Living in England – a country famed for its cottage gardens – it never occurred to me that “green” or ethically sourced flowers would be such a challenge.
But, according to the 30 (yes, that’s thirty) florists I spoke to in the 3 months leading up to our wedding, you’d have thought I was asking them to make the sun spin round the earth when I asked for ethical flower delivery for our Big Day.
Florists aren’t somewhere I usually go, I have to confess. For me, flowers are usually picked from the garden or given by friends.
It had never crossed my mind to ask where the flowers came from, or even ask “isit ethical to have flowers at your wedding?”…… until I got married.
Getting it sorted, early on
Our wedding was in late September and we had got engaged on New Year. Being a fan of getting “big decisions out of the way”, I had originally phoned Wiggly Wigglers and asked them to do our wedding flowers – just the bridal bouquet, some button-holes and table centres. They offer a wonderful service with UK-grown, ethical flowers delivered directly to your door. They asked me to phone them a couple of months before the wedding to finalise my requirements.
Flowers – done. Big tick. Forget about them for a bit.
July arrived and I was excited about chatting to their florist. We discussed the number of arrangements I wanted and how they would be dlievered. But then I fell into the “Barbie Bride” trap – apparently. I mentioned my “colour scheme”. Big oops!
Now, my “colour scheme” wasn’t strict. I knew I had accents of gold and deep blue in my dress and was tying colour choices in with that, as and when it worked out. I didn’t plan to insist on gold and blue flowers! But I did know I didn’t want pinks and oranges, as these can often make me look pale and washed-out and I didn’t want to risk that with my wedding bouquet.
Here’s the official line:
“Not every bride wants a “Barbie Theme”. Nature doesn’t need to colour co-ordinate – Wiggly Flowers are beautiful, natural and varied!“
I just don’t “do” pink. I had a sudden, shocking vision of myself on my wedding day, looking like a fushia-coloured merringue, arriving at the Church in a horse-drawn pumpkin carriage with the groom in a violet velour suit.
Dragging myself quickly back to the relief of the “real world”, I asked, in confused reply, whether that meant I could ask for “whatever you have, as long as it’s not pink”?
I have to say that Wiggly Wiggler’s flowers are gorgeous and ethical and I would recommend them to anyone wanting UK-grown flowers. I’m a big fan of them as a company and love their ethical attitude.
But I knew I didn’t want pink
So, with just 8 weeks to go, I had to start “The Great Ethical Flower Hunt”.
Over the following couple of weeks, I spoke to 30 (yes, three-zero) florists, asking them what would be in season in late September.
After most had chastised me for leaving it “so late”, the majority were already booked for weddings that weekend and not a single one of them could offer me anything other than Dahlia, Chrysanthemum and possibly Michelmas Daisies, none of which felt like elegant wedding flowers, to me.
The general response, when I politely asked which UK-grown flowers they might supply, was to tell me that all their flowers come from “a wholesaler in Holland”.
I asked florists within a 50 mile radius (Southern England) and the response from all of them was the same.
Some were honest enough to admit that from late September a significant proportion of their flowers would be flown in from Africa. They went to great lengths to explain why this was more environmentally friendly than UK greenhouses, which might have had heaters, and that it’s socially responsible to provide a living for the “poverty-stricken Africans”.
But they just didn’t get it.
I wanted locally-grown, seasonal flowers. Not much to ask?
With just 2 weeks to go until the wedding, I still hadn’t found an answer. But I kept hoping and trusting, knowing that something would turn up.
I had a lead from our local farm shop – she put me in touch with a lovely lady who grows flowers in her garden, which she sometimes sells. But due to the long, hot summer, most of her autumn blooms had gone to seed early and all she had left was Dahlia and some “slightly wilted” (her words!) sunflowers.
I had even “Facebooked” my dilemma, asking friends and friends-of-friends for suggestions. But still no flowers.
Then the minor miracle happened
I had heard rumours from a neighbour about an alstroemeria nursery, somewhere near us. But online and phone book searches had yielded nothing.
Then we bumped into the neighbour one Saturday morning and she gave us detailed directions of how to find the place (you would never stumble across it!).
That afternoon, on the way back home, we decided to drive past the place, so I could find it again on the Monday. It took us 5 sets of stopping and asking people, before we reached our destination. And that’s where the magic happened.
Not only were there 3 huge greenhouses, growing nothing but alstroemeria, but the lady who runs the place is an absolute Angel. She was so excited by our quest for ethical flowers that she sent us home with samples of about twenty different colours.
She told us to phone her on the Monday before the wedding and she would cut the stems, before the flowers opened, so they would be perfectly fresh for the big day. All we had to do was keep them somewhere cool for the week.
So we sent her photos of the colours we loved most for the bouquet and button holes. For the table and Church flowers, we asked her to send us whatever she had going spare. We were happy to use up the “seconds” (those with flowers pointing in “non-upwards” directions), which she couldn’t sell to her wholesaler, which would otherwise have been composted.
It was with no small amount of trepidation that I arrived at the nursery that Monday afternoon to collect my flowers, not knowing what they would look like or how much they would cost, though I was happy to be supporting a local grower, especially one who was so kind.
I was astonished to receive over 200 stems of alstroemeria. And the price she asked for was so low that we insisted on paying double. She had been so generous.
Disaster Nearly Struck At The Eleventh Hour!
The rest of the week was spent tiptoeing round three garden trugs full of gently opening blossoms, filling the shower room. It was an incredible sight.
There was one scary moment, the day before the wedding, when I realised we had put the heating on for the first time since the summer (in deference to guests who perhaps weren’t used to double layers of jumpers!) and I had forgotten that one of the flower trugs was resting against the radiator.
10 scorched stems hit the compost heap, but the rest survived!
The afternoon before the wedding, a creative friend of ours took all the multi-coloured stems and arranged them beautifully in hi-ball glasses, to be the centre of each table at the wedding reception.
Then, on the morning of the wedding, while I was having my hair done, she and a friend arranged the bridal bouquet and made the button holes. They were gorgeous.
- The bouquet was a simple arrangement of stems, tied with some beautiful ribbon from a present we had been given the day before.
- The buttonhole flowers were paired with greenery from our garden.
We had so many flowers spare that we just kept giving them away. And since the wedding, we have had lots of lovely messages from friends who said the flowers lasted a good two weeks, reminding them every day of the wonderful day they had shared with us.
So it just goes to show that you can source locally-grown, seasonal, ethically sourced flowers, even in autumn. But you might have to get creative to find them.
Top tips for finding ethical flowers
- Check out your garden
If you’ve got a year or more to plan, you might be surprised how many of your wedding flowers you could grow, even in a small space. Or maybe you have friends or family who could help? If Great Aunt Emily has always won prizes for her roses, then maybe it’s worth asking nicely…?!
- Ask around
Friends and neighbours might know of some local growers.
- Visit your local farm shop
Farm shops are bound to know of local people who are keen flower growers. It’s also worth talking to local allotment associations, in case one of their members is famous for their blooms.
- Consider alternatives
Instead of cut flowers, how about considering small pot plants? Bear in mind that many garden centres are importing their stock, just as florists do. But most also work with local growers.
- Less is more?
If you end up going the route of imported flowers, then perhaps less might be more? There’s no rule saying every table has to have a full, formal arrangement. Sometimes a single stem in an elegant vase is all you need.
- Don’t forget small businesses!!!
You can still have a beautiful bouquet in an Ethical Wedding. If you are hoping for fresh flowers, you need to look at seasonal blooms. Try to decide on flowers from your own country as this will reduce air miles. But if you do opt for blooms from abroad, pick the fair trade ones. You can also opt for fair trade fabric flowers for a bouquet that will last a lifetime, as an alternative.
Companies providing Ethical Flowers
- Larkspur and Lavender
Located in Hackney, East London, this company specialises in weddings and other milestone events. This team of dedicated florists are inspired by the ever-changing British climate. Their styles adapt to the ever-changing seasons and work with the climate. They also love to work with clients ahead of their weddings to create one-of-a-kind arrangements.
This company uses seasonal blooms in their arrangements to not only maximize your budget but to create one-of-a-kind pieces. They take the time to understand your vision for the day and then craft beautiful displays to complement your theme. They are delighted to produce hand-tied bouquets and buttonholes for your personal arrangements. Emily&Me can also provide everything from floral arches and garlands to centrepieces.
- Beauty in Bloom
At the end of last year, the Beauty in Bloom team decided to make it their mission to create an environmentally friendly salon and ensure they now source and use hair and make-up products and tools that are cruelty-free, sustainable and eco-friendly. They aim to use biodegradable items where possible and recycle their waste.
What are your top tips for ethical wedding flowers?
How did you handle the topic on your big day?