The Story of 3.5 Florists

Disclaimer: No florists in this article are in any way related to any florists in Centre County or even the state of Pennsylvania. This story is from planning my wedding *several* years ago in another state.

When I planned my wedding, I was living and working in a different state from my hometown where my wedding was to be held. I had come home for Thanksgiving with the intention of handling a few wedding plans that couldn't be done remotely, and one thing on the list was flowers. On that Wednesday I spent most of the day making phone calls setting up meetings since I knew that nobody would be around the next day and I was leaving town on Sunday. I had the phone numbers of 4 florists. Here is what I experienced: Florist #1: I had never heard of them, but they were on the "recommended vendor list" from my venue. When I called them, I mentioned that I was only in town for the holiday weekend. He told me they would be closed for the holiday and not reopening until Monday, but they were open until 4:30 - it was almost 4:00 when I made this call and the shop was about 25 minutes away. Nonetheless he said if I was willing to come out there today, he'd stay open for me so that's what my mom and I did. When he greeted us at the door, he escorted us to a quiet place to talk, away from the rest of the shop cleaning and closing up. He first asked about what style my wedding was, my colors and even asked to see a picture of my dress. We got into discussing what I had in mind and I mentioned that I had envisioned a cascading-style bouquet. He immediately stopped me and said that while that style is lovely, he pointed out a feature on my dress that he said if I had a cascade bouquet, it would totally hide the feature plus the shape of the dress with that style of bouquet wouldn't look right, so he recommended a different style of bouquet that he could make to give it the feel of what I had wanted, but would look better. We parted and he said he would send me a price quote.

Florist #2: This was our local florist that everyone in town used - a “no brainer”. The woman who took my call set up a meeting with the wedding florist that Saturday morning. Now, one thing that she neglected to tell me was that our town's Thanksgiving Parade was Saturday morning. This meant that the roads would be closed (the shop is on the town's main street), it would be crowded, and there would be no parking available. I knew this from having lived there my whole life - but she didn't know that I knew that. She made no mention about potential difficulties getting to the shop. We we walked to the shop to avoid traffic and were shown to a table and waited for the florist to join us. He ran in 10 minutes late, walked right past us and headed to the main desk, then after 5 more minutes came over and greeted us carrying several large binders. The first thing he asked me was my venue and flipped open his books to show me pictures of some arrangements he had done there. Then he asked about my ceremony church, and when I answered he rolled his eyes and said "Ugh... that place is so hard to make look nice". Yes, it was old and wasn't the prettiest building, but it was my home church, so there. He kind of grumbled that he doesn't have any good pictures of arrangements at that church because it is too hard to make it look nice, but he has done work there. Next we moved on to bouquets. He pulled out another big book and flipped open to a page covered with numbered pictures of bouquets. I looked the pictures over and pointed out a few styles that I liked. His next response was "So which one do you pick?" I was a little caught off-guard. I didn't know I had to make a final selection there in a preliminary meeting. I selected one and we moved on. The same process was repeated for all other flowers - show me pictures in the book, and make a pick. Meanwhile, our table was right in the middle of the shop. There were people and other employees in and out of the shop, the florist seemed distracted and disgruntled, and he even took a phone call during the meeting. When we were done making our selections, he shook our hands and told us he'd call with a quote, then quickly walked away to tend to other business. During the walk home, I mentioned that I had been a little disappointed with how the meeting was handled, especially since everyone in town had used this florist for almost half a century and nothing but good things had been said about them. My mom just kept repeating over and over "I can't believe he didn't ask a single question about your dress". In fact, he didn't ask me one personal question about the wedding - just "Pick a Number".

Florist #3: This florist was on the 'vendor list'. When we walked up to the front door, there was a guy leaning against the building smoking a cigarette. He nodded a silent greeting to us as we walked past him into the shop. Inside, there was nobody there. We looked around a bit before the smoking man finished his cigarette and came in, introducing himself as the shop's owner. Shop was closed for the day, but he had been in because he was getting ready to do the town's Christmas decorations and was happy to meet with me. We spoke about how I was from the area, and what high school I had attended, and if I knew a few people who worked at some pretty high-end locations in the neighboring city that he had done work with in the recent past. I did recognize several names, and was impressed that several people I knew not only had pretty impressive jobs, but had done work with this florist. He did ask me a few things about my venue and what kind of 'look' I was going for. Many of the flower discussions we had were along the lines of "I would like this".... and he'd respond, "Well, I've done {this} at {that high-end location} for {so and so}, so we could do something similar". The most memorable exchange came when discussing centerpieces. The florist was showing off these elaborate structures that he used to make tall impressive centerpieces. My mother is very short, and she mentioned that she had been to many formal events that had high centerpieces, and she didn't like them because being short, you can't see the person across the table from you. The florist kept pushing that he had done high centerpieces at this high-end venue, and that 5-star event, etc. I re-stated that I would prefer the centerpieces be shorter and smaller. He finally ended the conversation by suggesting we do a mix of various centerpieces on different tables - some small, some medium, and some tall to create a dynamic mix, and seat the guests accordingly. After leaving, we agreed that the experience was better than at Florist #2, but the constant name-dropping got annoying. Another turn-off was that he kept injecting how 'he' would do it, even though I had an opinion of what I was looking for. Overall, he seemed very high on himself and his abilities, but did have an impressive resume that backs up his bragging.

Florist #4: This florist wasn't on any lists, but was recommended by a friend who had used them. They were located in what was considered a "Classy", "High-End" area. I called them on Wednesday with the rest of my phone calls, and got their voicemail, despite it saying I had called during normal working hours. I left a message that I was only in town for the weekend, and would like to set up a meeting before I left. Didn't hear anything back. Saturday morning I called again, wondering if perhaps they had closed for the whole weekend. The voicemail message was still the same, even mentioning that the shop should have been open and no mention of being closed for the holiday. Left another message. Still no reply until I tried one more call on Sunday morning. This time, someone answered the phone with a confused "Hello?" - no name of business, I thought I had dialed the wrong number. The person who answered was an employee who had just stopped in to the shop, but the shop was closed for the whole holiday weekend. She acted like I should have known that. I asked if there was any chance someone could meet with me that day, and she told me No - her boss wasn't coming in because of the holiday, so she couldn't set something up until Monday. I told them I couldn't set something up because I was leaving town Sunday night. She responded with, "Can't you just stick around one more day?" Ummm... no.... I had to go to work Monday morning. I thanked her for her time, hung up, and never looked back. The moral of the story: I met with 3.5 florists. I went in thinking it was going to be the easiest decision, but it turned out to be the most "educational" vendor selection of my wedding planning. Florist #2 should have been a shoe-in but showed no interest in my personal details and just expected me to select from a book while he appeared like he wanted to be somewhere else. Florist #3 was mainly concerned with himself, his abilities, name-dropping, and more interested in fulfilling his "vision" than mine. Florist #4 wasn't even interested in speaking to a potential client because it was inconvenient to them.

By the way: I'm sure you're wondering about those price quotes. Cheapest: Florist #2 - by $200. Most expensive: Florist #3 - by almost double what the other 2 quoted. We went with Florist #1. Florist #1 asked first and foremost about me. He demonstrated knowledge for his craft and guidance to make decisions. When he disagreed with something that I wanted, he explained his reasons for the disagreement, but ultimately always left the ball in my court if that's what I wanted. He made me feel at ease and made my mother happy. That $200 difference didn't matter when thinking about the custom attention to detail that we would be getting, and the personalized and personable service we received. He went out of his way for us, made us feel listened to, and was ultimately the florist that we felt most comfortable with as a person, not just as a vendor. By the end of the story, my flowers were beautiful. The day was fabulous, and even the church looked great. Final Update: On a recent trip back to the hometown, many years later: Florist #2 and #3 are out of business, but #1 is still flourishing.

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