How to Beat the Bridal Budget Blues

Written by Tracy Park and Christopher Grigas

As wedding designers we truly believe every bride deserves beautiful flowers for her wedding! That’s what brings us to writing this article for uBloom.  Surely if you’re a wedding and events designer, you run into the same brides that we do!  The spectrum for wedding flower budgets is endless and we all know that agonizing point when it comes to discussing the flower budget.  It can be a game of “who divulges first” where you either offer pricing to the bride, or the bride tells you her budget.  The latter is seldom, so we feel there are things you can do during the consultation that will help you convince the bride that YOUR work is worth whatever it costs….the value lies in YOU…not just the flowers

Anecdote from Tracy
Let’s set the scene…(last week) perspective bride calls…as I listen, the bride explains that she is having a wedding next August and that I am the third floral designer she has called. Clearly she was price shopping, which we all do.  I congratulate her on her upcoming nuptials and then begin the process of “learning the bride” without being blunt or offensive. Asking a bride what her budget is in the first consultation…or at least in the first part of the consultation is a turn off for a bride.  The first important question (when sizing up a budget) is asking the location of the ceremony and the wedding venue.  Knowing local venues (even if you have never worked in them) is a great tool to selling your services to a bride and a pretty good indication on what kind of budget she has, but not always.  Bride-to-be tells me she got my name off the venue list from one of my better venues…sounds promising.  To my surprise as we discuss her floral needs and that the “other florist” had told her what they could do her flowers for, I segued the conversation into asking her what her budget was.  She proceeded to tell me $250!  I could not believe it.  I was so disappointed and wanted to scream “Two-Hundred and Fifty dollars!?!?! What are you thinking? Have you seen my work?  Do you know anything about flowers and what they cost?”  I was able to hold back and politely explain that I really have a wedding “minimum” and that $250 was well under it.  Expecting her to say “okay” and hang up, she insisted on sending me an e-mail with her wish list. I said I would take a look at it and give her a quote. So we hang up and in about a half-an-hour I get her return e-mail…to be continued

Anecdote from Chris
In September I got an email from a potential bride for May of 2010 who wants to book her date ASAP. It’s a destination wedding, so I jump at the chance to meet her at the venue the next week.  We hit it off right away and her wedding planner is like an organizing robot.  Our ideas are melding perfectly and we are having a great time discussing her wedding vision…I don’t ask, but I can tell it’s a sizable budget.  Thru the on-site consultation, I make sure I am confident without being cocky and knowledgeable but not condescending.  I make references to a few well-known designer’s styles to let them know I am familiar with industry trends and it seems to comfort them.  The design ideas are very detailed so I know the bride (and her wedding planner) have done their homework and really know what they want.  As I wrap up the consultation, I let them know that the choices they made are modern, upscale and rather expensive.  I tell her I will have a proposal to her in a few days and I see the next florist walking in the door as I exit the venue….no worries, I know I did my job very well….so far, so good.  I sent the proposal and “shoot for the moon”.  I do “textbook pricing” (3.5 markup plus 30% design fee) on the first draft….she asks how we can make changes to be in her price range, but I hesitate…to be continued

We all have different approaches and tactics on how to steer a bride either to hire us or not.  As professional floral designers, we all encounter low-end or low budget brides, so what do we do and how do you handle it?  By the time we meet, talk for an hour (or more) type up & send out a quote, book the date, create a “recipe ” for the designs, order the flowers, process them, design and deliver them…we often lose money.  But if we turn down the bride due to budget, we end up feeling bad because we know we could have made the bride’s day so perfect.  Having limits and boundaries either way will help you determine whether to pursue a perspective bride. The following are some words of wisdom from fellow wedding professionals.  Keeping these things in mind may help you find that “holding out” just may be worth it.

  • Say no…Say it often. It may be difficult, but you owe it to yourself and your clients. Turn down jobs that don’t fit you, and don’t over-booking yourself. You are no good to anyone when you’re stressed and anxious.  Additionally, vendors who are booked and unavailable (within reason) are the ones who perspective clients are attracted to…find your happy middle ground.
  • Style is a voice, not a prop or an action…If you can buy it, borrow it, download it, or steal it, it is not a style. Don’t look outward for your style; look inward.
  • Remember…If your work looks like everyone else’s, there’s no reason for a client to book you, rather than the other designer…unless you’re less expensive.  But remember, nobody wants to be known as “the cheap florist”.
  • Embrace frustration…It pushes you to learn and grow, broaden your horizons, and lights a fire under you when your work has gone cold. Nothing is more dangerous to an artist than complacence.
  • Accept critique, but don’t apply it blindly…Just because someone said it does not make it so. Critiques are opinions, nothing more. Consider the advice, consider the perspective of the advice giver, consider your style and what you want to convey in your work. Implement only what makes sense to implement. That doesn’t not make you ungrateful, it makes you independent.
  • Know your style before you hang out your shingle…If you don’t, your clients will dictate your style to you. Changing your style later will force you to start all over again, and that’s tough.
  • Know your stuff…Luck is a nice thing, but a terrifying thing to rely on. It’s like money; you only have it when you don’t need it.
  • You are your toughest and best critic…Follow your instincts and design as if you were making it for yourself.

So, with that we hope to leave you really thinking about how you want to portray yourself and what you do as a designer. I have lost many brides to low budgets due to my higher prices. I feel let down and a little disappointed in myself when they tell me they are going with the “other” designer.  On the other hand, I pick my own battles.  I know what I am worth and that there will be another bride to take that spot I lost (lost bride or open date? It’s your choice!).

Tracy’s Budget Bride (continued)
Oh, and as for the $250 budget bride…I did send her off her quote and yes it was a simple wedding order, with minimal flowers. I gave her my prices and it was about 3.5 times her budget! Do I think I will book her? Probably not, But I do know if I do it will be worth my time~ because my work is worth it.

Chris’ Modern Bride
And the bride with the expensive taste…I hesitated to make adjustments on her proposal, so I called on some floral professionals for advice.  It was worth offering her an adjusted rate on the table centers as long as I get the sizable wedding.  She booked me and since the floral designs are so modern and unique, it will be a great addition to my portfolio and the owners of the venue may suggest me for future brides.

Good luck to all of you in 2010…so far, it looks like a very promising wedding year!