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Tipsheet: The Flowers That Be

Selecting flowers is one of the most creative parts of planning your wedding, and it needn’t be stressful—as long as you go about it the right way.

Don't leave anything to chance.
Bring in magazine pictures of arrangements that you like, and if you despise certain colors or certain flowers, make that known immediately. A good designer will tell you up-front whether he thinks your tastes are a match, and will refer you to his peers if he thinks they'll fulfill your particular look better. Also, always ask for references and a list of estimated costs in writing. And although sketches and photos are standard for the first meeting, don't commit to anything until you have seen your arrangements live-and well ahead of time.

Be thorough.
Think up a simple arrangement and ask all the florists you're interviewing how much it would cost, with a breakdown of how they derived that cost, from materials to labor. Keeping in mind that reputation and experience count for a lot, any price that seems inappropriate is probably a sign of the overcharging to come. Also be sure to ask about hidden fees. Some florists charge for delivery. Some have to rent equipment they don't own, like pedestals and candelabras. Others may charge you for pedestals that they do own.

Know your budget
Set a price ceiling before you walk in the door for your first meeting. When you get there, lowball it. "If you want to spend ten grand, give the guy $8,000," says Michael George. "He'll understand. It's almost etiquette." That way, when your florist invariably goes over budget, you'll still be within yours.

Plan with the seasons.
Says one top florist, "If you have to have peonies and you're not a Rockefeller, you'd better have your wedding in May or June." Spring and early summer have the most abundant variety of choices, and summer is best for budget-friendly wildflowers. Fall is a veritable dead zone at the flower market-you'll have to stick to standards like roses and gardenias, or risk paying big bucks in shipping.

Protect your investment.
Flowers wilt, especially when they're out of water and wrapped in ribbon for a long time. Pick a bouquet with exposed stems you can put in water after the ceremony, or make sure your florist provides you a second bouquet for photos at minimal cost.

From the Fall 2005 New York Wedding Guide

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