DIY Wedding Flowers
We all get those inquiries, the brides on a budget looking for a deal, the bride who wants to design her own flowers, or has a family member willing to design for her as a gift. Inwardly, I used to cringe when I saw these emails in my inbox because they were not my “ideal” client. However, according to the 2016 report on floral products by the Produce Marketing Association, DIY (or do-it-yourself) is a growing market segment that is expected to leave a significant impact on the floral design market in the coming 3-5 years. Considering the growth of companies such as FiftyFlowers, Sam's Club flowers, and others catering to the DIY market, this is a population that is here to stay. Maybe instead of shying away from DIY clients, I needed to figure out how to make this demographic work for me and still add to my bottom line. Maybe, just maybe, my perception of an ideal client needed to change. To do this, I needed to understand three things about working with DIY brides 1. Who are they and what do they want? 2. How can I differentiate myself from online DIY retailers? 3. How do I still make money while respecting low budgets?
Who is in the DIY market?
The do-it-yourself demographic is made up of millennials. These consumers have access to social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook; and frequently use Pinterest as a source of information and inspiration. DIY brides want to express their personal style while staying on a budget. DIY brides, while striving to remain unique, are heavily influenced by trends on social media - think back to how many inquiries you have received for “just simple greens,” or the infamous “just enough flowers for a few mason jars.” As professional florists, we know that even simple greens add up (especially garlands) and that it takes more flowers than one would think to make a mason jar arrangement look good. However, in the days of Pinterest and social media, the cost reality is hard to communicate to DIY brides.
Why should they choose me?
One of the most important things about wedding flowers is freshness - after all our reputations are tied to how long our perishable product looks amazing! I farm and design in the Central Valley of California, where summer heat regularly tops out over 100 degrees! If I am going to market toward DIY Brides, I need to make sure they know why it is better to order from me vs. FiftyFlowers or Sam's Club flowers - and that reason is freshness. I am selling flowers that have been either freshly picked by me, or have been in a confirmed quality supply chain with my wholesalers. I know that the flowers are going to be processed and stored correctly until my bride takes over, and I have the added benefit of face to face interaction with the bride where I can share storage tips and hand over a flower care sheet along with the beautiful blooms.
I am also able to offer specialty blooms and varieties that big-box stores have a hard time offering without large bulk orders. This helps me meet the needs of DIY brides for personalized touches that speak to their individuality. When it comes to more delicate flowers like cosmos, dahlias, and dusty miller- having those fresh picked and processed on site opens up more options for the client.
I mentioned earlier that social media and millennials are influencing the DIY demographic, and one of the ways this is manifesting is in an increase in the “shop local” movement. That is a trend I can use to market myself! With Instagram, for instance, I make sure to tag a location which helps local brides find me and be aware of my work. Overall, I try to remain a visible, local, accessible expert for flowers so DIY brides will come to me instead of other, and often cheaper sources.
Does it pencil out?
The answer is yes! And there are a few ways to do this depending on the needs of the client. First of all, my input costs are pretty low. All I am doing is providing the service of ordering and processing the flowers. In this case, I mark-up the fresh product by 2 to cover my processing labor, cooler space, overhead, and other materials. I do this to keep pricing simple and easy, and it works in my market. It may be different in your area, so pencil a few out to see where you feel comfortable - just be sure not to underestimate the value of your product and knowledge. I also make sure to only sell by the bunch, not the stem. As an event-only studio, I do not have an outlet for extra or leftover flowers, so flower counts get rounded to the nearest bunch size and charged by the bunch.
Sometimes brides have no idea how to order flowers! Many will give me an idea of what they want to make and how many pieces. In this case, I build in an additional consultation fee into the bottom line to cover my time in piecing out recipes. Be clear about the consultation fee, you have worked hard for your knowledge and expertise and your time is worth money. I have found that by listing my rough estimate pricing on my website, I have stopped a lot of the price checking brides, and yet still enable the serious DIY brides to have enough clear information to feel confident asking for that type of service. I also have found that when I present an a la carte menu on my website, brides are more likely to purchase personal flowers from me and also use me as a vendor for bulk supplies. When the bride orders from a single vendor, the items are more likely to be cohesive with consistent quality, which is more aligned with my brand. Information is power, and the more informed a bride feels, the more likely they are to use you as a vendor. I also think it is essential for all clients, full service, and DIY, to sign a contract. Make sure you have a contract to protect yourself in the case of substitutions, weather, and liability if the flowers wilt. With DIY clients specifically, I have a release waiver that releases me from any liability if the flowers wilt or the client is unhappy with the finished, self-produced product.
A New Definition of Ideal
I get it, I too want to design high-end weddings with luxury blooms and amazing installations - and I do those on a regular basis. But those weddings also take a lot of work to manage, and in order to provide the best possible service, I have to limit my full-service bookings. I am a full-time teacher, a mom, a wife, and a flower grower in addition to a designer, so I don’t have a lot of time! Servicing DIY brides allows me to stay active in the industry, provides an outlet for my farmed flowers, and provides another income stream for my small business. I may not be creating massive installations each weekend, but I am still bringing beauty to the world and growing my business.