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Thursday, Nov. 2, 2017 02:54 pm

Hiring a professional florist

Danielle Heneisen - Rammelkamp Chapel in Jacksonville
Photo by Matt DeBackere
Michelle O’Neal-Babicky, owner of Petals and Co. in Rochester, loves weddings. She’s worked in the floral industry providing flowers for weddings since 1982 and founded Petals and Co. 21 years ago. She now averages more than 100 weddings each year, and O’Neal-Babicky says she is never finished learning.

When it comes to selecting and planning flowers for weddings, she recommends seeking the advice of a professional florist since most brides’ experiences with flowers are limited to homecoming, prom and Valentine’s Day. Planning your wedding flowers can be a bit overwhelming. A professional florist can help guide you through your options, help you stay within budget and bring your wedding dreams to life. Based on her many years of experience, O’Neal-Babicky offers the following advice.

Selecting your florist

• Get referrals. Ask friends and co-workers for recommendations, and use social media sites to learn firsthand about brides’ experiences.

• Pop into various venues while they are being set up to see a variety of styles.

• Make sure your florist is easy to communicate with and wants to understand your style and vision. The florist should be adept at providing suggestions while helping guide and figure out the feel the bride wants to achieve.

• Evaluate the florist’s willingness and ability to work within your budget. According to O’Neal-Babicky, the national average for wedding flowers is $2,800-$3,500 per event, but the Springfield-area average is $1,800-$2,500. No matter how large or small your budget, a good florist should be willing to work with you and offer cost-effective suggestions.

• Consider the professional qualifications of the florist. A good florist will know the most appropriate and affordable flowers for the season, the types of flowers most suitable for indoor vs. outdoor settings, factors that need to be considered based on the venue, similarities among flowers to substitute more affordable options and how to process each flower to make it last the longest.

• Investigate what other services the florist may provide. Many florists offer additional services, such as linens, rental items, transportation and even “day of event” services.

O’Neal-Babicky says some vendors don’t like Pinterest, but she loves it. When brides bring in ideas they’ve seen on Pinterest, she says it is “like a storyboard.” It helps to demonstrate the style and feel the bride is hoping to achieve, and that can be a great starting point for a good florist to provide suggestions. Photos, fabric swatches, colors and other items can also help demonstrate the desired effect. She leaves it to the bride as to who is involved in the planning process and how many times they need to meet in order to feel comfortable and confident. In her experience, grooms don’t frequently participate in selecting flowers, but they are certainly welcome to be part of the planning process.

It may be tempting to try to save money by purchasing flowers and containers and arranging them yourself. Before going this route, there are a variety of things to consider. Professional florists may have a large supply of centerpieces, containers and accessories that can be rented at a fee less than what it would cost to purchase all the items. Silk flowers may be more expensive than fresh. And, after the wedding you may be left with a variety of materials you don’t need. Before assuming that doing it yourself will be less expensive, check out all the options. Also, consider whether you want to spend the morning of your wedding day setting up your venue or having someone else take care of this for you.

O’Neal Babicky also sees her role as helping build the dream team to remove stress and worry. There are no “do-overs,” so it is important to pick service providers who get it right the first time. Professionals with years of experience in the industry can offer lots of helpful information about venues and other wedding vendors, since they’ve likely worked with many of the other vendors in the area. This is especially the case in a community the size of Springfield.

Most of all, says O’Neal-Babicky, “Trust your instincts, and follow your gut feeling. Planning a wedding is exciting and can be stressful if you do not have the right tools. You should feel comfortable with your florist – even comforted by your florist. The process should be fun, memorable and stress-free.”

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