Written by Amanda Johnson
As a wedding florist I meet with brides of all types. The organized bride who brings a binder bursting with clippings, color swatches, photos, budget spreadsheets (and of course her bewildered fiancé on her arm), the bride who has no idea what she wants, and the bride who has every single other detail of her wedding planned but has no idea what she wants for flowers and of course everything in between.
All of these brides come to me and expect me to do my job: inspire them! Take their ideas whether concrete or all over the place and make their wedding spectacular! Whether her wedding is an organized set of checklists or (barely) organized chaos, I have to present a cohesive design plan that pulls it all together and expresses creativity, individuality and a lasting lifetime memory through a fleeting pallet of color and plant life.
It’s not always easy.
Today’s bride is computer savvy, she reads fashion magazines, chances are she’s shopped at the one-stop-matching accessory capital of the world: David’s Bridal. Even if she strives to stay away from the matching sashes, tiaras and shoes, she at least has a color pallet and vision. Many brides are “DIYers” (Do-it-Yourselfers) searching the ends of the earth for matching card stock, fabric, bow ties and shoes.
As a florist I have a few options for presenting brides with design ideas. I can sketch. Or rather, I can’t sketch to save my life so that’s not really an option. I can pull out the old wedding bouquet book and show them coordinating bouquets reiterating that their bouquet will look “just like this but without this or that, or come to think of it, it will look nothing like this at all.” Or, I can give her an inspiration board. I can show her I am the design professional she seeks. I am master of the color swatch and coordinating theme and feel. I can give her Martha Stewart, Grace Ormond and Heidi Klum. I can conquer her design needs.
I have two favorite flower magazines: Wedding Flowers, a British magazine and The Bride and Bloom. I noticed something about both. The first 10 pages have nothing to do with flowers. There are pictures are stick-thin models in bridal gowns, advertisements for perfume, pictures of jewelry and articles on mens fashion. Both magazines are flower-centric but with a tie to fashion. In other words, the flowers are not just a pretty decoration; they are part of a carefully crafted, planned and coordinated extravaganza. The Bride and Bloom includes several featured weddings in each issue. The table linens have equal billing to the bride’s bouquet. Each article features a side bar with the following buzz words: Inspiration, Style, Colors (with coordinating swatches under each).
Any florist can show a bride page after page in the Teleflora book but what a bride wants to know is how her flowers will match her custom damask table runners, her $5,000 wedding gown, and her tea-length bridesmaid dresses with funky dyed crinoline.
Enter my new best friend: The inspiration board. Brides all over the web are contributing to such websites as “Style Me Pretty” or updating their “The Knot” profiles with colorful photo mosaics tying their accessories, colors, flowers and overall wedding together.
So what is an inspiration board? An inspiration board is a collage brides (and smart designers) use to capture an overall “feel” for their wedding. It goes beyond matching color swatches to rose colors. Some inspiration boards have no pictures of wedding-related items at all. What does the board below say to you about the bride’s wedding?
So how do you use this tool to your advantage and how do you find the inspiration to create one? Before each consultation I have a bride fill out a questionnaire on my website. This form covers the basics from venue and wedding party size but also includes a section for color scheme, theme, and budget. I have important information before I even meet with my client. I can look at this form and gauge what direction I need to go in prepping for the consultation. If a bride’s wedding is in November and her colors are deep red, copper and chocolate brown, I may be able to use a fall theme and color palette. If she is getting married in November but is using baby pink and blue, I need to rethink my game plan.
I pull together bouquet ideas, color swatches, and pictures that may or may not directly correlate to wedding flowers. If a bride describes her feel as “vintage and funky” I might include a black and white picture of a bride from the time frame she is trying to capture. I have a wedding in November with peacocks as the inspiration and so a proud peacock took center stage on my inspiration board. If she describes her wedding as an English tea party, I might feature a pretty china cup dead center with the colors textures and frilly touches surrounding it.
The beauty of the board is that it gives brides an overall view of her wedding. She’s looking forward to this day and has spent months planning. If you can show her that you share her vision and that her flowers will beautifully compliment her big day, she is ready to book. There’s a wow factor when you can present your ideas in a cohesive, coordinated format. Boards like the one below are a little more straight forward and for a bride who has trouble visualizing something it shows her how all the pink feminine touches will tie together.
As a florist your flower pictures might get a bigger billing than the pictures of the dresses but those are included to show the bride you understand her wedding and what she wants. Even if you, as a seasoned flower pro, know the delicate pink peonies will beautifully match her girly pink theme, she might just see them as another pink flower. Show them next to her lacy wedding gown and she is sold.
An inspiration takes the guess work out of wedding flowers. You won’t have to convince a bride of your vision-you can show her and she will trust that you can pull this off. It’s also a clever way to up sell a wedding. If she likes butterflies show a few bouquets with those expensive
Swarovski crystal bouquet jewels. Show a bouquet dressed in dupioni silk instead of satin ribbon. You can caption photos or name each board, change background colors to coordinate everything together-in other words have fun.
So how do I create one of these wonders? If you’re not tech savvy there are many sites and computer programs which make your life easier. Flickr for example is not just a handy place to host pictures of your work. It features many widgets and add-ons which help you create photo mosaics. “Big Huge Labs” is a site with many fun tools for Flickr users. Mosaic is the easiest for the inspiration board. Another Flickr toy I use is the Color Palette Generator. You can upload any photo and the handy tool will spit out beautifully coordinating color swatches. Use these to pull together bouquets and blooms that match and work well. My favorite is Google’s Picasa. You can download the photo program for free. It will organize all photos you save to your computer and you can host them for free on the web. If you download Picasa you can use their collage tool to pull together all your photos. You simply click on the ones you want to add and the program collages them for you.
I also use Microsoft Power Point. In consultations I can show brides a brief presentation with several collages or mix single photos with collages to give them various ideas. Power Point allows you to layout photos in tables and re-sizes them fairly easily. This is great for anyone used to Microsoft applications but not necessarily computer savvy.
The best thing about some of your inspiration boards is that you may be able to save them and use them again. You will get a lot of custom brides with fun funky themes and you will get a lot of brides who want the same wedding over and over again.
So how long does all of this take? It sounds like a lot of work. And, if you haven’t played on the computer as much as I have it may take a while to master. Some programs like Flickr’s mosaic only allow you to upload one photo at a time. Very time consuming. You may wonder if it is worth it to invest all of this time before you’ve even met with the bride and landed her business.
I say it is absolutely worth the time. If you get the vital information from a bride before the consultation (and you don’t have to have a fancy web form like I do you can simply ask a bride over the phone) you can use this to pull together a game plan before you’ve met. Your first meeting will be very productive and she will use this organized, well-thought-out meeting as a comparison point as she shops. Sure she will meet with other florists but in the back of her mind she remembers your amazing ability to show her flowers that capture her wedding. I have brides tell me all the time “I met with the other florists but you were the only one who really understood what I was going for.” And really all I did was show her a collage with flowers next to pictures of things that might coordinate with her wedding. I’ve had brides tell me they were amazed at my “psychic” ability to capture their wedding.
It’s not otherworldly, it’s clever marketing.
If you would like more information on the programs I use and how to use them, feel free to contact me through uBloom.