Brittany and Karrick’s wedding was my first as the independently owned Fleur-de-Lise. For that reason, it’s a memorable and significant milestone in my personal floral history book.
But it’s hardly my first wedding as a florist. No, there have been countless nuptials over the last 15 years.
I’ll never forget my first. I was a very inexperienced designer, working my first floral job at a well-known chain. I started at a downtown location and then was moved to a quiet store where they thought I could manage the day-to-day design work on my own. It seemed like a promotion, but was really just a lateral move with more pressure.
I was told that if any weddings or major events beyond my abilities came up, the staff from one of the other locations would handle it until I could be properly trained.
Well, the day came and the other locations were swamped. “You’ll have to fly solo, and call us if you get stuck. We’ll talk you through it over the phone.”
I was so green I’d never done a wedding. Period. It took me an hour to make a corsage. And to that point, I had only ever made two of them. The bride and her four attendants wanted cascade-style bouquets, on top of six corsages, 10 boutonnieres, a cake topper and a guest book table arrangement. For the slow, inexperienced, insecure junior designer that I was, it felt like three entire days of work. I think I was in tears even before I started.
I was terrified. And I had every reason to be. A wedding is a monumental day in someone’s life, and the flowers are a focal point in photos—captured for posterity. It demands the best work you have to give.
I worked 16 hours that day—so long that my boyfriend at the time (now husband) helped me box everything up and swept the floors. When it was over, I was shell-shocked, starving and mentally exhausted, and felt certain this was my first—and last—wedding. My career as a florist was nipped in the bud.
But the years, and weddings, came and went. Years of mentorship at other shops allowed me to hone my skills, gain confidence and efficiency. After about 10 years, weddings became a fun challenge and part of the weekly grind.
Brittany and Karrick, May 28, 2016
I met Brittany and Karrick last fall over coffee so we could chat about their wedding and ideas for the big day. The best way to create wedding flowers is by determining the look and feel, taking cues from attire, venues and other vendors booked, the couple’s aesthetic preferences, not to mention product availability at that time of year.
With a palette of purple and hints of aqua, the wedding style was casual elegance. Over the next seven or so months, we would talk back and forth about plans for table centrepieces, numbers for body flowers, decor and logistics of the day. I met with Brittany and her mom in Convocation Hall at the University of Alberta’s main campus for a site visit to get a feel for the size and scale of the room and how large pieces needed to be for the ceremony.
I couldn’t wait to have the actual flowers in hand and start creating the things I’d been mentally picturing for months. The night before the flowers were set to arrive, I couldn’t sleep. It was part excitement and part anxiety as I was using a new supplier (new to me, anyway) for flowers and foliages, which despite the solid endorsements is an extra worry in the back of the mind, particularly when preparing for a monumental event: your official debut as a new businesswoman. You no longer represent a shop; it’s your reputation and your ridiculously high expectations at stake.
Fortunately, the product was mostly outstanding and I ecstatic.
My work area was a sea of dreamy purple hues punched up by a few vibrant green accents. The house smelled amazing and I was in my element.
The only similarity with this wedding and my first was the amount of pressure I felt to deliver. But you learn a thing or two over the years and by creating hundreds of wedding bouquets. I have a confidence and sense of purpose my greenhorn self never would have imagined.
The wedding, what I could observe from behind the scenes, was breathtaking. Everyone looked amazing; the bride was beautiful and it was evident there was a tight-knit group surrounding the happy couple.
For all my experience with weddings, the work usually ends when the designs are packed and sent for delivery or picked up by a family member. Actually being there when the father of the bride handed Brittany her bouquet, and seeing the bridesmaids lift the flowers to their noses to breathe in the fragrance, was a magical moment. It gave my designs a life and animation that you can only experience first hand. I’m probably just a sap for weddings in general, but I got a little misty eyed, witnessing this moment.
This couple, and these gorgeous purple flowers, will always remind me of the days my business was born and just how far I’ve come since that first hour-long corsage years ago.
I hope the happy couple enjoyed the flowers as much as I enjoyed creating them.