Educating your Customer with Alison Ellis

Real wedding experts know that the only way to plan a wedding on a tight budget is to keep it small. Small guest list, small wedding party. But that would be a short read, wouldn’t it? Keep it tight and light. Fin.

The most recycled wedding topic has got to be tips on “how to save money on your wedding”. These articles reference the same concepts over and over again…a DJ is cheaper than a band, but hey, skip the DJ because you have an i-pod; forget the filet and offer a pasta station because people love to travel across the country for noodles; have your BFF take the photos since she has a good camera; use candles instead of flowers…it’ll be romantic.

Flowers get picked on a lot. As floral designers we get prickly about these “cut your floral budget” posts. We get fuming mad at this budget advice not because it hurts our bottom-line, but because the tips are misleading and usually inaccurate.

Let’s start with the basic premise: Cut your budget. Compared to what? What are we saving exactly? We need a frame of reference.

The same centerpiece “design” is suggested every time. When florists see the predictable trio of pillar candles and a mirrored base (aka the telltale sign of a “budget centerpiece”) we don’t see savings, we see bad taste.

Couples don’t realize that the truth is it can easily cost $125 for 3 pillar candles in vases and a few smaller vases of flowers (minus the mirror!). So if a beautiful floral centerpiece with peonies, hydrangea & roses costs $125, then you have a savings of $0 for that candle-mirror-scrawny-flower piece.

In real life a professional florist can make you a beautiful centerpiece for the same price OR quite possibly less. Depending on your flower choices you can probably order floral centerpieces for as little as $75. One is sure to find a florist who can work with you for even less than that, but variety and stem-count will come into play.

So what can we do about this misinformation that countless news magazines and blogs are dispersing on what seems like a weekly basis? Well, I think there are several things.

First, be pros. We need to educate our customers on the true cost of our work. We must be willing to tell potential clients the truth about what we charge for our designs vs. what candles really cost (aka they ain’t cheap) and show them how we create an atmosphere they’ll be proud of.

Second, be unruffled by these budget tips because for the most part these articles don’t appeal to our ideal customers. Couples who know that flowers are an important part of the wedding day are who we want to attract. Someone that inquires about candles instead of flowers is probably not going to have a big flower budget in the first place. Do we really want to convince someone that they want to work with us? No way. We want them to come to us willingly, with open arms and trusting hearts & minds. They have to want it.

Third, don’t hate. It can be time consuming & insulting to your ego when someone cannot commit funds to their floral budget, but we don’t have to bash the consumer who’s hoping to save a buck. If votives on the tables are the plan, perhaps there is a reasonable budget for bouquets and if you don’t require a minimum, then go forth and conquer. Hit it out of the park for these price points when you can. If they forgo centerpiece flowers so the bouquets can be killer, then fine. Of course, as many of you have experienced just because a wedding is “smaller” doesn’t mean the client is less demanding or that it’s not an important order or that it doesn’t require the same amount of time spent answering questions & updating proposals so if smaller budgets don’t fit your business model that is totally understandable. Be kind and refer them to another shop.

One exception to this rule: it’s OK to hate if a bride skimps on flowers and you find out she has $2,000 Jimmy Choo’s and a super elaborate candy bar display. Then, hate away my friend. Also, wedding planners who suggest non-floral centerpieces…it’s OK to hate on them a little bit, too.

Lastly, don’t contribute when the media asks you for a quote on cutting the floral budget. This may feel like you are passing up an opportunity for exposure, but if you consider the association it’s not necessarily in your best interest. Your hair stylist doesn’t offer free tips on how to highlight your own hair does she?

I’m sure many of you are nodding your head in agreement and others are shrugging with skepticism about being gracious in the face of a downright attack on our livelihood. Higher-end wedding focused businesses experience fewer “budget issues” and are likely doing everything I already suggested above. However, if you are newer to the business or you’re a brick and mortar shop trying to work with many different budgets I made a video with some tips you can put into action today. These are some practical ways to “go pro” and educate prospects.

Click here to watch:

I just want to leave you with this final thought: Flowers make weddings beautiful. Just know this and keep doing what you do so the right customers will find you.


Thank you, Alison, for this fantastic Video and Article – we all have to deal with these “Budget Articles” and they are so frustrating, why do flowers always get picked on??
You can learn more about Alison at her website:

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  1. Allison! LOVED your video. Just what I needed tonight. My issue of late is trying to get people to tell me their budget and not getting a straight answer. Really good advice. Thanks!

  2. Spot on!!!

  3. Thanks for reading and watching! We can tackle these “issues” as an industry!

  4. Great educational piece for the industry!