Where to buy flowers when starting out
When you are starting out in the floral design world, sourcing flowers can feel daunting without a resale license. However, you might be surprised by what you can get without one. Below I have listed some ideas for where to source flowers before obtaining your resale license:
Visit Your Local Flower District: If you live in or near a big city, there might be a wholesale flower district or market that is open to the public where you can go to purchase flowers without a license. Do some research or call ahead to see if the wholesale shop where you are interested in purchasing will sell to you. Living in New York, I can buy all the flowers I need from our flower district at wholesale prices with no requirement of a license. If you live in the Northeast and are able to keep the flowers cool during transport, it might be worth the trip to NYC!
Forage: One hard thing about living in New York is that it is more difficult to forage. I love going home to visit my parents or in-laws since unsuspecting greenery is abundant in the suburbs. If you have any trees or bushes in your backyard at all, take a look and see what greens you can use. If your yard is bare, ask if you can forage a friend’s. I have one single tree in front of my apartment, and I have clipped many greens from it to add to my arrangements.
Research Local Flower Farms: Whether you live in a city or a rural area, chances are you live within driving distance of a flower farm. Do a little Google research and contact the farm for a visit! For a wedding I did in Ohio, I picked up a couple of buckets of flowers within the bride’s color scheme from Fodor Tree, a farm about an hour outside of Cleveland. All the flowers I received from this farm were affordable, abundant, and were the most beautiful flowers in the arrangements.
Visit The Farmer’s Market: Become familiar with the larger farmer’s markets in your area where flowers might be sold. Again, this depends on where you are located. In New York, the flowers at farmer’s markets are often even less expensive than the those at the Flower District.
Scout Whole Foods: While you might cringe at the thought of buying flowers for a wedding or event at a grocery store, I have been pleasantly surprised to see how affordable flowers are from Whole Foods. Recently, I was in Pittsburgh and was doing flowers for a small event. I stopped by a few places, but Whole Foods ended up having the best selection. I bought Anemones, Snap Dragons, and specialty roses while foraging lilacs and greenery from my mother-in-law’s yard. You would have never known I made the trip to Whole Foods.
Try Etsy: While Etsy can be expensive, it is often a good choice for unique items you need to order. For example, for a wedding I did recently a bride wanted a plethora of olive branches, so I found a farmer in California who was able to source them to me for a reasonable price. If you ever need to build a Chuppah or an arch, Etsy is also a great place to purchase birch wood kits.
Encourage Your Brides Towards Seasonal Blooms: When you do not have a resale license, finding out of season flowers might prove difficult or expensive. During your consultation, talk with the bride about the flowers which will be in season during the wedding. Using seasonal flowers increases your chances of finding them either from a flower farm, farmers market or even a place like Whole Foods. Peonies and tulips are cheap as dirt at the Farmer’s Market when they are in season.
Use the Venue’s License: This is not always a guaranteed solution but If your bride is getting married in a church, ask for the church’s tax-exempt paperwork to purchase your flowers wholesale. For the same wedding I did in Ohio, I called the church where the bride was getting married, and they were happy to give me their 501c3 paperwork enabling me to purchase some of the flowers from a local wholesaler. While this method is not guaranteed since many nonprofits are guarded about their paperwork, it is worth trying!
Order Online: As a last resort you can always order off of websites like Fifty Flowers. However, it might be a bit more expensive. In general flower districts and even local grocery stores might be able to provide base flowers such as roses but if your bride wants garlands of eucalyptus, you will not be able to find the amount you need from a store like that. So if you have no other option, purchase from a website like Fifty Flowers where you can buy bulk quantities. If you do this, make sure that they will have the flowers you are looking for during the time of the wedding. Sometimes they do not have certain varieties depending on the season.
Grow Your Own: I am listing this suggestion last because while it might sound overwhelming to grow flowers for a wedding, it is a great option. This is my first year planting (I'm growing flowers on my fire escape!), and I am blown away at how far just a few seeds can go. Start somewhere, and you will see just how easy it is. If you do not already have it, purchase Floret Farm’s Cut Flower book. It is a fantastic resource for growing flowers in any environment. I am beginning to see the blooms of flowers I planted twelve weeks ago. Perhaps they feel magical only to me but who knows, maybe they will feel magical to a prospective bride as well.
The great thing about not having your resale license is that it encourages you to source more locally and seasonally. While I have not visited every flower farm in America, I can confidently say that a flower grown on a local farm will likely be higher quality and longer lasting than one shipped from half-way around the world.
If you have questions about sourcing flowers in a specific location, please feel free to leave a comment below!