Vo Floral Design


Labor of Love

{Editorial} Chateau Sonoma-0035.jpg

I truly love my job as a floral designer, but sometimes - just sometimes - a little appreciation and respect go a long way. I was recently browsing Instagram and found an IG story that world renowned photographer Jose Villa posted. It was a de-identified email from an outraged bride who could not believe the prices that Jose was charging for his photography services. Jose is at the top of his game when it comes to wedding photography - his art is beautiful, his work ethic top notch, and he is coveted by brides, media, and industry collaborators alike. In this particular email, the bride belittled and almost ridiculed his work and pricing structure. And Jose's response was exactly how I would have responded - absolute shock and dismay. For so many of us in the wedding industry, this is a labor of love. We aren't in it for the high profit margins or easy lifestyle - because it is neither of those things. If we truly accounted for all the hours we put into each and every wedding, I am willing to bet that many of us might not even be making minimum wage. So instead, we accept more events, take on more gigs, have day jobs - in hopes of making it.

I frequently get emails like the one Jose posted on IG. And though I've brought up this topic here and here, I think it's worth mentioning again at risk of sounding like a broken record.

Firstly, events florals are both a professional service and a retail product that are time-intensive and time-sensitive. For example, when you see an event's final floral decor - centerpieces, bouquets, flower arches, ceremony pieces - you must understand that there were many hours of planning and design that went into that event's floral decor. Last I calculated, a single medium-sized wedding can take about 120 hours of labor. This includes the time for both the design service AND the time needed to create a made-to-order hand-crafted and unique final product.

Once you have that baseline understanding, let's dive into the actual proposal/quote. For any given proposal, about half of those dollars are spent on flowers and supplies like ribbon, fabric, boxes, vases, candles, etc. The other half of the budget is then consumed by taxes; overhead costs like utilities, rent, delivery vehicles, etc; and labor. There is only a very small sliver of what's remaining that goes to the head florist.

Let's talk about labor. I mentioned above that it can take 120 hours of labor to design and execute an event. For us, it requires a team of 4-5 people working closely on a tight schedule, as flowers are perishable and thus are time-sensitive. After going to the SF Flower Mart on a Wednesday to hand select our stems, it can take up to 2 days for our team to process all the flowers and branches: dethorning roses, stripping leaves, pruning, and allowing the flowers to hydrate and open before design even starts. Usually on the Thursday and Friday before the event, we'll do the actual design work: building centerpieces and ceremony pieces; building any kind of mechanics for some of the larger structural pieces we do, etc. And once show time hits, we have to deliver, unload, setup, and do any on-site builds for the larger structural pieces (such as our floral arches, flower runways, floral ceilings, floral walls, etc.). As the event is just starting, we try to get out of the way, and grab a quick bite or drink. We usually arrive back at the wedding venue by 11pm or 12am to do breakdown. And by the time we've finished breaking down, packing, unloading, returning our rental trucks - we'll finally finish at around 3 or 4am. That's easily a 20+ hour day for us. Last week, a bride asked me why I charged for breakdown costs, and I found it so frustrating that she didn't understand why all this additional labor was necessary.

At the end of the day, I hope people will realize that florists (and other industry vendors) do this out of love and a passion for their job. We have a lot of pride in what we do, and it can be really demoralizing when couples belittle that or show no respect for the work we do. While I understand and respect that many couples have budgets, there needs to be some reality checking that happens as they plan a wedding. 

Again, I don't want to sound like a broken record, but Jose's post and some recent communications with potential clients really got under my skin. Thank you for understanding, and I hope this post was informative. Please feel free to contact me if you have thoughts or feedback.

Trang Vo