Hi Friends!

Hi Friends! It was so nice to meet many of you in Raleigh as we buzzed about new varieties, tarping, and our favorite varieties of eucalyptus. I especially appreciated Lennie Larkin’s talk “Making Weddings Work for YOU” where she discussed figuring in enough time and attention to make weddings a serious and planned part of her business.

I’ve designed and sold flowers for hundreds of weddings after about ten years of serious flower farming, and—maybe you all have already heard me say this—I’m kind of disenchanted with weddings in general. I think part of why I feel that way is I have been piling the wedding correspondence and prep work on top of regular weekly flower farm routines, and part is also the culture of weddings as a showcase of taste and one-upmanship. I sometimes even forget that folks are having a milestone celebration and gathering of their people; instead I am caught up in whether my flowers are ready for their close-up. Then I feel as though maybe I have turned into a monster.

Lennie explained that for her, doing weddings in her area is the best way for her flowers to be valuable enough for her to keep farming, so she had to find a way to make other people’s big moments routine for her by hiring enough helpers, charging enough to cover all the bits and pieces and time, and keeping her communication clear about what information she needs when, and in what format the clients should send it to her.

I continue to learn how to be selective in which weddings (and other projects) I take on, and I will definitely use some of the ideas Lennie shared as I plan my 2019 season. Here are some tips I have picked up over the last few seasons that have helped me streamline things.

1. I used to end some of my initial emails with “Please feel free to reach out with any further questions, ideas, or concerns.” I don’t write that anymore. I might say over the phone “Any other flower ideas or concerns at this point?” but I try not to encourage a lot of back and forth.

2. I bought a stepladder and a folding table that always live in my van. This way I don’t have to remember to load them or try to fit them, I always have them with me on delivery. A big part of being (and feeling) professional is about taking up space. It doesn’t feel nice to have to ask the venue or the caterer for a table for you to stage on, and it doesn’t feel nice to adjust arrangements on the floor or ground. Now my helper and I seek out a shady spot close to the dining space and just set up our table. It’s very empowering.

3. I try to systematize things. I rejected this idea for years (“Each event is unique and custom!”) and it worked until it didn’t. The more you can know for yourself which vase you like to transport bouquets in and which box you like to pack centerpieces in, the fewer frustrating late nights you’ll spend packing and wishing you already had your boxes planned out.

4. Work with other vendors. I have developed a relationship with a planner in my area, and we often use vessels she rents for the centerpieces. That way I don’t have to keep a big inventory, and she and her team do the breakdown. The trick with this is making sure I get my hands on the vessels early enough in the week to fill them with chicken wire, and to bill time for picking up the vessels at her studio if necessary.

5. I hired my sister to field my email inquiries. A big part of that job is saying “I’m sorry, we aren’t available.” and then referring other florists in our area. Even though I feel relieved when I decline a project, saying no over and over was really sucking the life out of me. Sometimes I felt like I had to take a project on because I had waited too long to say no. Now, Margaret gets back to people with a no right away, or she starts the proposal process. In the past I might struggle saying no gracefully in person or on the phone. This year I took up saying “Oh, my sister manages my schedule these days, you should email her.” And then I might text her and say “Let’s pass on this one.” And then: boom! I’m transplanting celosia with my team; meanwhile my business correspondence remains professional.

I hope to continue to improve at flowering up events of varying sizes as well as some big parties that don’t happen to be weddings!

As we all continue to plan for the next season and the next few years on our farms I want to echo a sentiment I have read in many issues of The Cut Flower Quarterly. Planting perennials and bulbs and trees and seeds is an act of supreme optimism. This thing we do that lights us up is about hope and faith. In this climate with four seasons, winter gives us a clean slate for a new year. I’ve got next spring’s tulips and double daffs on my mind and I am giddy about them. 

Carolyn Snell

Carolyn Snell Designs

Carolyn Snell Carolyn Snell Designs [email protected] [email protected]