Wedding consultations – How it works!

I thought it would be useful to write out a little outline of how the consultation and booking process goes when asking me about flowering your wedding. For most of my clients, this is their only experience planning a wedding! And for whatever reason, the process of figuring out the florals can be daunting. Maybe you don’t know anything at all about flowers, or what’s in season when (Totally fine! That’s quite literally my job.) Maybe you’ve heard that flowers are crazy expensive and wedding florists are out to steal your money! (Ouch.) Or maybe you know what you don’t like, but you don’t know what you do!

So – here’s how it works:

One, a phone call or an in-person meeting. I get lots of emails that are like: I want a bouquet, 3 bridesmaids’ bouquets, 4 boutonnieres and 15 centerpieces. My colors are white and pink. How much will that cost?

My reply is always the same: I would love to help you with this. Do you have time to talk?

The truth is I could probably guesstimate prices (or a range of prices) based on a list of what a couple wants for their wedding, but I consider what I do to be a little more (actually, a lot more) than filling a laundry list of what you need for wedding flowers. Not only do I ask what you need, but I ask what you want for wedding flowers. What’s your vision? What’s your dream? What do you love? Hate? What are some words to describe the look? What’s the vibe? Are you stressed about your budget? Do you have no idea about flowers and really want guidance? Do you know what you like but don’t know if it’s in season?

NO PROBLEM. I can help you with all of it.

Two. I write a proposal. The proposal includes every item you’ve told me you need, some of the inspiration pictures you’ve sent me, and pictures I’ve found as well. Everything is listed a la carte. When you get it, realize it can be a bit of a rough draft.

Why? I base the proposal on what you’ve said you wanted. Sometimes it is higher in price than you expected it would be. Sometimes we don’t have the total numbers. Sometimes I give you several options at different price points because you don’t know yet if what you want is in your budget. All of which I understand, and I hope you understand as well. You’ve never priced out wedding flowers before! If it’s too high – let me know! I can usually think of ways to get a great look at a lower price point. I have many tricks up my sleeve and I’ve worked at most of the local venues, so can offer suggestions based on my experience. We can revise and revisit the proposal until it’s where you need it to be. We can actually revise and revisit the proposal even after the contract is signed (see #3) – no problem. The proposal is a working document and the only time it’s set in stone is a month before your event (see #4.)

Three. The next step is to book me! If you liked talking to me, if you’ve looked at my other work, you’ve heard good things about me and you think I’ll do a good job – let’s get it in the calendar! To book, I send you a contract via DocuSign, you sign it, and then you send me a nonrefundable deposit. The deposit goes towards the wedding flowers, and it essentially saves your day. I rarely will do more than one wedding a weekend, and it’s even more rare that I do more than one wedding in a day. Because of this I will not hold days unless I have the contract and deposit in hand!

Four. Final details. Once I’m booked then you can ignore me until about 6 weeks before the wedding. If you want to contact me, please do – I’d love to talk to you or see new pictures or ideas! But we don’t really need to talk until 6 weeks out. I’ll send you an email with the current version of the proposal and make sure that everything is as it should be. I’ll get your final numbers (12 tables or 13? an extra flower girl? one less groomsman? ) and make any tweaks or changes we need to make. At 4 weeks from your wedding the remainder of the payment is due and after that point you can add to the flowers, but you cannot take away. That’s because I’ve likely purchased or ordered anything I need to source out, and I’ve gotten my staffing in line, should I need staffing.

And that’s it! About a week or two before the event I’ll get your timeline, if you or your coordinator hasn’t already sent it, and we’ll work out where I’m taking the bouts and where you’ll be when you need your hair flowers, and then we’ll all look forward to your amazing big day!

Sound good? Let’s get started! Email me and we’ll make time to talk!

Farm, flowers, and work work work work work work…2019 in review

2019, for me, was a year of work! Which is not a bad thing! If you’re doing work you love, you’re hardly working, am I right?

Maybe.

We built a studio! It has been so lovely to have heat in the winter and a/c in the summer. After living in this for 9 months it sure doesn’t look like this any more! I’ve managed to fill it up and already wish I had double the space. It’s a huge improvement over my shed!

This was a year of exponential growth here at Passalongs Farm. I almost tripled my wedding work. I more than tripled my growing area. I built a studio that had electricity, air conditioning and heat!!  I stopped doing farmers’ markets (mostly) but doubled the flowers I sold by the road. I hired people to help me! (That was a big step.) I put more money into my farm, but bought more product elsewhere. I started a reflowering project, where I re-made flowers from weddings into small bouquets for folks in local nursing homes. I went to two growers’ conferences. I worked. I worked a lot. I learned as much as I worked.

The reflowering project has been lovely! Sometimes my wedding clients don’t take all the flowers home, or sometimes they can’t, so when I go pick up my stuff after the event I repurpose many of the flowers and distribute them to local nursing homes. It’s fun! And gratifying.

What I learned: 2 full weddings in a weekend (which I did a number of times, and twice did 3) IS NOT FOR ME. It was exhilarating to get all those bookings, and I’m really, really bad at saying no, especially when someone is telling me they love my work, but when it came down to it, 2 full service weddings over 2 days was too much. I had help, yes, which was wonderful, but for my not-young body it was very physically taxing, and the enjoyment and artistry and feeling that I was doing something beautiful and fun and fulfilling (which usually is how I’m feeling when designing a wedding) wasn’t true 100% of the time. Or even 75% of those particular days.

I tripled my weddings from 2018 to 2019, which was both good and bad! I learned so much from doing this. Number one lesson: I do not like to do more than one wedding a day! Or weekend. So I’m changing my approach for 2020. (This wedding, by the way, was a joy to create, and I did NOT do more than one wedding this particular weekend!) Dana and her bridesmaids. Photo by Kelsey and Liam, KeLi Photography

I learned that doesn’t work for me. Which is good. That’s why I took on those bookings (plus, obviously, problems with boundaries.) I also learned that while I valued all the work that my helpers did for me in 2019, I don’t really want to expand much beyond what I did in 2019. The amount of help I had, especially when it came to the farm tasks, was just about right. Same with weddings, but I’m going to reign it all in next year. Yes to great help! No to feeling overwhelmed!

Flowers on the cart. I miss summer!

Another thing I learned: I LOVE my roadside cart! And I love the little patch of flowers I trialed last year down in the spot by the road, where my cart is located. Being out there on an early summer morning, picking armloads of zinnias and sunflowers, listening to a podcast, watching the packs of bikers zoom by, and occasionally getting one to wave or say hi – this is such a meditative and pleasant task. Making those bouquets are pure pleasure. I use what I have, as much as I have. I don’t have to go anywhere or buy anything – it’s all me. So ideally I will do more of that in the coming year. We are going to renovate or rethink the cart so it can hold more and is a bit more polished. I’m going to cultivate relationships with local places to sell these kind of arrangements. More of this, please!

Some other things I learned:

Dahlias and marigolds. Both like sun!

Dahlias need sunlight. If you move them to a spot that doesn’t get enough sunlight you will not get enough blooms! Expansion is only a good thing if what you plant in your new beds will thrive in your new beds.

Communication when it comes to weddings is key. Last year every wedding reminded me that for most of my couples this was the first time they were doing it, so more information, especially about process, timing, etc., was better. I really only had one communication mishap the whole summer, but it was enough so that I rethought some basic procedures that to me seemed obvious, but clearly needed a new look.

I went to two conferences this year: the Flowering in the North Conference in Portland, ME, in the winter, and in November, the Making a Profit Selling Cut Flowers conference in Nashville. Both were fantastic! Conferences are invigorating! Also maybe a little too inspiring, leading me to try new things that I have no market for, and which take my attention from other tasks. Which definitely happened. But as with everything, I lived and I learned.

Lots of weddings = little time for artwork. I miss my art! In January I’m going to spend time with my pressed flowers in a more meaningful way, and I’d love for that work to become equal to my wedding work in terms of time on task, focus, and even sales.

It’s odd to distill an entire year down to a few paragraphs and a few images, but it’s also useful to think about what worked and what didn’t. As a ‘solopreneur’ I need to take time to reflect. How else is a business  to grow sustainably?

Notes like these, stuffed into the cashbox at my cart, ARE THE BEST!

Who knew? 2018 in review!

photo by Time Bandit Photography

Last night I was at a New Year’s Eve party with friends I hadn’t seen in person for a couple of years. We moved to Massachusetts in 2015, and so while most my North Carolina friends and I stay in touch via social media, many of them I usually only see once a year, if that.

Here’s the cool thing, y’all: every single one of them told me how beautiful my flowers were, how much pleasure they got out of seeing the bouquets, and many of them also said: WHO KNEW? Who knew you could do that? Who knew you had that business in you?

I didn’t. I hadn’t. But guess what? I did and I do!

Continue reading “Who knew? 2018 in review!”

About

As long as I can remember, I’ve loved plants and gardens. In middle school I planted a vegetable garden in the weeds in our yard, giving myself an intense case of poison ivy in the process. In high school I had a garden of houseplants lined up in front of my window. During college, I supplemented my publishing internship working at a plant nursery and florist, which I enjoyed much more than filing book jackets and answering the phones .

I went on to teach high school, work as a librarian, start a non-profit, freelance in publishing, advocate and speak about parenting children with special needs, and write books, but it never occurred to me to follow my original passion until circumstances led me to manage a farmers’ market. I saw first-hand how people were making a living from their land, honoring all things local, and creating lives connected to nature. I resolved to do the same.

In 2015 my family moved to western Massachusetts after 21 years in central North Carolina. The move meant a lot of things to us: better opportunities for my younger son, who has a neurobehavioral disorder, a change in employment (for the better) for my husband, and for me, learning a new climate that included a harsher winter than I was used to, understanding native plants, invasives, and trying to make new connections in my community.

Our rustic little house came with a barn, a shed, an outhouse (!) and almost 3 acres of sandy, but fertile soil. I set to work.

The result is Passalongs Farm and Florist. I started out selling at local farmers’ markets, added a roadside cart in 2016, and in 2017 set up a 4-season floristry design studio, specializing in personal, thoughtful floral design for special events, weddings, and special occasions.