Sunday, 22 November 2009

anatomy of a winter wedding

I am asked so often "How do you price for a wedding?" I suspect people think I'm being disingenuous when I say I don't know, it depends on so many factors, and I usually get it completely wrong and do myself down.... so here as requested by a few people is how wedding preparations work!

This weekend's bride was very specific about what she wanted, lots of ivies, ivory roses and hypericum, abundant arrangements, nothing stiff and formal. She knew it wouldn't be possible to get roses locally, or hypericum, at this time of year and was happy for me to buy in, which I'm happy to do for events during the winter if requested - although a bride in a few weeks is having greenery, seedpods and the few seasonal flowers that I will have, she is not having anything bought in.

So I sourced British grown berries and Fairly traded roses, and worked out what arrangements I would make and how many flowers I would need. Ivy is more flexible, I didn't have to worry about getting precise quantities ready. In the event the wedding took 600 roses, 300 stems of hypericum, at least 200 stems of trailing ivies and about nine large chequered laundry bags full of berrying ivy. A substantial amount of material!

We decided on three huge flower balls for the marquee plus the required number of table centres - some high and some low, plus a garland separating different areas of the marquee. The church was to have a garland on the porch, pew ends, fully decorated rood screen, and all eight large windows needed decorating as well as something for the altar and greenery twining through the porch. Then there was of course the bride's and bridesmaid's bouquets, buttonholes, flowers for the cars, flowers for the hair, and the cake, and presentation bouquets for the mums.

I spent half of Monday making the structures for the flowers - making oasis and moss cages for garlands, wiring oases for the flower globes, making pew end cages. It's true that you can buy all these ready made, and I tend to use some ready made garland oases, but I find they are only suitable for some indoor work, they are not robust enough for outdoor garlands, and actually don't work so well as those you design yourself.

Tuesday was ivy picking and starting on the garland bases. At least ivies will keep perfectly happily for a few days so I was able to get on with some things. It took many hours to pick the ivies, it is hard to imagine how much material the huge globes and garlands take to cover every inch. And I had also decided on circular wreath-style decorations for some of the tables, and others in oases on saucers, they all use more than just flowers in water. Anyway the bride wanted abundance....

Wednesday was carrying on with greenery for garlands and putting the first layer of long greenery n the flower globes. It was also the day to pick up my new van, I've been looking for a decent secondhand one for months but the right one didn't turn up so I'd bitten the bullet and ordered a new one. It's white, though I would have liked a colour, this one was cheaper because it had been preregistered and had all of 10 miles already on the clock so I was not going to fork out nearly two thousand pounds more for one in the appropriate shade. So now I am white van woman (again). Wednesday was also the day to collect the roses and the berries.

Thursday was making twelve table centres, 11 pew ends and the rest of the garland bases, plus sorting out everything needed for the bouquets and buttonholes and wired hair and cake flowers so it was all in order - however well planned I think I am I know there's always a rush at the last minute. Somehow I worked flat out all day and didn't finish till late and still seemed to have masses to do.

Friday morning was picking yet more ivy, unbelievably I had got through about six bags full already... loading up and going over to the church. Meg came with me to help. She got stuck into the window decorations, (brilliantly) I got stuck into the rood screen and the outer garland. Thank heavens the pew ends were all ready to hang as it still took us five hours and we were so busy we had no time to stop for even a cup of tea let alone lunch. Then Annette came over in the evening and the three of us spent a couple more hours making buttonholes and car decorations and I got started on the bouquets. A shower bouquet takes many hours as every single stem needs to be wired, and bound, and the bouquet is made from about six different sections wired and bound together. Annette has become a genius buttonhole maker. Meg made lovely hooped decorations for the cars.

On Saturday morning I was up at 4.30 to finish the bride's bouquet and do the next layers of the flower globes. Annette was out with me by 6.30, we stopped for breakfast for half an hour at 8.30 and left at 10.30 with lots of final preparations still to do on site.

And it was very very very very wet. I forgot to mention that earlier. It was wet all week but had been getting steadily worse as the week wore on. By Saturday morning it was a deluge. The day before I had got the van stuck in the gateway trying to get to the marquee (I was delivering pots which the family were filling with topiary trees for the evening) and it was a mudbath, by Saturday it was worse. We had to leave the van a way from the marquee and carry every box up to the tent, take off our shoes and walk barefoot over an increasingly wet carpet, it was Ok but things like that just add to the time factor. And there is always an unexpected something to throw a spanner in the works. I had planned for a nine foot garland to cover a long steel beam between two areas of the marquee but was presented with an already curtained wire beneath which the garland had to be looped. I couldn't use the cage I had intended as it was too robust for the wire and designed to be tied flat against a beam. So we had to completely remake a long garland. This took almost two precious hours. Decorating the cars in the rain took twice as long as it should have done. The candles refused to go onto the candelabra spikes without splitting as I was using different candles from normal and hadn't realised each one needed melting and spearing. We finished decorating everything, with all candles in place, five minutes before the bride and groom were due back from the church. It looked fabulous. It took ages. We got back exhausted!

Sunday was de-rigging - removing the heavy garlands from the church (no church flower ladies want to be left with this though churches like to be left with as many flowers as possible), collecting candelabras, collecting pots, tidying up, and negotiating floods.

So how to charge for a wedding? I really don't know, there are just so many variables......

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