How many times has this happened to you? You're in a restaurant and can't decide what to order. You glance at a nearby table as food is being served and say, “That looks great, I’ll have what that gentleman’s having.”

When it comes to most major life decisions (deciding where to go to college, buying a car--or even picking out a wedding dress), it's a very natural human tendency to want to make sure someone else has been down the same road. We also like approval from our friends and family, and even from complete strangers. That is why publications like LN mention vendors in their wedding features. We all want to use vendors that have been approved by others.

When a young woman comes into our shop with pages of articles pulled out of magazines, pictures on her phone or a girlfriend who has used us as her wedding florist, what she is seeking is approval of her choices and someone who will listen to her.

Most first appointments I take with a bride last at least two hours. I want to hear what she has to say.  We do not charge for first appointments, but we also do not plan her wedding at this time. We just listen.

Let’s not beat around the bush: Everyone is interested in How much? I’ve come up with a way to address that during first meetings, without getting specific about the bride's own wedding: 

  • I will pull several recent weddings from our files (of course, not giving away any names), and I guide the bride by adding comments like, This was a hugely impressive wedding or We really had to make some choices about how to make her budget work
  • Or, there may be a mom or dad present who will keep asking, How much does a wedding cost?  That’s like asking how much a new car costs. Well, are you interested in a Lincoln, Mercedes or BMW, or do you want a Kia? Cost depends on what you order.
  • So, I will listen to their concerns, get a general idea of their budget, and be quite frank, saying things like I’m sure we could do a beautiful wedding for that or You know, for what you’ve been talking about, I don’t think you're in the right range for 300 guests.  

Everything I say is judgment call I have to determine by what? Listening.    

I always take a walk with the bride and her mother through our work room, showing them our coolers, design stations and introducing them to Ken and the rest of our design staff. This usually is very impressive, as we will have buckets of flowers around. I will hear her say, I love these or These are not my favorites. I will have listened and noted what was said.

I always assure the bride that I will be there on her wedding day to hand out her bouquets and to show the girls how to carry them. I’ll even round up all the guys for their boutonnieres (not an easy task). I’ll pull the runner and make sure it’s taut and therefore, very safe. If needed, I can pace the bridal party as they process down the aisle.

I can fix things that might go awry. I carry bobby pins, needle and thread, breath mints and my secret weapon to get flower girls and ring-bearers down the aisle: Smarties.  All kids love them, and they don’t make a mess.

I assure any bridal committee members or club managers that I will stay the whole time, and make sure everything is cleaned up and left exactly as we found it. 

It is a hefty investment in time: to listen and take the time to convince her that we are committed to making her day very special. We book as many as 90 percent of the brides who come in for that first consultation, and I believe that the most important aspect of convincing them to use our services is our ability to listen.

It might be my 1,200th wedding, but I’m pretty sure this is her first trip down the aisle. It’s not just about the flowers--it's about someone who listens.

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