Q&A :: Wedding Installation Nightmares

The Question:
I would love to hear wedding installation nightmares and lessons learned. I am learning a few myself and would love to learn from other designers experiences!
From Madeleine in Texas

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The Answers:

Don’t feel bad saying NO to a client who wants to “piece” an event together using a variety of vendors for decor. You can also file this under: Hold your ground, go with your gut, and you signed my contract.

Case in point:
I had a mother of the bride who was a tad on the difficult side. The bride was a total sweet heart but had I met her mother at the initial consult I probably would have declined the project to begin with. The bride was pleased with the proposal and signed the contract. Towards the event date, the mother of the bride called and argued about the price of my chuppah rental. She claimed to have found it from another vendor that “specialized in chuppahs” for less. After many back and forth conversations about it, I was tired of arguing and said “sure, please get your chuppah from the “other guy”. The one catch was she still wanted me to hang floral pieces on the corners, and I thought “no problem, I can do that”. At the particular time in my career I was one who wanted to avoid conflict at all costs I and didn’t stick to my guns even though my gut told me I should. Big mistake.

A month before the wedding I contacted this “other vendor” and chatted about set-up time. We agreed that they would set the chuppah at 3:00 and I would place the flowers at 4:00. The ceremony started at 5:00. Fast forward to the wedding day. 3:00 came and went. 4:00 came and went. The mother of the bride started to freak out. To say she was upset was upset was putting it mildly. The “other vendor” wasn’t answering their phone and she kept looking at me to do something. What could I do?!

The “other” vendor showed up at 4:45, as guest were being seated, and proceeded to struggle to set up their chuppah. It was a circus… it looked as if they had NEVER set up a chuppah before. It was like the blind leading the blind and the THREE of them argued as to how it should be done. Twenty minutes later, I walked up and quietly asked them to please hang the flowers on the front corners when they were finished. On my way out of the venue i overheard a conversation between guests… “let’s make sure we never use this florist…. what a joke”.
Needless to say, I was FURIOUS. What could I do? Stop and confront the guest, explain the scenario, make the family look silly…. there was NOTHING I could do in that moment to make it better. What a nightmare.

This particular circus happened early in my wedding business career and I’ve learned along the way that if it feels wrong, it usually is. Go with your gut. ALWAYS go with your gut!
~anonymous

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The ever changing bride….each email was changing flowers and colors between the bride and the bridesmaids. When I delivered the bouquets, she loved the wrap but wanted the bridesmaids bouquets to be more white and the bride to be more blue(hydrangeas) . In dealing with this for months, I decided to take extra of everything with me! So in the back of the Pilot I changed out the bouquets. Although I was prepared for this, it was still a nightmare !
Kris of KRISanthemums, Oregon

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The second wedding I ever delivered on my own after starting my business, I got so caught up in making the arch beautiful that I forgot to pin the corsages and boutonnieres on the groom, groomsmen, and all the family. I remembered only after driving away. I had to awkwardly pin everyone after the ceremony and explain to the Mother of the Bride my mistake. I offered to reduce the remaining balance due by half, which was about $500. This $250 mistake will never happen again!
Janelle, For The Love Of Flowers, New York

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A wedding last summer had a large installation over an arbor at the venue. I was using jumbo cages along the top. I looked at photos of the arbor online, got photos from the bride and dimensions from the venue. I didn’t go and look at it as I had multiple photos from different angles and it was quite a drive to go see. What the photos didn’t tell me is that the arbor where everything was going to hang was overhanging stairs. The only way to hang something off if it was to climb and sit in top if the arbor (no thank you), or stand on a ladder and hang on to the top. It was such a nightmare. I managed to secure the cages and had to stand on a table and place the additional flowers from behind the cages almost blindly. My assistant had to tell me where to place everything as I was hanging onto the arbor (with one arm!)for dear life. I’m afraid of heights (been slowly getting over it, kinda part of the job) so this was absolutely terrifying for me. In the end, the bride loved everything and it was featured on a blog.

What I learned: any installation – do a site visit no matter how long of a drive it will be! And invest in one if those $400 ladders that can be secure on stairs!
Chandin of Studio 3 Floral Design, Washington

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Oh I have a great one for this!! My ski resort wedding. On a beautiful, clear sunny day in July, we set out to deliver and set up a wedding and reception at a ski resort at about 7500 feet elevation. We got the outdoor reception décor set up while waiting for a shuttle up to the ceremony site, at the top of a mountain overlooking a lake.
About shuttle time, we had the vehicle loaded, the clouds rolled in. And the lightning. Being that it was at the top of the mountain, and the guests were to ride up by chairlift, a call was made by the resort to relocate the entire wedding and reception.
Needless to say, the couple was devastated that their planned mountaintop ceremony was off. The resort staff all came together and moved the entire reception indoors. It was impressive how fast they worked. The ceremony site was moved to a beautiful grove of trees. The original mountaintop site had a rustic log arbor in place that I was to decorate. In the grove, there was no structure, just a flat, bark covered space. I used simple pedestals I had brought and put large decorated lanterns on them. I used the wide burlap ribbon that was to drape the arbor to line the aisle. I pulled lanterns that were centerpieces off the tables to line the aisle. It was simple, but beautiful. The couple was married, I didn’t have to brave the dreaded chairlift and no one got struck by lightning!
It was the most exhausting event to date, but it was also one of the most beautiful and heartwarming. At that wedding, there were 4 other couples attending that I had provided flowers for.
Laurie of Fleurie, California

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A few years ago, a wedding in mid-October became a wind tunnel. Set up at a high end golf course, the tent became a parachute. The entire catering staff, me, the wedding planner, some random guys off the golf course all holding onto the poles for dear life during a wind storm. No rain..just wind! I am so thankful no one was hurt all of the centerpieces and tables were untouched. The only thing that needed fixing was our hair and the tent curtains!
Jessica of Blooms ‘n Blossoms, Kentucky

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It seems in regards to wedding installation the list of don’ts grows daily, but one thing sticks out in my mind.
We are all on such tight timelines and have to be quick on set up day, time is money and the window for set up can be small. We had a very large wedding at a venue with a short lead time. The bride wanted to provide certain things herself. We arrived to the venue to find five unopened boxes of her DIY items and at least 200 individually wrapped candles that had to be dealt with. The caterer refused to deal with them and we were left unwrapping these items that we hadn’t allotted time or labor to unwrap.
Always ask questions and make sure you are charging to handle someone else’s things.
Carmel of Mt. Lebanon Floral, Pennsylvania

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Setting up tall table centers on a sloppy floored room had to glue dot plates to the bottom of the tall vases to give it a wider base so they didn’t fall over!
Jane of Budget Blooms, British Columbia

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I don’t go anywhere without zip ties. They really are the answer to so many problems! They hold so much weight. Never have to worry about something falling when it’s attached with a trusty zip tie!
Andie of Dandie Andie Floral Designs, Ontario

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Do you have a question you’d like to ask for a Q&A session? Email it to me at: info@flirtyfleurs.com

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Comments

  1. I think a big lesson learned here is not to have multiple vendors and have very strict guidelines and rules on items that the client is to provide, and to be very prepared with all sorts of tools and such.

  2. naturegirl says:

    I use to get teased about the backpack that I always would drag around with me, filled with everything imaginable from paper clips, to hammers, all the way to curling irons. Over the course of a few years I had used everything in it at least once to save something from a crisis. And yes: Bless whomever invented zip ties 🙂 but I have found jewelry wire to be just as helpful and it comes in many colorblending colors, too.

  3. I recently had a scenario I have never dealt with in my 8 years of doing floral design and the 5 years of owning my own business. My cousin was getting married and asked me to be both a bridesmaid and florist. I told her yes to both, but set some restrictions on what I was capable of doing. In the end, we decided that I would just take care of the bridal bouquet and the bridesmaids bouquet and she would hire another florist to handle the rest of the bridal party flowers as well as the reception decor. I went with her to all the meetings with the other florist and we figured out all the details in person with lots of communication. Since the wedding was two hours from where I lived and I needed to be up there a day earlier, we made a plan for me to drop off the flowers at the other florist so that they could be kept in a cooler as long as possible. The other florist was very nice to help out in a scenario I am sure they have never dealt with before. They have been a local florist where I live for over 60 years and I felt I could trust them and they knew what they were doing. When I dropped the flowers off I reminded them to please call me if there were any issues. I never heard from them and assumed everything was good to go. When they arrived at the venue on the day of the wedding they handed out the bouquets to the bridal party as we were getting ready. When they handed me my bouquet, I saw that they completely took apart my hand tied bouquet and re-put it together in floral foam. I was completely shocked, appalled, and saddened. The beautiful bouquets I spent 8 hours making were completely ruined. The ribbon I was specifically instructed by my aunt to use was gone and a different one in its place. The flowers were not glued into the foam and kept falling out. The wedding planner and other florist were extremely vague as to why they did what they did and could not give me a straight answer on what happened. I just cannot believe how unprofessionally things were handled. Since I was also a bridesmaid and didn’t want to add to any drama on my cousins wedding day, I decided that I would deal with it after the wedding and just pretend it didnt happen for the time being. This scenario literally just happened last weekend and has not been resolved as of now.

    • Ashley,
      This is just astonishing! Please keep us posted on when you work out why they chose to take apart your bouquets!

      • Update to my story: I received a phone call from the other florist the day after I posted my original message to this website. She basically told me that she didn’t trust that the flowers I used would last and decided that there was going to be a big problem the day of the wedding, so she went ahead and took the liberty to fix things. I feel like I was treated this way because I am the underdog. I work out of my home and I don’t have a well known name around town. I am a newer business trying to establish myself and get my name out there. This other florist is very high-end and has been around for many years. They basically were afraid I was going to make them look bad, so they went ahead and did what they thought was best for them and not me. I have done over 25 events on my own, worked in a shop for 2 years, and have a degree in horticulture. I definitely know what I am doing and of all weddings for something bad to happen, I would never want it to be my cousins.

        I asked the florist why they didn’t contact me to let me know there was a problem. I never got a straight answer on that aspect. Very frustrating that someone didn’t let me know about the situation ahead of time. I have not spoken to the wedding planner at this time, but I definitely know she also played a huge part in it. After speaking with my aunt, I caught the wedding planner in several lies. We were all working towards the same common goal and I would have been ok if they let me know there were some concerns. Of course it meant a lot for me to have my cousin walk down the aisle carrying my flowers, but I wanted things to look good and be perfect for her even more than anything else. I don’t think another person has any right to alter another artist’s work especially without any sort of permission.

        I appreciate that the florist realized she made a mistake and called me to talk about it, however, I am still extremely devastated on so many levels about what happened. I have learned a lot from this experience and at this point I am moving forward with lots of knowledge on what I will and won’t do for clients, even if they are family.

        Alicia- Thanks for replying to this. I don’t have a huge network of florists and industry related people in my life and am glad someone can understand this worst case scenario wedding.

  4. A very valuable item to carry with you during event setup: floral sticky

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