The Floral Designer

Photo: Hannah Whitaker

Sarah Ryhanen of Saipua

How should a couple go about choosing a floral designer?
You really want to be on the same page, aesthetically. If you’re after a very contemporary, showy look, the first arrangement you see on your florist’s website should be along those lines. Saipua has an organic, wildflower feel, so most of the brides who come to me want that.

And what if they’re not sure about their favorite flowers?
Most people don’t know names, but they do know that they like the way round petals look, or that they don’t want purple. I think it’s better to talk about the shapes and colors that you gravitate toward then let the florist make the final decisions. That way, I can go to the market and pick out only what looks really, really amazing that day.

People always say that staying in season is the best way to cut costs. Do you agree?
That’s a common misconception. Peonies are cheaper in June than in November, but there are only a few flowers that are like that. Most are imported from South America and Holland, so they’re in season year-round. We like to use a lot of different flowers in our arrangements—one bouquet might have fifteen varieties. We do try to work seasonally for environmental and quality reasons, and we do our best to source materials locally, but that doesn’t necessarily translate into lower costs.

So what does?
If you’re on a tight budget, skip the table flowers in favor of two big, beautiful, dramatic arrangements—one for the place-card table, the first thing guests will see, and one for the bar.

What works best for winter?
Winter weddings are amazing from a floral point of view, because you don’t have to worry about wilting. And two of the hottest flowers at the moment, anemones and ranunculus, are at their best then.

What’s not so hot now?
Roses, carnations, and calla lilies. But I think roses have gotten a bad rap because people are so used to seeing them red and mixed with baby’s breath in a deli. I love them because they’re inexpensive and they come in every single color; they can provide a really good backdrop for other flowers.

What’s next?
I’d like to see more wild-flowers, like black Queen Anne’s lace, nigella, and hellebores. And I love the way that branches look: flowering branches, like lilac and dogwood, in the spring, and fruit on branches, like crab apple, Asian pear, and ornamental plum, in the fall. Contrary to what I said before, branches really are seasonal, because they’re too big to ship.

Are brides still tossing their bouquets?
Not as much. Sometimes they’ll request a smaller version to throw, but I think that’s silly. If you’re going to toss the bouquet, toss the bouquet.

Do you try to catch the bouquet when you go to weddings?
I never go to weddings. My friends don’t get married.

wear flowers in your hair
“A floral wreath instead of a veil looks relaxed—and you don’t have to spend hours on your wedding day getting a fussy updo.”

Wreath photograph courtesy of Saipua.

The Floral Designer