Life as a London wedding florist
This time last year I was finishing a temp P.A role and was going to take a month off to work on growing Floral Jems. I needed to just step back and recover from an extremely stressful year as I was running back and forward to Essex to help care for my dear Nan. I was tired and wasn't enjoying commuting and working in an office whilst trying to run Floral Jems on the side.
It was a bit scary not knowing where my next paycheck would be coming from but I had enough cash to see me through until the end of January and I needed a bit of time to just breathe and be present.
The first few weeks were quiet and that was good because it gave me the space I needed. I walked my dogs, slept and worked on my website. Then all of a sudden a trickle of enquiries came through and by the end of the month I'd booked up around a dozen weddings for the year ahead. By the end of March I had 30 in total for the year ahead. Floral Jems would be my sole income and I'd be a real business owner! That was simultaneously terrifying and thrilling at the same time! It felt good to be doing something I loved and created from scratch, on my own, just from an idea that popped into my head one day.
At first I found it tough to keep up, managing all the enquiries, invoices, writing proposals, meetings, telephone consultations, social media and bookkeeping. I struggled to keep work/life balance in check as there aren't any boundaries (if you don't set them) when you work from home. I had to remind myself to switch off and often would get so into my work I didn't get dressed and end up in my pjs all day tapping away on my laptop.
Come the summer, I'd been steadily busy since March but when August hit I had a total of eight weddings to do, four in one week! Luckily my supportive wife was at hand to help me with logistics, photography, delivery and set up and stop me going into panic mode. I also had the insanely hot weather to contend with and the struggle to keep the flowers alive was very real. On the morning of the last of those 4 weddings a whole batch of stunning yellow garden roses disintegrated like confetti everytime I picked up an arrangement. Luckily I had bought some extra of the other flowers that had managed to survive and the bride loved them but that was a particularly harrowing moment where I could have had a complete meltdown! Instead I escaped with a minor one, we got the job done and everything looked gorgeous.
As the year has gone on, each job felt slightly more manageable. I found I needed slightly less time to complete them, even though the jobs were getting larger and more complex. I was still being challenged creatively, but felt more in control and proficient at working things through. I also got to work with a lot of flowers I hadn't used before and create different kinds of designs. I used to dread it when a bride uttered the words ‘wrist corsage’ but now, after a hell of a lot of practice and and cursing I have it sussed. I also improved on pricing up jobs which is something I struggled with immensely at first and although I still have a long way to go, I'm getting better all the time. I feel more confident when I consult with a bride and that helps her feel confident in me.
In September my brother and his girlfriend, who own the extremely popular Devi's at Maltby Street market took part in BBC2 series Million Pound Menu and were asked to do a pop up restaurant in Manchester as part of the competition.They asked me to do some flowers for the tables and a large contemporary arrangement. I can't wait to see my florals and most importantly how they got on when the show airs in January. I also got to do a wedding in the dome of the iconic Gherkin at the end of the summer. I allowed myself a little moment to where I thought, I’m actually pretty good at this flower stuff!
In October we got to take a holiday for the first time in over a year to Taiwan to visit my best friend which was so needed as we’d both been working flat out all year and it was only then I could start to reflect and how well it had gone so far and that I could relax a bit whilst I was away.
I got to see some amazing venues and work with some fantastic couples. Each one really was special in their own way. I always feel so happy when I deliver a bridal bouquet and she grins from ear to ear and hugs me to say a big thank you. I love getting up for market, chatting with my wonderful wholesaler Jon who has always been super patient with me even when I order the wrong thing or get the names mixed up and I love picking out each bunch especially for my couples. I love setting up in my little workspace in my living room after breakfast with a cup of tea (that I will inevitably never finish) and carefully creating each piece. I also love going into a venue when it's a blank canvas and adding my little touches that bring the bride and groom’s personalities and vision. I still have nightmares that I oversleep and don't make it to the venue in time to decorate or the bridal bouquet dies overnight. So far,that has never happened and all the feedback I have received has been so wonderful.
I love what the business has been able to do for me. It's given me freedom to be creative and to work from home which for me, is where I feel happiest and most content. I work hard but now I have practiced a bit, I can balance things more carefully. I get to follow my other passions and I have time to process things and enjoy life. When it's quiet on the work front, I just try and enjoy it rather than worrying I'm not doing enough because I know that the next gig is just around the corner. I am also learning all the time about so many different aspects, not just flowers, but bookkeeping, photography, maintaining the website and my social media accounts.
Looking ahead, I'm excited about what 2019 will hold, and a little nervous of course but I have 6 weddings already booked in so it's looking promising. I hope to be able to expand more with things like props and signage and get to create more elaborate arrangements. I also want to create a new website and brand for Floral Jems going forward to reflect my growing self and the business evolving into something a little more grown up.
I want to say a huge thank you to each and every bride and groom who booked me and trusted me with your special day, also to my brilliant wife who is my biggest cheerleader and to Jon Hart my wholesaler who is the kindest man in the business!
Happy new year to everyone. Here's to 2019!
Love Jem. x
Check out this collection of some of my favourite creations and moments from 2018...
1. Glori & Andrew at Asia House and The Langham Hotel in March
This adorable couple were my first of the year. Glori is a doctor and Andrew a lawyer and of course make great power couple, but they were just about the sweetest, gentle people you could imagine. They were having an intimate wedding with just ten guests at the lavish Langham hotel in Marylebone. Glori wanted pale pink peonies with white and fresh spring green flowers teamed with some lovely silver eucalyptus.
2. Libby & David at Glenmore House, Surbiton in April
This adventurous couple had just got back from backpacking round the world and even ran 10k for charity on the morning of their wedding! They wanted wedding flowers that reflected their laidback personalities and opted for wild style flowers in a pastel palette of blue, yellow, lilac and white.
3. Marcella & Mark at Southwark Registry Office, Peckham in May
This couple loved all things bright and beautiful. Their warm, sunny and friendly personalities were reflected in this fabulous bouquet and buttonholes I made for them. I used sunflowers, hot pink peonies and bright blue delphinium for the bridal bouquet and the buttonholes were in a burnt orange with a blue thistle to represent Mark's Scottish roots.
4. Sally & Tom at Myatts Fields and St Faith's Community Hall, Lambeth in June
Sally & Tom opted for seasonal spring flowers in bright sunny yellows and orange and complimentary violet with dashes of lilac and white to give some more neutral touches. We also decorated the reception in garlands of soft ruscus which were strung across the mezzanine balcony.
5. Kathryn & Elli, Hackney in June
My first same sex wedding job, other than my own! This adorable couple had been together for 8 years and I was truly honoured to create their flowers for them. They went for bright yellow focal flowers, using huge garden roses and gerberas and splashes of white filler flowers.
6. Maria & Matt at Oxo 2 on London's Southbank in June
This gorgeous bride wanted bright red gerberas to go with her fun and confident personality. Teamed with gorgeous navy blue and gold trim for her bouquet, fabulous centrepieces in silver mercury vases and statement ceremony flowers on white plinths provided by Floral Jems. The vibrant and velvety red was perfect against the pristine white room.
7. Claire & Robin at The Mary Green Manor, Brentwood in July
This was a special one for me as I have known Claire for many years. We met working in recruitment about a million years ago when we were in our early 20's and working in the city for the first time. Now she is settled with the lovely Rob and their 2 gorgeous children William and Izzy, they wanted a low key wedding in their hometown of Brentwood, Essex. Claire chose gorgeous white roses and gerberas with green berries, dill, ruscus and eucalyptus. Her gorgeous daughter loved her flower girl wand complete with heart charm and gold trailing ribbons.
8. Tais & Eion at Radici, Islington in July
This Irish couple were an absolute delight to work with. Tais opted for a traditional bouquet but with a tiny splash of yellow and orange in it to give that little touch her unique personality. The groom had a bright blue delphinium buttonhole. They're reception was held at French restaurant Radici in Islington and they had hurricane vases filled with dusky pink, burgundy, mustard yellow and tonnes of lush foliage.
9. Gemma & Mark at London's Wetland Centre, West London in August
The lovely Gemma wanted colours that were inspired by the Maori tribes of New Zealand as her hubby Mark is a Kiwi . I used purple calla lilies, green and purple lisianthus and turquoise orchids with peacock feathers for the cascading shower bouquet and four unique wrist corsages for her bridesmaids.
10. Emily & Ian at The Railway Pub, Tulse Hill in August
This creative and laid back couple had already got married last year in the states where Ian hails from but wanted a big party to celebrate with all their friends and family. They love retro stuff and their centrepieces were made up of a collection of 70's inspired ceramics and glassware with orange, blue and yellow flowers which included roses, dahlias, phlox, freesias, dill and snapdragons.
11. Kamala & Steve at St Stephen's Trust and Hampstead Pagoda in August
This bride wanted a relaxed, boho style wedding and a large bouquet with huge amounts of variety. She went for paler colours in the bouquets and bright colourful orange, blue and yellow in the centrepieces and cake flowers. This thoughtful pair put a huge amount of their own unique touches into their big day and you could tell as it was really special with friends and family coming together to decorate their gorgeous venue.
12. Sorrel & Angelo at Jackson Lane Arts Centre, Highgate in August
This couple were also incredibly sweet to work with. Angelo is Greek but Sorrel is British so they had a traditional Greek affair with some British influences too. Like the flowers which were wonderfully colourful and suited Sorrel and Angelo as a couple perfectly.
13. Sumita & Justin at The Gherkin, City of London in September
Sumita and her sweetheart Justin were adorable together when I met them for the first time. They had gone to the Gherkin on their first date as Sumita loved the building but they were told it wasn't open to the public unless they were planning to get married there so they joked if they did end up marrying they would have to hold it there! Sumita was a beautiful bride and had a colour scheme that worked perfectly with modern black and grey of the Gherkin. The pale fluffy pinks, creams and greens lightened up the modern space and made for a beautiful romantic fairytale.
14. Nicola & Nathan at the Samuel Pepys Pub, Embankment in October
This couple wanted lots of colours but in darker jewel tones of pink sapphire, blue and plum. In a gorgeous little pub tucked away on the north bank of the River Thames at the beginning of the Autumn. Their reception looked cozy and inviting, using log slices, fairy lights and candle with jars of fabulous rustic flowers.
15. Lou & Mike at The New Orleans Gallery and The Victoria Inn, Twickenham in November
The lovely couple wanted a sumptuous wintery colour palette of peach, burgundy and cream with lashings of foliage. This large free form bouquet was a real joy to make and they opted for small mercury vases of the same flowers for their pub reception. We used roses, pink ice Proteas, waxflower and vintage peach carnations as well as the dramatic 'love lies bleeding' to create Lou's luxury bouquet.
16. Vanessa & Kieran at the River Rooms, Embankment in December
The happy couple chose a fabulous venue overlooking the River Thames. Vanessa chose a winter colour scheme which included burgundy roses and carnations and white anemones, blue thistle, silver brunia and eucalyptus as well as dark green ruscus and peach hypericum berries. I created mini winter-scapes as centrepieces with mason jars topped with silver rope and warm LED fairy lights inside and surrounded by berries, pinecones and foliage. We also made them a bespoke table plan.
And the best of the rest...
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