Wedding Wisdom: Flowers and Cake

Jaycob and I recently checked off two more important items on our Wedding To Do list… we chose a florist and a baker!  We had a lot of fun with these parts of wedding planning.  (Well, I had a lot of fun; Jaycob had a lot of cake.)  It’s hard to picture a wedding without these two essential components, and yet there is some substantial planning and prep work involved in these decisions.  Here are a few things I learned…

According to Bridal Bargains by Denise and Alan Fields, “Flowers are a world to themselves, replete with unpronounceable names and floral wizards who consider themselves not florists, but artists.”  There are endless possibilities when it comes to bouquets, boutonnieres and beautifications.   A bride’s flower budget can range from $800 to $3,000 or more, depending on the number of arrangements and the specific flower choices.

I was surprised that roses are actually one of the more affordable flowers, along with Gerbera daisies, which are generally available year-round and come in a wide spectrum of colors.  Tulips and peonies are popular choices for spring, but our wedding theme is all about fall.  I’ve been really into calla lilies lately, especially for boutonnieres, but was surprised to learn that these are actually one of the most expensive choices.

In addition to considering what’s in season, it’s also important that flowers complement the dress.  Many brides opt for a round bouquet that is generally tightly arranged, but a cascading bouquet is a nice option for a more elaborate or elegant gown, and loose, tiered bouquets are very popular with more modern gowns.  When deciding on bridesmaids’ bouquets, matchy-matchy is a big no-no.  (I recently saw a picture of bridesmaids in bright yellow dresses with equally obnoxiously-yellow bouquets.  It looked like a highlighter factory exploded.)  With our burnt orange bridesmaids’ dresses, I opted for a few shades of orange in the bouquets, complemented by some greens, reds, and burgundys, as well as varied textures with some berries and accent flowers. 

Questions to ask when choosing a florist:
·      How many weddings do you have on a Saturday?  (A low number makes it more likely that you will get what you paid for, that flowers will arrive on time, and flowers will be fresh.)
·      Do you have samples or photographs of your work?  Better yet, can you arrange a sample bouquet for me to see?  (We brides are visual learners!)
·      Is there a delivery or set-up fee?  Will you be the one delivering my flowers or will it be an assistant?
·      Are you familiar with my venues?
·      What time will you arrive to set up my flowers?
·      How long have you been doing weddings?
·      Is it feasible to stay in my budget?  Do you have suggestions for more affordable blooms?
·      What is the payment schedule?

Ways to save on flowers:
·      Keep it simple and stick to in-season and locally grown flowers.  If you’re really in love with a particularly expensive bloom, then add a few to the bride’s bouquet only.
·      Create the effect of a larger and more diverse bouquet by adding inexpensive filler flowers and accents.
·      Keep centerpieces simple.  A single centerpiece in itself can be a few hundred dollars, so brainstorm some more creative and affordable options if you’re on a budget.
·      Additionally, keep altar arrangements simple.  Choose flowers in a variety of heights, but skip the expensive varieties.  Most guests will only view these arrangements from a distance.
·      Consider ordering wholesale.  Keep in mind this will require a lot more work on your part, but may save you a few hundred dollars.

Choosing a baker is the yummiest and least stressful part of wedding planning, but that doesn’t mean you can skip doing your research.  A wedding cake to feed 200 guests can range from $600 to $1,500 or more.  Don’t get too attached to that 6-tiered cake you found on Pinterest unless you’re also interested in re-financing your home.  The trend now is a tasteful, 2- or 3-tiered design.

Feel like you're at Disney's Magic Kingdom at 3 times the cost of a flight to Orlando.

Questions to ask when choosing a baker:
·      How many weddings do you have on a Saturday?  (Just like florists, a low number is a good thing.  Fewer weddings means more likely on-time delivery and a fresh product.)
·      Is there a delivery fee?  (The answer will be yes, and the fee may be greater if your venue is more than 10 miles away.)
·      Do you have examples or photos of previous designs?
·      What is the price per serving?
·      What type of ingredients do you use in the cake and icing?
·      Does the cake need to be refrigerated?
·      Can we have a taste test?  (DO NOT choose a baker until you have sampled their flavors.)
·      What is your policy for decorating the cake with flowers?
·      How far in advance is the cake prepared?
·      What time will you deliver my cake?
·      What is the payment schedule?

I would like to share with you some of my deepest and darkest secrets…
·      The tiered cake on display may not feed all your guests, but that’s where sheet cakes come in handy.  Sheet cakes from the same baker will look and taste identical to the slices from THE wedding cake and are half the cost.  Your guests will not know the difference.
·      Martha Stewart loves Foundant.  Martha Stewart is also a felon.  You may like Foundant too if you’re into the taste of sugary sand paper.  Save 30% by opting for icing that is yummy.
·      Your baker won’t mention this, but your reception venue will definitely have a cake-cutting fee of a few dollars per person, just to cut the cake for your guests!  This fee is not optional.  One way around this is to choose cupcakes, which are very in-style right now.  They may be slightly more expensive per serving but you can skip the cutting fee.

·      “Why do I need to have a serving for each person?  Not everyone likes cake.”  True, but too bad.  If you are having a plated dinner service, you must have a slice of cake for each guest.  Yes, a lot will get thrown away, but it is the hospitable thing to do.
·      Don’t let your baker talk you into saving the top tier of your cake for your first anniversary, unless this is something that is important to you.  I personally don’t have room in my freezer, I don’t want $100 worth of cake sitting next to green chile and walleye for 12 months, and the thought of eating year-old baked goods scares me.

Another piece of advise?  Skip the cake topper.


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