For What It’s Worth: Flowers

By Season Hurd |

Wedding bouquet, peach, white, garden roses, sahara roses, pussy willow, lisianthus, fern, painted primrose, gena mcmillan

My wedding flowers by The Painted Primrose. Photography by Gena McMillan.

When I was creating the details for our wedding, I greatly underestimated the value of flowers in wedding decor. I was so focused on things I could do for myself or control that I honed in on the centerpieces (a dried arrangement and a live plant arrangement that I made myself) and kinda forgot about everything ELSE that made up decor. I knew I wanted beautiful flowers for the bridal party (and got that). But then I sort of dropped the ball. I ordered some extra flowers from my florist to use in our decor but when the day came a) I had no time and b) I had no clue what to do with them. Now when I see all the beautiful things she does with all varieties of wedding vignettes, I’m bummed that I didn’t let her use that creativity on more areas of our wedding.

As part of my series on the value of wedding professionals I interviewed my wedding florist, Sarah Cioni of The Painted Primrose in Boulder, about the value of flowers to a wedding and the cost of that service. As always, her insight in addition to my own advice will round out this post.

The Costs:

Equipment: Much as a quality hairstylist would not cut your hair with kitchen shears, professional florists have specialty tools to do their job well. The health and longevity of the flowers depends on knowing how to properly process them and using good tools. According to Sarah, those run about $500. But the tools don’t stop there. To process large orders expensive coolers, delivery vehicles, etc. are needed. Most florists work out of storefronts that incur the costs of rent, insurance, utilities, and much more. It’s important to know that flowers themselves cost a lot of money (even wholesale) plus the cost of wire, foam, the vessels that arrangements will be in, and rentals.

Expertise: Most people can pull off a basic rounded bouquet of simple flowers (I’m proof of that in DIY posts that I have done). And for some that may be sufficient. But of the myriad reasons that DIY florals may not be a great idea (here’s a whole post on that topic), the biggest is that you probably want something truly beautiful that will last throughout your wedding day. Sarah took that responsibility very seriously and decided to work under other acclaimed florists to learn her craft. Only when she felt ready did she open her own store. Combining that experience with her personal style and creativity, she has been charming brides for 5 wedding seasons on her own as the Painted Primrose florist.

Florists are artists. They have a creativity and vision with flowers that laypeople do not possess. I’m astounded again and again at how they take something that is already beautiful and amp it up a hundred times. They have a knowledge of color theory, flower species (names, interactions, historical meanings, availability, scent, toxicity, etc.) and arrangement construction (support, which blooms will hold up in the heat, which blooms need special processing, which flowers shouldn’t be used in boutonnieres due to moisture needs, etc.). A good florist is an artist and a botanist.

Time Investment: Sarah says that a typical wedding for her will take 1 to 2 days to design. In addition to that, I know there many hours involved in consultations, conceptualizing  and flower ordering. Then there are delivery and setup.

Why it’s Worth It:

In Sarah’s words:

Now and then I come across a bride that wants to design the flowers for her own wedding and wants to purchase flowers from me in bulk. I can offer them, but the experience that a florist has is really priceless.  I have a bride this week who is designing her own flowers. She has spent hours and hours on the internet trying to learn how to make corsages and boutonnieres. She has spent hundreds of hours and money on her failed attempts. Talk about stress. Oh my. Hire a professional and have a beautiful stress free wedding.

I think she brings up a very valid point. Why spend so much time, energy, and money trying to make yourself into a florist when you will get something so much better with less stress and probably even less money if you hire a professional!? Can you teach yourself to sew a wedding dress? Yes. Would it be original, well executed, and worth your time? Probably not. The same goes with flowers. For all we know that bride will make kick-butt flowers and even discover her calling. But for most of us, if you want something professional you should pay an expert. As always, I would highlight that you shouldn’t use the most expensive person just because you think they will give you the best design, however. There are amazing florists out there who work with their clients to create beautiful pieces with high quality flowers and all within a reasonable budget. But don’t expect to pay $50 for a professional bouquet either! That’s an affront to the talent and the higher quality materials of a professional. If you insist on making your own arrangements, at least do yourself the favor of taking a course with your florist. Most of my favorite florists offer them and you will benefit greatly from their expertise.

Finally, on a very personal note, I would like to add that the interaction you have with your florist will likely be one of the most endearing of all your wedding professionals. So enjoy them like a breath of fresh air. In my experience (with my own wedding and with this blog), florists are a special breed of people. Maybe it’s that they are surrounded by beautiful things and very human experiences all day. They have an air of kindness, helpfulness, whimsy, understanding, and free spirit that is second to none. And chances are the relationship you form with them will result in many interactions after you wedding. They become like family as they are called on again and again at key moments in your life. I think this is well illustrated by Sarah’s story of how she got her start:

I opened my first retail shop in 2001, four days after 9/11. It was a shabby chic, French styled home decor shop. Randomly, a friend asked me if i could design her son’s wedding flowers as their florist was ill. I happily accepted. After the wedding, I enlarged a photo of the bride and hung it on the wall of my shop. A few months later a young woman stopped into the shop and asked me if i could design her wedding flowers. Of coarse I said yes. Tragically, six weeks following the wedding, the groom passed away and I was honored to design the flowers for his funeral. The same bride gave birth to a baby boy, and I designed flowers for his baby naming ceremony. Unbelievably the death of her mother shortly followed. So in short, a single customer changed my life and career, and I became a florist. I learned that being a florist is not just about arranging pretty flowers in a vase, but about celebrating the circle of life.

Cutting Costs:

Sarah says that a typical wedding with her runs about $1,000-$10,000 depending on the number and complexity of the arrangements. Says Sarah, “If a bride has a limited budget, I would say spend the money on your bouquet. Love your bouquet. It should give you goosebumps. Downsize the bridal [party] bouquets and centerpieces. I can create inexpensive centerpieces with lots of drama and elegance.” I would add to that to consider blooms that are local and in season. Also, choosing a naturally beautiful location like a garden can help cut down on the need for ceremony flowers (and lots of other decor needs for that matter).


While flowers often go under-appreciated, they are a very real part of your wedding day. Take note of your favorite weddings as you search blogs and magazines and you will see that they tend to incorporate a lot of flowers. They represent the life that one finds in such an event and are a worthwhile “splurge”. A good florist can make arrangements that wow you and you could never come up with on your own. You deserve that.

Sarah Cioni studied fine art in college with an emphasis on Ikebana (the art of japanese flower arranging). Her work has been featured in many publications in print and online, her shop was voted Best of the Knot 2012, and she has “been honored to design flowers for the Dali Lama, a Hollywood movie family, and an actress from the TV show Dynasty.” Her studio, The Painted Primrose, is also dear to me as my own wedding florist.

This post is part of a series:

For What It’s Worth: Letterpress

For What It’s Worth: Photography

For What It’s Worth: Flowers

For What It’s Worth: The Dress

For What It’s Worth: Cakes

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