also want to spend time thinking about what you need (see my article on What flowers you need) before setting your budget. Some magazines have started publishing the costs of flowers, so it may help to buy some wedding magazines. Read reviews from real weddings, as sometimes couples will include what they spent and what they got; you may also be able to contact these couples through forums.

Here’s what (in my opinion) these items should cost, generally. Keep in mind that I’m a florist in a Midwestern city, and I don’t believe in charging a fortune for wedding flowers – but I’m also a professional, not working out of my basement and getting business off Craigslist. So your prices may vary depending on where you live and what kind of person you hire. Note that you’ll need to know your wedding party size, your venues, and your approximate guest count to set an accurate budget; and have a basic understanding of the flow of your day. Expect that prices on the lower end of these ranges reflect simple designs using limited types of inexpensive and sturdy flowers, with setup schedules that are easy to manage in venues that don’t have unusual requirements. Also keep in mind that you can find each of these items for less money; either with florists with lower service levels or maybe are just starting out, or by simplifying the designs, or picking a date that is hard to fill. Or, by being really cool, or having an interesting wedding that the florist wants to be involved in. I have given price discounts to couples that I really liked or felt bad for, or to weddings with interesting or challenging designs that I wanted to feature in my design portfolio.

Bouquets: Bride, $80-250; Bridesmaid/Groomsmaid, $35-125 each

Corsages: $20-30 each

Flower girl: petals $25; kissing ball $30-50; garland $25-50; nosegay $15-45

Boutonnieres: $8-20 each

Altar arrangements: $75-250 each; arch arrangements, $250-500

Aisle decorations: $15-50 each

Memorial table, guest book table, etc. arrangements: $25-75 each

Wreaths: $50-200 each

Centerpieces: small $30-50 each; large $50-150 each; really large $150-250 each

Vase rentals: $2.50-50 each

Cake flowers: $25-150

Bar arrangements: $75-150 each

Additional delivery sites: $25-100 each

Cleanup/breakdown services: $50-250

Don’t forget to factor in sales tax