A wedding day highlight for me is always the moment when the flowers arrive. In amongst the hustle and bustle of hair curling, eye shadow blending and champagne corks popping, I think for many brides it’s a quiet reminder of what’s about to happen. A signal that all the months of planning and preparation are becoming a reality.
I saw some absolutely beautiful bouquets at my weddings last year. I found myself taking it for granted that I would be gifted with magnificent blooms to photograph and it occurred to me that I had absolutely no idea about the amount of work which goes into creating these floral masterpieces. So I decided to find out.
I first met Jennifer, founder of the Wildflower Florist, when she was delivering flowers to a wedding I was photographing in 2014. Our paths only briefly crossed but in the very short conversation we had I was intrigued by her approach to using seasonal British flowers. When I asked her if I could visit her to take photographs and find out about the life of a florist she happily agreed.
I caught up with Jennifer as she was hard at work in her studio in the beautiful conservation district of Paisley, creating bouquets and button holes for a late autumn wedding.
How did you got into floristry?
I studied Tapestry in the School of Drawing and Painting at the Edinburgh College of Art. During my degree I’d often sit and sketch in the Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh, it was my happy place.
After I graduated I worked in clothing retail and then went travelling for a year. When I was working in Australia I discovered some amazing florists in Melbourne. I was really interested by the way they were using succulents, twigs, natural shapes and native flowers. That really inspired me to find a job in floristry when I came home and I spent seven years learning the trade at florists in the West End of Glasgow before setting up my own business in 2013.
Tell me about your business
I’m inspired by nature and my designs are often influenced by the way flowers naturally grow. My flowers and foliage are sourced locally as much as possible and I’m passionate about seasonality.
I have a small cutting garden of my own and I love to be able to use home grown blooms in my work. All of my bouquets and arrangements are uniquely designed, and often feature foliage and flowers cut from my garden moments before.
I’m very environmentally conscious and as well as using flowers when they’re in season I try to use biodegradable products. I avoid using plastic and always choose to wrap my flowers in paper instead. I also compost all of my plant waste and recycle as much as possible.
Describe the process of getting ready for a wedding
Preparation typically starts the week before the wedding. Depending on the flowers I’m using I might need to make a couple of trips to the flower market to make sure I buy the flowers in their optimal condition. Timing is key in floristry and knowing exactly when a flower bud will open involves lots of experience and knowledge of flowers. I often buy double the quantity of flowers I think I’ll need just to make sure I can choose the best.
Once all of the flowers are in my studio they need to be conditioned so they’re at their absolute best on the wedding day. That involves stripping leaves, cutting stems and making sure the flowers have a good drink. I can then get to work on the arrangements and the designs.
Floristry is time consuming – things like wiring leaves and creating button holes can take much longer than you’d think. I was up until 3am the night before my own wedding preparing my flowers!
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I absolutely love flowers, so being able to work with them on a daily basis is wonderful. I also love working with people and I take a lot of satisfaction from creating really special arrangements and bouquets for couples’ wedding days. Having the opportunity to spend a lot of my time outdoors, being around nature and adding plants to my cutting garden, is also very enjoyable.
What’s your favourite flower?
It changes depending on the season. I do however love a scented rose, I grow 11 different varieties in my garden. I also love discovering flowers I’d forgotten I love and the variety in gardens and nature.
What’s been your career highlight so far?
Seeing my business grow and now having a thank you card collection from my lovely bride and grooms! It really has been an amazing journey so far and I feel so lucky to do what I love.
What’s the most unusual request you’ve had?
I was very lucky to be asked to provide the on-set flowers for a dramatisation of an Iain Banks novel, Stonemouth, filmed in Scotland in 2014. The drama involved both a wedding and a funeral, and I provided the flowers for both of these scenes. One of the most challenging aspects of this was creating five identical arrangements for the wedding scene, as the filming involved actor Peter Mullan repeatedly kicking over the table on which the flowers were placed.
What advice would you give to couples choosing their flowers?
Look at what is growing seasonally at the time of the wedding the year before if possible. Think about flowers that have a personal meaning, maybe grown in childhood gardens or a flower native to home?
Scents are lovely to incorporate as they evoke the memory of your wedding when you later smell the perfume.
Colour is important and swatches of fabrics are useful to bring to your flower consultation. A good consultation should last between 20 minutes and an hour, giving you time to look at pictures of examples and compile a list of suitable suggestions for flower choice. It’s helpful if you can share an idea of your budget, somewhere around 10% of the total wedding budget is normal.
It is important that your florist has a good idea of your style and you feel that they are going to capture that in your wedding flowers.